You’re getting towards the end of an interview. The interviewer’s given you a lot of chat about the company which, in all probability, has bored the pants off both of you. Suddenly he or she stops, they look you straight in the eyes, and then ask that awful question, “Do you have any questions?”
Go on, admit it – you’ve been there and then had a panic attack.
The strange thing is that we know it’s coming but never prepare for it. I’m reminded of examples of people who’ve had the questions (and even the answers) to an exam and then somewhat incredibly ended up doing worse than if they’d not had the knowledge. It’s bizarre, isn’t it?
There are three basic options available to you. You can say some variant of:
- “Umm, well, no I think you’ve covered it all.”
- “How much Christmas bonus/holiday can I expect?”
- “Can you tell me more about <some aspect of the job, company, workforce, client base etc>?”
There are no gold stars on offer for choosing the right one.
You see, in my simple little head, I can’t imagine why any sane person goes for an interview unless they’re actually trying to get the job. It could be that the interviewer puts you off the job during the interview (I’ve been in that situation) but you did start off wanting the job.
So, what sort of questions could you ask?
I’m going to give you some suggestions to which you can obviously add more. Let’s start by creating three categories.
So, Interviewer Person, tell me about …
- The company
- My future colleagues
- How I would fit in
Now I’d like to give you five sample questions for each category.
- Can you tell me more about the company’s values and aspirations?
- How do you see the company in, say, 5 years time?
- Why has this job arisen?
- What are the company’s weaknesses (you’ve probably already heard about the strengths) and how are these being addressed?
- What support does the company give to new employees?
- Could you fill me in on the people I’d be working with in terms of their individual experience and strength?
- When people resign from the company, generally why do they leave and which companies do they go to?
- How is performance assessed and what feedback/encouragement/assistance is given?
- What specific human qualities in whoever occupies this post would complement those already possessed by the organization?
- On average, how long do senior staff stay with the company?
How I’d fit in
- How could I add value to your company?
- What could I do to impress you once I was in the post?
- Please could you outline any concerns you might have about engaging me?
- How can I get you to put me in the position of top-listed candidate?
- When can I expect to hear back from you?
I’m sure that you can come up with plenty more so get thinking.
To help you, there’s an excellent video on Youtube which gives 7 interview questions and the psychology behind them.
I’m pleased to see that whoever made the video shares my opinion that, beyond an awkward silence, the next worse response to “Do you have any questions?” is the cringingly awful “Well, I think you’ve covered it all pretty well already” that I gave as one of the basic options above. Start the bus, please, someone!
What I’m suggesting is you ask 3 questions, taking one from each of the above categories. Trying to ask all fifteen questions would make them sound like you’re reading a script and, besides which, there won’t be sufficient time before the next interviewee is due in.
By selecting such a spread of questions, you show yourself in the best possible light.
The psychology is fascinating but quite logical when you think about it. You’re trying to:
- Show the interviewer your managerial capabilities
- Understand how the company define, measure, encourage and reward success
- Establish just what the interviewer is looking for
- Figure out whether this would be a long-term job or merely a stepping stone
- Get the interviewer to visualize you in the post
- Push yourself to No1 in the interviewer’s rankings
- Decide whether you really want the job
- Ascertain how your personal success would be quantified
- Find out the level of support you can expect to get
- Learn what’s going to be expected from the successful candidate
… and a host of other things that you’d never otherwise find out.
Of course, these questions are no substitute for doing your homework on the company. With the power of the internet behind you, there can be no excuse for not knowing the major projects the company is involved in, where it seems to be going, its corporate structure and, of course, the general ‘scuttlebutt’ that trails any major organization. Be wary of asking the latter but keep it at the back of your mind.
I’ll be honest, the cheekiest question I’ve ever asked was “When do I start?” I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone and I only dared to do it after I’d proved myself worthy following a thorough grilling from the interviewer. He’d created an imaginary scenario which he then complicated one step at a time, asking me how I’d deal with it in every case. Eventually the scenario had got so complex that I just admitted I had no idea – it was way too difficult for my humble brain. I then asked him the answer to which he joked that I’d left him behind several complications back. We laughed about it for a while, then he got me a drink and I asked that question. His answer was “I’ll call you” to which I replied, “I’ll wait, then.” A few hours later he was on the phone offering me a starting date.
Getting these questions right is vital. If you’ve been asked to an interview, then no matter who you’re up against, you’ve got a chance. If you could be a fly on the wall, you’d see that most interviews are pretty much identical with the only distinguishing feature being the questions asked by the candidates. Since most of those will be dull or dim, make sure that you really shine.
Clive West ran an employment agency for 12 years before selling it to a rival company. During the years of his directorship, the business received over 15,000 job applications and had nearly 1,000 active outworkers at any one time. Before that, Clive was a senior officer in marketing and management. As a key part of his work, he has both devised aptitude tests and interviewed extensively. He is now a busy careers journalist working from home.