Asking the right questions during interview

Posted on 8:11 PM by Bharathvn

Preparing intelligent questions
# Exploring the nature of the work
# Asking about the future
# Finding out about the culture of the organisation
# Avoiding questions that create the wrong impression
At some point during the proceedings, the interviewer may ask, ‘Do you
have any questions?’
Interviewers frequently judge candidates on the nature of the questions
that are asked. Do you ask about the pay and benefits? Are you focused
about the day-to-day demands of the role? Are you more interested about
opportunities for promotion and enhanced responsibility? Different
questions give interviewers different impressions about your motivations.
This chapter contains many examples of questions for you to tailor to the
different interviewers and employers that you will meet. Not all of them
will be appropriate for every situation, so think ahead and choose carefully.
Remember that this is your opportunity to find out more about
the job and the company. If the interviewer were to offer you the
job, would you have enough information to decide whether to
accept?
DO YOUR RESEARCH TO FIND OUT THE RIGHT QUESTIONS TO ASK EVERY TIME
Intelligent and thoughtful questions can demonstrate to an interviewer that
you had the motivation and interest to do your research on the organisation.
However, when preparing a list of questions to ask your prospective employer,
make sure that they could not have been answered in any other way. Many
companies provide information in recruitment brochures, websites, job
descriptions and other materials, as well as the original job advert. If you ask
a question that could have been answered in any of these other sources of
information, you will come across as poorly prepared.
For example, it may be a valid question to ask Company A about their
plans for growth; however, Company B may have published a lengthy
statement about their expansion plans on their website. Accordingly, be
careful that your questions are relevant for the particular company that
you are being interviewed by. If you simply take the same list of questions
to different interviewers, you risk ruining your chances.
Understanding broad guidelines around your questions
Your research may uncover dozens and dozens of questions that you
might want to ask. However, asking too many questions could annoy your
interviewer, especially if he or she has arranged to interview a number of
candidates and is running behind schedule. Here are some rules of
thumb for asking questions:
# Ask at least two or three questions in every interview to show that you have
done your research and are interested in finding more about the company.
# Think about the time slot that has been allocated for your interview. If
you know that you are supposed to finish at 4.30pm and it’s already
4.25pm, you know that your questions should be fairly few in number.
# For most roles, avoid asking more than half-a-dozen questions during
the interview itself. Should you be offered the job, you could always
arrange to come back to meet the interviewer or other people within
the organisation to have your questions answered.
Bear in mind that the number of questions you can ask should be
broadly related to the seniority of the job. If you are applying for
an entry-level role, an interviewer will probably expect you to ask
only a handful of questions. For a managing director’s role, you
may need to schedule another appointment to come back to have
all of your questions answered.

SHOWING AN INTEREST IN THE WORK ITSELF
There are many questions that you could ask about the role. However,
remember to check that the questions you do choose to ask could not
have been answered in your research.
Questions to ask could include:
# What are the day-to-day duties involved in this job?
# How will my performance be measured?
# How are targets set? How much say would I have in setting them?
# How much contact would I have in this role with
clients/customers/suppliers/finance/marketing/sales/et cetera?
# Who will I report to?
# Who would I be spending most of my working time with?
# Who are the key decision-makers that I would need to get along with?
And how would you describe each of them?
# What do you see as the immediate challenges for me if I were to be given
the job?
# What do you most enjoy about working here?
You might also want to find out more about why the employer is looking
to fill this role.
# Why has this vacancy arisen?
# What happened to the previous job holder?
# Are you looking for anything in particular from the person who will take
this role?
# How do you see this role developing?
# How quickly are you looking for someone to take on this role?
Asking questions about managerial roles
If you are going to be supervising or managing others, you may want to
consider questions such as:
# What’s the make-up of the current team?
# What do you see as the challenges in helping the team to be more
successful?
# Are there any star performers or difficult people within the team that
need special attention?
# How much scope would I have to change the people within the team?
# What sort of budget would I have for running the team?
Asking questions about the broader team and organisation
You could also ask questions about the structure and current challenges
facing the company as a whole.
# How is the department that I would be joining viewed by the rest of the
organisation?
# How is the company structured?
# When was the last company restructuring? How did it affect this
department?
# What challenges is the organisation currently facing?
# What are the new initiatives/projects/campaigns that the team is
working on?
If you have an insight into how the company is perceived against its
competitors, these could also be good questions to ask, as they can show
the research that you have done. For example, ‘I read in the papers that
your competitor, Company X, has just launched a new service line. What’s
the view in your company on it? And how are you going to react to it?’
Be careful: there’s a fine line between demonstrating an interest in
the job and asking questions to show off.

EXPLORING THE FUTURE AND DEMONSTRATING YOUR
COMMITMENT
I have already mentioned the fact that employers usually want to recruit
employees who will stay for at least two to three years, so it may be worth
your while to ask some questions about the future.

For example, you could ask about your own future with the organisation:
# What training and development is given to employees?
 What opportunities are there for promotion?
 How does the company promote personal growth?
 What kind of career paths have other people taken after coming in at this
level?
 Do people move between offices much?
 What opportunities are there for working abroad with the company?
Asking more questions about the broader organisation
You might also want to ask about the company’s prospects.
 What are the organisation’s long-term objectives?
 How has the firm been performing in recent months?
 What are the company’s plans for growth? And how will it achieve these?
 What new products/services is the company planning to launch?
 Are any organisational changes planned in the near future?
ASKING ABOUT THE ORGANISATION’S CULTURE
No matter how informative the website and other official sources of
information, you need to be able to talk to people about the culture, the
way in which people behave towards each other on a day-to-day basis.
Here are some general questions to ask:
# How would you describe the culture of the organisation?
# What’s the best thing about working for this organisation?
# Why did you decide to join the company?
 What most frustrates you about working here?
 How would you describe the management style here?
 What does it take to succeed here?
 Could you tell me about the sorts of people who have failed here?
 What was it they did or didn’t do that made them unsuccessful?
You could use questions to probe on more specific issues.
 Would you describe this as a political organisation? And if so, why?
 Is there much inter-departmental rivalry in the company?
 How would you describe the company’s attitude to risk-taking?
 How does the company respond to new threats and opportunities?
 How much autonomy and latitude are people given in the organisation?
 How much do people socialise together outside of work?
Avoid asking too many questions in quick succession. Bear in
mind that the tone of your questions should be conversational –
this isn’t an interrogation.
AVOIDING CERTAIN QUESTIONS UNTIL YOU HAVE AN OFFER ON
THE TABLE
There may be certain burning questions that you really want to ask and
have answered, but you do not want to risk leaving the interviewer with
the wrong sort of impression. So it may be better to avoid certain areas of
discussion until you have a firm job offer.
Topics to stay away from therefore include:
# pay, benefits and annual leave allowances;
#criteria and processes for being awarded pay rises;
# flexible working practices such as working from home or maternity /
paternity leave;
# the workload, the length of the working day, and general requirements
to do overtime.

IN SUMMARY
# Do
your research and prepare a list of questions specifically for each
employer. Check that none of your questions could have been answered
by the organisation’s website or other materials.
# Focus most of your questions on the role and responsibilities of the job.
Make sure to ask at least one question about how you could develop in
the role too.
# Remember that an interview is a two-way process. It’s as much an
opportunity for you to find out whether you want the job as for the
organisation to decide whether they want you.
# Steer clear of questions on money, the hours, and other topics that
could inadvertently make you appear greedy or lazy.