Job interviews: five essential questions you should ask

You don't have to wait until the end of the interview to ask questions

A job interview should be a two-way street rather than a single track interrogation – you are there to size up a future employer and they are there to evaluate your suitability as an employee.

You don’t have to wait until the end of the interview to ask questions; instead, a more conversational style will demonstrate your curiosity, engagement and genuine interest in the position. Here are some essential questions you need to ask.

1 – What do you like most about working here?

For a start, this question shows thought and empathy. It demonstrates a friendly and open attitude and also reveals that you are relaxed and unintimidated. It is refreshing to a boss when potential employees treat them as another human being rather than revering them with a cap-doffing obsequiousness.

Pay attention to the answers, as the employer/s may reveal their priorities and practices; for example, they may be motivated primarily by efficiency savings and profit margins, with no mention of creativity, growth, the organisational culture or innovation of the product or service. In this case, the organisation may turn out to be a stifling place to work with few prospects of standing out and making a difference.

2 – How will this role progress and develop within the broader strategic growth of the organisation?

This is a creative way of ascertaining what your future prospects within the firm may be. By framing the question in this way, a conversation may open up around the subject of long-term corporate strategy. It is vital to understand the direction in which you are likely to be going at an early stage and hopefully this will fit in with your future plans; if not, you may want to look elsewhere.

3 – Can you tell me more about the team and what my role will be within it?

Finding out about your closest colleagues will give you a great insight into the working methods you will be adopting on a daily basis. It may be that the way in which the team works has little resemblance to how you imagined it. The more information you can glean at this stage, the better.

It may be that the team operates in a way you cannot attune to; for this reason, it is helpful to try to steer the conversation subtly towards the reasons the position came up for grabs. Did somebody leave because they were unhappy, or did they get promoted? Try to find this information tactfully, as coming across as nosey or interrogative is far from ideal.

4 – What are you looking for in an employee?

Be honest with yourself when you hear the response to this question. Can you definitely provide the skills and aptitudes required for the role? Listen carefully, as you may also be able to find out where previous staff fell short.

5 – How will you measure my performance?

You need to know this right from the start, as it gets right to the heart of what will be required of you and the actual levels of pressure and stress you are likely to be under. Ask for examples of targets and goals to give you an honest appraisal of how this company really operates.

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