What questions should you ask at an interview?

It’s a pivotal point in the interview, the tables are turned and you’re asked if you have any questions for the interviewer.

Get your questions wrong and you could reverse all the good stuff you’ve said earlier.

Don’t say you haven’t any questions to ask

It will make you look indifferent to the process as well as bringing the interview to an anticlimactic close. Felicity Dwyer is a career coach and member of the Life Coach Directory

‘You should always ask questions at an interview: it shows you are interested and engaged in the process. Ideally, you should think about the type of questions you might ask as part of your interview preparation’.

Treat asking questions as a way of promoting your suitability for the job. ‘Asking questions is key to demonstrating your interest and enthusiasm in the role and convincing the interviewer that you would do the job well’ advises James Brent, director at recruiters Hays Accountancy & Finance.

Key points to take away:

  • Always think of some pertinent questions in advance – but don’t necessarily ask all of them. Read more for more ideas on how to be brilliant at competency-based interviews.

What information do you need to help you decide whether you want the job?

Dan Brown, senior manager at recruiters Robert Walters adds: ‘Don’t be scared to ask about the challenges of the role in the first six months and the expectations they have of you in this time. It is good to highlight areas that you will be growing into the role and development around this’.

Dwyer advises that you might want to ask what the company’s values and culture are: you’ll then be able to see if it’s for you. You could ask why the position has become available – if your predecessor was promoted then you’ll get a positive impression on the career progression prospects.

Key points to take away:

  • Consider what you need to learn from the interview – and how you’ll frame your questions. If you’re having an initial interview by phone there are some good tips here.

Do your research

Going into an interview without researching the company is a sure fire way to fail. But it’s not enough just to know about the company in isolation. Spend some time looking at the sector overall.

You could for example ask about what your interviewer thinks the implications of law changes/mergers in the sector/ corporate activity will have on the company or organisation.

You might ask whether there are any expansion plans. Not only will you look switched on but you’ll also get a good idea where the company is going and thus whether it’s a suitable step to take on your career ladder.

Key points to take away:

  • Do your research so you show you are interested in the company and its future – and your part in it. Consider what skills your potential employer wants: see here for more ideas.

What questions NOT to ask

Ask an inappropriate question and you’ll spoil all the good work you’ve already put into the interview.

There’s some great advice here on what questions not to ask. James Brent of Hays says ‘Avoid asking about salary level, benefits and hours at the first stage of an interview as well as questions starting with ‘why?’ which may come across as confrontational. Instead, try asking ‘please can you give me more of an insight into this’.

In an interview, you’re trying to show what you can do for the company or organisation – not how it can benefit you. You should also ensure that you don’t ask questions which have already been covered in the interview.

Key points to take away:

  • Don’t mention money, holidays or benefits at the interview. And make sure you listen to the interviewer!

Summary

Everyone is nervous when they are interviewed. By the end, you’re likely to be relieved and want to finish. However, you need to keep your wits about you right until the final handshake.

That means when you are asked if you have any questions, you must say you do. Prepare some in advance but don’t ask any that have already been answered earlier in the interview or it will look as if you’ve not been listening.

Remember an interview is a two-way process: you have to decide whether the role is for you – and asking questions is your way of doing this.

For more on interviews:

Charlotte Beugge spent more than 20 years as the deputy personal finance editor on The Daily Telegraph and then The Daily Mail. A freelancer since 2010, her work has appeared in national newspapers, magazines and websites.

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