Author: Chris Dottie, MD of Hays Spain.
Over the years many people have asked me for interview tips, and normally they want that advice to be short and easy to remember. Luckily I do have one suggestion which improves the likelihood of success enormously and can be summarised in 4 words: Ask the right questions.
Asking the right questions
Whenever I ask someone I am interviewing what questions they have and they respond “Er, none really” I wish I had a red button on my desk linked to a trap door under their chair. Asking no questions gives an impression of disinterest or of a passive nature. Poor questions, on the other hand, such as only asking “How long is the trial period?”, or “How many days holiday do I get?” have me reaching for my mental ejector button. I want to recruit people who visualise doing their job well, not focusing immediately on their remuneration package.
By asking the right questions during your interview, you will be able to more easily decide whether the job and the company is the right opportunity for you. Asking questions is also key to demonstrating your interest in the role and convincing the interviewer that you would do the job well.
You should aim for your interviews to feel more like a conversation than an interrogation by making sure you come to the meeting with a few pre-prepared and varied questions. Don’t be afraid to have a pen and paper to take note of the answers too.
Here are some questions to ask your interviewer, divided up into six sections:
1. Is this role new? If not, how has it evolved?
The answer to this question will reveal whether the role has expanded to absorb modern practices and technology over time. The question shows you are keen to keep pace with advances, and have a positive attitude to change. You could use the conversation around this question to exhibit your knowledge of recent industry trends and developments.
You’ll also be able to understand from the interviewer’s answer how much the employer allows their employees to shape their own roles, which can in turn be a good indicator of a strong, trusting culture, put in place to empower employees.
2. Is there scope for career progression?
This is another classic question, which shows you have career ambitions and want to get on in the world. It will also reveal something about how talent is nurtured and promoted within the organisation.
3. Can you tell me a bit about the predecessor of the role?
This is a tactful way of determining exactly what skills and experience are required for the role. You can use the interviewer’s appraisal of your predecessor to gauge exactly what it is you need to do to take the role to the next level.
4. What does a typical day look like?
This is the best question to help you visualise yourself in the role; you can then decide whether it’s for you or not.
5. Can you tell me more about my team?
If possible try and research your colleagues before the interview process. If not, or on top of that, try and find out as much as possible about them from the interviewer. Getting on with your colleagues is crucial to your job satisfaction – 70 per cent of workers say having friends at work is the most important element to a happy working life.
6. Who are the key stakeholders?
It can be difficult to understand the full extent of your role from a job description two paragraphs long, so use the interview to establish which departments you’ll be liaising with most often. You can then decide whether your skillset is well suited to the role or not.
7. How does the team fit into the overall structure of the company?
This question signals your interest in working as a team as you want to know where you will fit in and contribute to the organisations long-term success.
8. What constitutes success for the team and the role?
This is a good way of finding out about the organisation’s priorities, which you can then compare against your own. It will also help you understand what the business expects from their employees, leading on to further conversation around how individual performance is measured.
9. What’s your background?
Understanding your interviewer’s background and why they were selected to work for the employer can help you shape your own answers about what you might bring to the role. This question is also helpful in building rapport and finding common ground with the interviewer – something which is key to your interview success.
10. From your perspective, what’s it like to work here?
This is one of those seemingly innocent questions that can tell you a lot about the work culture at the organisation. It can also be a way of communicating your desire to work in a positive environment, and that you’re someone who likes to get the best out of yourself. A convivial work environment actually has a remarkable effect on the overall productivity and success of an organisation – as explained in this Hays Journal article ‘Cool workplaces – do they deliver benefits?’
11. What are the main challenges and opportunities the business faces?
If you know the business has recently launched a new product or service, for example, you could work this into the question by asking how the new product is being received – showing them that you’ve done your research. The obvious follow-up is to then use this information to demonstrate how well suited you are to help them resolve their challenges.
There are many other questions you could ask about the business; however most of the answers, unlike the other sections in this blog, will be available for you to discover online.
12. How long do employees usually remain with the business?
It’s good to get an idea of how long employees stay on average with the employer, so you can gain a clear insight into how well they are treated.
LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT
13. How often will my performance be reviewed?
This is a searching question that signals your focus on building your career. You don’t want to get stuck. You want to know there’s a structured, pro-active approach to assessing individual performance, and that you won’t be forgotten about. It also shows that you welcome feedback.
14. What training opportunities are available?
This is a standard question but an important one to ask, not only for your own sake but to show you’re interested in acquiring new skills which will be of benefit to you and the organisation. Having access to adequate training resources is crucial to your professional growth, no matter what stage of your career you’re at.
15. What’s the next step?
Don’t forget to ask what comes next! You can then prepare yourself adequately for the next stage of the hiring process.
Bringing it all together
It’s very important during a job interview that the interviewer does not monopolise the communication. In fact having an even exchange will benefit you both – interrogation is hard work but an interesting conversation is enjoyable.
You need to ensure that you only ask questions when relevant and useful, rather than appearing over-confident, and it’s obviously critical to listen actively to the answers. Ask the right questions and there is a good chance you will be able to advance in the recruitment process, and what’s more, you’ll know if you want to or not.
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