Go on, ask me another ...

"I have another interview coming up tomorrow, have you got any advice on whether there are any questions that you think are really good for me to ask at the end of the interview?"

This question came in from Eleanor via Twitter to @letsfirewalk and it was great to see her concentrating on an aspect of the interview process that many people miss - a last chance to jump up the ranking, relative to the other candidates.

Two or three well targeted questions can really impress an interviewer, but where can you get those from? What can make your questions better than the next person's? The answer is: the depth of your research.

Before you get near the interview room, apart from your Q&A interview preparation, you should arm yourself with a good insight into the challenges you'll face when in the role.

  • The organisation. Understand how it's structured, what the different parts do and where you'll be fitting in. Check out the latest news on their website and in the press, so that you're as up-to-the-minute as you can be.
  • The role. Use the internet and social media to really understand the duties in this role. Look at some people who do this job, try and ask them what they enjoy about it and what the challenges are.
  • The industry. What situation is the overall industry in? How is your prospective employer positioned, what challenges are likely to result or what opportunities might arise? Don't try to become a world-expert, just develop an overview.
  • The people. If you possibly can, find out who you'll be meeting and look online at their job, background and personality.

Question time at the end of the interview is usually more relaxed and a good opportunity for a bit of two-way conversation and personal bonding. Use your research to guide the questions you ask, but don't stop there: use it to push a little deeper by picking up on what the interviewer has just told you. Bat an issue to and fro, if you get the chance.

The deeper your insight, the easier that will be and an interviewer will never fail to be impressed by your depth of understanding and your incisive thinking.

Questions to ask

Here are some questions that can give you that lead-in to a brief, but solid conversation at the end of the interview.

  1. How long have you worked here and do you still enjoy it? What’s been the most challenging part of working here?
  2. How would you describe the organisational culture and overall working environment?
  3. What is the biggest challenge that the organisation (or department) will face over the next couple of years or so? (Perhaps you should already know?)
  4. What would you want me to achieve in the first 3 months?
  5. What would a typical day entail?
  6. What do you see as the greatest challenges facing the new post holder and / or what will be my major priorities, if I’m selected?
  7. How would you see my career developing, if I’m selected for this role?
  8. What have previous post-holders gone on to do?
  9. What sort of turnover rate amongst recruits do you normally expect within a twelve month period and what's the reason for that?
  10. Is there anything from this meeting that would cause you to have reservations about selecting me for the role?

Obviously, adapt your questions if you've already covered some during the main part of the interview. The last question is a tad on the pushy side so use your judgement at the time whether to ask it or not. If the interviewer will express a concern, you have a wonderful opportunity to recover the ground easily and quickly.

Aim for two or three good quality questions / topics & then stop. Don’t keep the interviewer engaged for ever as it will be counter-productive.

After covering a couple of points, don't be afraid to draw it to a close and say, "Thank you, I actually think we've covered everything I wanted to now." They'll appreciate your directness, confidence and strength of character.

Questions NOT to ask.

If one the questions below is important for you to ask, at the very least, find a more diplomatic and less career-suicidal way of asking it.

  1. What does your company do? (It’s a bit late for that.)
  2. Did I get the job? (Did your IQ drop suddenly? You’re part way through a selection process and there are other candidates, dummy.)
  3. What salary and benefits will you offer me? (Normally, stay away from asking salary, package and benefits questions, for fear of weakening your final negotiating position and of appearing to be a grasping individual.)
  4. How long will it be before I can take a holiday? (You’re sending the wrong signals.)
  5. Can I work from home sometimes? (Ditto.)
  6. How many hours will I be expected to work each week? (Is that really of primary importance in the overall scheme of things?)
  7. What if I don’t get on well with my boss? (Whose fault will that be?)
  8. When can I get promoted? (You may as well ask, “What’s my fastest way out of this joint?”)
  9. How often can I be late to work without getting sacked? (Sigh.)
  10. You don’t have random drug testing, do you? (To save yourself a lot of time in life, consider getting the words ‘Unemployed Drug User’ tattooed on your forehead.)
  11. Will you monitor my internet usage? (No, because you won’t be here.)
  12. Where do you hang out after work? (Down the local nick, giving evidence against stalkers.)
  13. Are sexual relations with co-workers allowed? (You’re going down fast at this point, and not in a fun way.)
  14. Do you dispense condoms in the staff toilets? (That’s it, you’ve sunk without trace.)

I’ve personally been asked most of the above questions at some stage and, with only one exception, they’re all shouting, “What’s in it for me?” Instead, think what you can give, not what you can get and then ask your questions accordingly.

To re-emphasise my general advice, ask a few highly relevant questions and then get out of the door. You’ve already made your mark by that stage, so quit whilst you’re ahead.

Good luck and I hope your next interview works out okay for you.

Keywords: interview preparation, interview questions, questions to ask at the end of an interview, research.