By Anna Rivers, Marketing Manager for The I Am Group
One job sticks out in my memory as the one that got away.
It was one of my first interviews after graduating. I felt like I’d nailed the interview until the interviewer asked as a last question: ‘So, I imagine you have some questions now?’ For some reason my mind went blank and I was at a complete loss. Why had I not rehearsed this when I’d painstakingly memorised my CV and knew the company 10-point mission statement off by heart? What was the best thing to do? Could saying a genuine “no” ever come off as looking confident in one’s own skin? Or would it be better to come up with something random about the company like: “Is there a nearby gym?” Or would an audacious enquiry into bonus’ paint me in a favourably ambitious and tenacious light?
I decided that saying nothing is sometimes better. I said I had no questions. Gulp. A nerve-wracking wait of a few days. The recruiter called. I hadn’t bagged the job.
In stereotypical post-analysis mode, I started wondering whether it was the lack of that clincher of a question that really lost me the job. After all, there are two seminal moments that occur in each and every interview — the first impression, and the last.
So why am I writing this blog? To emphasise to anyone reading that if you don’t prepare some shrewd questions, you run the risk of the interviewer assuming you aren’t interested or haven’t prepared. If you don’t have some clever questions at the ready, someone else will. On a positive note, I moved on from the one that got away. This interview signalled a turning point for every future interview – I made sure I had the best end-of-interview questions up my sleeve to ensure history didn’t ever repeat itself.
Another valid point to get in here is that interviews are a two-way street. The questions you choose to ask should not just aim to impress, they are your chance to quiz the panel about the company, the team and the role itself to make sure you actually want the job in the first place. After all, work is a huge part of your life and you should ideally love what you do…
It’s true that some questions will pop into your head naturally during the interview. But, remember my epic fail and always have some bankers up your sleeves in case your mind goes blank. As a rule of thumb, you should have at least five solid questions prepared, just in case some are answered through the course of the interview. However, take heed: use common sense and gauge the panel’s engagement in the Q&A – they’re likely to be time pressured so stick to actually asking two/three questions as asking too many could just make you look like someone that talks…and talks…and talks…a lot.
As you’re researching for the interview, make a note of points of interest that you’d like to ask about. Avoid simple yes/no questions but don’t opt for questions that are way too complex and tricky to answer. You don’t want to stump the interviewer when you’re trying to build rapport.
And so here they are: my eight bankers, my reliable clinchers…
- What are the most essential qualities the right person needs for this role?
This question offers two things: 1. it can lead to valuable information that’s not in the job description, giving you more clarity on their expectations and candidate tick list 2. it gives you the chance to shine and align your qualities to those asked for, thereby proving that are you a good fit. This can then be followed up with “Is there anything about my CV or experience that causes concern?” just to be absolutely certain that any apprehensions are dealt with then and there.
- What are the first priorities for this role?
This question is basically saying: I’m keen to get stuck in straight away and make a difference. If also gives you a chance to talk through how you can help and what your experience will bring.
- What do you like the most about working here?
Ideally, you’ll get a personal, honest answer here. Does the interviewer answer straight away? Do they have a list as long as their arm which seems genuine? That’s probably a good sign. Work takes up a big percentage of your life and it’s nice to work with an enthusiastic bunch who bounce into the office every morning.
- What are the most pertinent issues currently faced by the company?
This question can help you uncover trends in the wider industry and opportunities and threats facing the company. Hopefully you’ll be able to identify areas where your skills could help save the day. Demonstrate your knowledge and expertise here…
- What is the typical career path for someone in this role?
This question can help you learn whether the organisation promotes from within, and how career progression typically works within the company. It’s a good one for making sure that the position you are applying for is not a dead end. By asking the question, you show your interest in developing within the company as opposed to using it as a stopgap. Word of warning though: just be careful not to phrase it in a way that sounds too narcissistic (when will I get a rise??) or in a way that may hint at the role on offer not being big enough for you.
- What’s the culture of the company like?
Would you fit in? Because, if you’re going to be unhappy in the working environment you’re not going to last long. Make sure that the panel’s answer fits with your expectations of the role, and that you’re comfortable with what’s being said. If the interviewer enthusiastically talks about a culture that you internally wince at then this job is not your perfect job. It’s probably best to walk away. On the flip side, now could be the time to develop rapport and reassure the interviewer that you’d slot into the team effortlessly.
7. I read X about your company and found this really interesting. Can you tell me more about this?
You’ve done your homework, you’re genuinely interested in the company and you’re bright enough to do some background research and have an opinion on it. Tick, tick, tick.
8. What are the next steps?
This question demonstrates that you’re keen and eager to move forward in the process. It will also help you gain important information about the timeline for hiring so that you can plan your follow-ups.
So, next time, when the tables are turned at the end of an interview and the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?” be prepared and take advantage of the opportunity. Use it to seal the deal and bag that job.
What questions do you tend to ask at the end of interviews? What are your reliable clinchers? Please comment below!
I am recruiting provides an unrivalled recruitment service for candidates and clients within professional associations, membership organisations and the wider non-profit sector. Please phone us on (020) 7148 6749 or email us for a confidential chat about any recruitment needs.