It’s probably pretty reasonable to say that the vast majority, (I’d suggest 99.9%) of candidates know that they are going to be asked at some point in an interview if they have any questions for the interviewer. And yet candidates often fumble their words and struggle to present themselves in a positive way.
The questions that you ask provide the interviewer with a great insight in to you, and so asking the right sorts of questions can catapult you to the top of the “to be employed” list! Whilst poorly thought out questions and questions made up on the spot can very quickly highlight some of your deficiencies and push your application down in to the quagmire of mediocrity…….or worse.
Some of the best questions that you can ask tend to be those that have been very carefully planned and learned, but then evolve through information that comes to light during the interview. What I mean by this is – there is no substitute for doing the research and preparation, but don’t be afraid to “tweak” one or two (or more) of the questions that you have prepared to include facts and information that you have gathered throughout the interview as it shows that you have been listening. Often, your question can remain exactly the same, it will just be the lead-in that changes. For example:
(Planned Question): “What is the organisational structure of the Food & Beverage department? (and maybe something about FT vs Part Time…)“, might become:
(Tweaked Question): “You mentioned that there are 120 staff in the F&B department. What is the organisational structure of the department and what sort of breakdown is there between Full Time, Part Time and Casual employees?”
Oh! And if it helps, don’t be afraid to take a notepad and pen or an iPad/Tablet in to the interview so that you can jot down notes (like the number of staff in the F&B department) as you go. As a side-note, it is polite to ask the interviewer(s) if they mind if you take some notes during the course of the interview and sometimes, the jotting down of notes can actually buy you that valuable 4 or 5 seconds to contemplate an answer before you open your mouth (as you jot things down, generally people will wait politely for you to answer)…
For questions to really work, it comes down to RESEARCH! And with the internet at your fingertips, there are no excuses for not being able to gather enough information to ask intelligent and pertinent questions. To help you with the process, I have listed below a range of the sorts of questions that you could ask in an interview and with a little bit of thought and some manipulation of the details, they’ll provide you with a good foundation for the next time you are sitting across the table from an interviewer:
Ask specific questions about the venue/organisation and what your role would be there:
– What’s their vision for your position?
– In your opinion, what would make me a success in this role?
– Will the role evolve over time?
– What are the top 2 or 3 priorities that you believe would need to be addressed first? (Let them tell you and finish telling you, then you might like to sum up briefly your ability to address those priorities)
NOTE: In my experience, candidates often jump the gun in this circumstance. They do the right thing and ask a good question like this, but rather than stop and wait for the WHOLE answer, they let their nerves get the better of them and jump on in with the “HOW” they can solve the problem or how they have the experience to do the job. This means that they a) assume the remainder of the answer (it’s never good to assume), b) miss gathering further information (could be useful later on in the interview) and c) don’t show how they can listen (this can send completely the wrong message, when in fact, it’s just because they’re nervous)!
– If legislation has recently affected the industry or if there’s something pertinent in the news, try to tie this knowledge in to a question as it will show that you have done your homework!
What systems do they have in place?
– Are they adequate? Or do they need updating?
– If they are inadequate, would it be your job to change or develop them?
Who was in this job before?
– Why did they leave?
– Will I be doing the same job as them, or has the role changed/evolved?
What is the company’s management style?
How do you measure performance and how often is it reviewed?
Do you provide any sort of professional development or training?
What is your target market?
– Is this something that you would like to expand? If so, what are you plans for doing so?
What is the company’s policy on corporate social responsibility?
In what ways is your company involved in the local community? (In our industry, there is generally plenty of information about this, so you might want to tailor this with something like: “I see from your Facebook Page that you are connected with the <so-and-so charity>. It what other ways are you involved in the local community?”).
It’s worth remembering, that to be amazing at an interview, you actually have to GET an interview and this begins with your application! Make sure you develop a fantastic resume and that you get it in promptly via the means that they request. And keep in mind that your research should start before you even send your resume in so that you can tailor your resume to the advert, the organisation and the role. You should then pick up your research once again when you progress to the next stage and expand it so that it is fresh in your memory for when you get to the interview. Oh. And if you don’t get offered an interview, try calling to find out why (again, PLAN your questions) and see if you can gather any advice on how to improve your resume for the next time! (Don’t forget to read my previous blog “To Call or Not To Call, That is the Question”, & if you haven’t already done so – you can click here.
When you do get offered the opportunity to attend an interview, think about the importance of making a GREAT first impression! The interview starts the moment you step foot through the door in to the organisation and ramps up the moment you walk in to the interview room. Dress. Grooming. Body Language. Preparation. Don’t underestimate the value of caring enough to make an effort – it goes an awfully LONG way!
Something that is all too often forgotten or done with no real thought other than because you’d heard it was the right thing to do is to follow up after an interview with a “thank you”. There are lots of ways that you can do this with modern forms of communication – choosing the right one is the tough part. In some (rare?) circumstances, an SMS to the interviewer is appropriate, but choose when and what you’re going to say and think carefully about whether an SMS really is the best way to go! For example, if you know they are about to walk straight in to another interview, wait until later to send your SMS and try to choose a time when you know/think they’ll be able to receive it without the embarrassment of their phone beeping/vibrating in another interview! Note: I would only use SMS if the interviewer has been communicating with you via SMS, if they haven’t, then an email, phone call or even a well chosen ‘thank you’ card might be the better option. Long story-short, don’t let your interview be the last time they hear from you! Follow up to assist them to remember who you are and try to remind them of one of the positive aspects/events that occurred in the interview.
Similarly to following up if you don’t get an interview, don’t forget to follow up if you don’t get offered the job and find out why so that you can use this information for your next interview.
And most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes, you can do everything right and still not be offered the job – so stay positive and upbeat as it’ll show the next time you speak to someone about a job. And always remember – there is a great job waiting for you out ‘there’! So keep honing your interview skills (which can be learned & improved) and stay focused.