The interview’s winding up, and you know it’s coming...
“Do you have any questions for us?”
Hiring managers unanimously agree: The absolute worst answer you can give to this question is ‘No’.
The second worst is anything of the ‘Do I get a car park?/How often will I have to work overtime?/When’s the next pay review?’ variety. The first interview is the time for bigger picture stuff: Will I enjoy this job? Will I add value to this company? Will I click with the people who work here? Save the nitty-gritty questions for the very final stage, or risk coming across as lacking in perspective.
Another interview-killer is asking a question you should already know the answer to. You can easily find out about the company’s competitors or ownership structure online (and you should); asking about them just shows you haven’t bothered to do your research.
So, what should you ask? Here are some ideas that will not only help you to decide if the job’s right for you; they’ll impress the interviewer, too:
1. What do you love most about your job here?
I love this question. It’s friendly and positive, and it’s a great way to warm up your interviewer by showing interest in them as a person. It should also give you a little window into what makes them tick and what they’ll be like to work with.
Because interviewers won’t generally be expecting a question that’s directed at them personally, this might catch them a little off-guard. The result is often a more honest insight into what the company’s like to work for than if you took the more common route of asking about the company culture. And obviously, if the interviewer struggles to come up with an answer to this one, you should run for the hills!
2. Tell me about one of your star performers. What do you attribute their success to?
Asking your interviewer to give a real-life example of a successful employee (rather than an HR-devised list of preferred employee ‘competencies’) is a good way to get them to focus on what really matters. File this information away and highlight the strengths you have in common with this star employee when you next get a chance.
3. What are the top 3 things you need me to achieve in my first 3 months?
This shows you’re not just focussed on landing the job; you’re already planning exactly how to add value to the company once you’re there. It should also help you to assess a) whether the job has the right level of challenge for you and b) how realistic and forward-thinking the hiring manager is.
4. What concerns do you have about my skills or experience?
Their list of diplomatic HR-approved questions belies what what most hiring managers are actually itching to ask: ‘What doesn’t this candidate know? How much time am I going to have to invest to get them up to speed if I hire them? What are the chances of me making a bad hire?’ Rather than shying away from this question, smart candidates will address the elephant in the room.
Giving the interviewer permission to talk about this directly is refreshingly frank. It shows you understand you’re not perfect, but at the same time, you have enough confidence in your abilities to be able to ask the question. Play this one right and you'll have an opportunity to allay their concerns directly.
5. What are you doing to tackle (insert industry issue here)?
Firstly, this question addresses any concerns you might have about the company’s future and their approach to dealing with threats and opportunities. Secondly, it shows you’re on top of industry trends and interested in the bigger picture. It can also open up a conversation about what skills you can bring to the table to help.
Next time you get the 'Do you have any questions?' question, see it for what it is: a great opportunity to set the interview agenda to your advantage. Use it wisely.