The Questions To Ask at an Interview That Will Get You Hired
Published: 04 May 2018 By Danny Birks, Ignite Digital Talent
It is important to know what questions to ask at an interview. Long gone are the days when job interviews were an interrogative process. The formal, “boardroom-suit-and-tie” approach to interviews has definitely had its day. At Ignite Digital Talent we have gained a great deal of experience and knowledge about the job interview process and how you can best win the hearts and minds of your prospective employers -- by asking the right questions!
Employers have come to recognise that it is a candidate driven market, and are addressing their approach at interview accordingly. Interviews have become more of a mutual “sizing up”. A process that is as much about the company being a good fit for the candidate as the other way around. Agreed...the job application process has become more thorough, but with that comes assurance. If you have made it through the early CV screening and telephone interview to the face to face meeting stage, you are a serious contender! Just make sure you ask the right questions!
“Are there any questions you want to ask us?”
This question is now a standard feature of any interview, and one that it’s crucial to adequately prepare for. Failure to do so is a massive fail. Believe me. To falter with an “Ummmmm, no. I don’t think so”, is not an option. It can be hard to think of questions when you are on the spot though, especially those which may help set you apart from your competitors. It also often comes at the end of the meeting. An added obstacle...many of your first line queries may have already been addressed.
Interview Questions: How many should you prepare?
You need to look at the opportunity to ask questions at an interview as an opportunity to do the following...
Find out about the job.
Find out about the company.
Find out about the company culture and decide if it is right for you?
Demonstrate your eagerness for the job.
With this in mind, I’d suggest that you you have approximately 8 questions up your sleeve. You should look to prepare two from each category. This may seem like a lot, but there’s a definite argument here that you can never be too prepared! Firstly, you need to make sure you actually do receive the answers to the questions that you have but, secondly you need a back up plan! Should your primary questions be answered in the main body of the interview, you need to be able to avoid the “ummmmmmm” scenario! Read on for my tips on preparing some questions for your interviewer which tick all the boxes. Pertinent, intelligent and relevant, these will help you gather your information and may even give you the edge over the rest of the field. To make all this really easy, we have categorised our suggestions into 4 categories. Prepare 2 interview questions from each, and you’ll be ready to fire on all cylinders!
Questions to ask at an interview about the job & the role
Can you tell me more about the day to day responsibilities of the job?
By asking this question you will learn more about the role, and gain an insight into the specific skills and strengths you’ll need to excel. You’ll also be able to explore any topics from the job description that have not been covered adequately during the interview.
What have past employees in this role done to succeed in this position?
The answer to this question will give you an indication about how your employer would measure success and what you would need to do to perform well in the role.
What are the expectations for the role within a 30/60 day or year timeframe?
Pick a realistic time frame, and ask what the expectations would be of the role within that time. This will show that you are motivated and would be looking to hit your goals and KPIs. It shows that you are keen to achieve and looking at the long term.
What would be the first priorities for this position?
You’ll get a lot of information in a job description. Typically, the “Role & Responsibilities” section is very general and covers EVERY eventuality. By asking this question, you will get a sum appraisal of the tasks that are the most important and, if you are successful, what you should attack first. You will demonstrate that you are ready to work, and that you’ll be efficient.
If I were to be successful, who would I be reporting to?
The answer you receive to this question will give you an idea about the breadth of your role. For example, if it’d be more than one person, are those people on the same team or would this be multi-team working? This is especially important if you are interviewing at a startup or small business. Individuals within organisations of these sizes often wear many proverbial work hats. You’ll need to demonstrate flexibility and a range of communication skills if this is the case. By establishing the pecking order, you will also establish the priorities of this role. It is also a great information gathering strategy for you! You’ll know who’s LinkedIn profile you need to swot up on for the next stages!
What are the reasons behind the vacancy?
Asking this question will allow you to determine if the company is hiring as part of a growth plan or if the need has arisen due to internal restructuring such as promotion. If it is neither of these things, you will also get some idea as to employee turnover and staff retention rates.
Questions to ask at an interview about the company
What are the ambitions of the company over the next 5 years?
By asking about the mid term goals of the organisation, you will demonstrate that this would not just be a CV stop gap for you. You will showcase your interest in the ambition and growth plan of the company. You will also be reassured that the company has plans to grow so you can grow too. As an extension of this question, you may also like to establish the role that you would play in this. “That all sounds exciting! If I were to be successful, how would my role contribute to this vision?” Would be a great follow up question at this point.
Who would you say were your biggest competitor and why?
You’ll already have researched who you think are the biggest rivals of the organisation, but it would be useful to get the thoughts of your interviewer. They will give you an insight you won’t be able to find anywhere else!
What are the biggest opportunities for the company right now?
This is a really positive question, and you will be seen as a ‘glass-half-full’ candidate. Not only will this question demonstrate your desire to seize the professional opportunity, it will help you learn more about the company’s direction. Additionally, if this isn't a final interview, it will give you the information you need to direct your own focus later in the application process.
What are the biggest challenges facing the company right now?
If you are a bit braver, you may like to address the flipside. Make sure that you are always able to be positive however! Answers to this particular question will help you to uncover the trends and wider issues the industry may be facing at the current time. This will be a benefit to you for a number of reasons. Firstly, it will address any genuine concerns you may have, but also it’ll provide you with a chance to wear your superhero cloak! Be ready to tell your interviewer how your skills will help turn things around!
What does the Induction process involve?
This is a great way of finding out if you will be given any on the job training without implying that you need it! Avoid asking about training plans directly unless it is formally discussed during the earlier interview. You don’t want to unwittingly suggest that you are unable to do the job using your current skills. By using the phrase “induction process”, you will naturally be able to discuss any elements of training that will be available to you.
Questions to ask at an interview about culture fit
What do you like best about working at this company?
This will give you a personal account of the company culture from someone embedded in the organisation. It’s up to you then to decide if this is a joy you could share.
I really admire your core values of X,Y and Z. How would you say the company demonstrates those values? What might you be looking to improve upon?
This is a respectful and indirect way to enquire into the shortcomings of the company from those at the heart of it. Although it may appear that you are being critical, you are starting the question with a positive statement. Your interviewer should welcome the chance to qualify the ethos behind the “About Us” tab on the website.
Can you tell me about the most interesting project or opportunity that you have worked on?
Questions of this nature are especially relevant if your interviewer is your potential team leader and not a member of HR. It will give you an idea about the sorts of projects you might be involved in, along with a chance to chat about any similar or shared experiences. It’ll also give your interviewer an opportunity to reflect on an achievement of which they are particularly proud. A little flattery can go a long way, and if it’s a more technical role for which you are applying, it’s important to know that techies are very proud, passionate and protective of their skills!
Can you tell me what the most important qualities are for someone to excel in this role?
This question is less about the hard skills that have got you this far. Here we’re talking about the soft skills you won’t read about in the job description. The answer to this question will help you learn about the company culture and the company expectations. The answers you are given here will help you to go on to form your argument as to why you would be a good cultural fit for this organisation.
Can you tell me a little more about the culture of the company?
You will already have experienced a little of the company culture through your recruitment journey thus far. By asking for a description from a senior member of the team, you will gain an insight into the ethos of the company. You can then decide if you would be comfortable with the culture and the dynamic.
What is the current employee turnover rate?
Although this may seem a little forward, it is a smart question to ask. It is a black and white approach to get to the core of the company. An honest answer to this question will give you an organisational viewpoint of what kind of company this is, and if its team enjoy to work there. You may like to use this as a follow up from the What are the reasons behind the vacancy? question from earlier.
Is there anyone else I need to meet with / you’d like me to meet with at this stage?
In response to this question, you may be given an opportunity to meet with your potential co-workers or have a tour of the office. If this is the case, you should jump at it. By requesting this invitation, you will establish how much importance the company places on integration and team synergy. If you are told that you will meet senior players or department chiefs further down the process, this is a great indication that you are in the running. It is also a clue as to the hiring timeline.
If it is a “Head of” role that you are applying for, a great alternative would be:
Will I have the chance to meet with those who would form my team?
This will give you an opportunity to ingratiate yourself with the current team. It is never too soon to begin building a rapport. It is likely that they will be asked their thoughts either directly or indirectly. You need to make sure you seize every opportunity to make a favourable impression, however brief.
Is there anything we haven’t covered that you think is important to know about working here?
This is a great wrap up question. It could be now that your interviewer brings up the ‘perks’ of the job. Questions surrounding holiday entitlement, home working potential and bonus schemes are all subjects we’d avoid asking. There is a danger of appearing self-serving if you do. In short, you may get the answers to the questions you didn’t think it wise to ask but really want to know the answers to!
Questions to ask at an interview about progression
What is the typical career path of this role?
This question will demonstrate your ambition, and will show your interest regarding the growth and destination of the role. It will also give you an idea about the future opportunities for development. Although this is highly personally relevant, you do need to exercise some caution here. Be careful not to sound too self serving. For example, don’t ask when you may expect a promotion or pay rise! Be mindful that you are interviewing for THIS job. You don’t want to put yourself out of the running by appearing that you may be dissatisfied in the role if an offer were to be made.
What are the learning and development opportunities in this role?
Questions of this nature prove you are willing to work hard and nurture your skills. It will demonstrate your desire to improve your trade for the greater, long-term benefit of the company.
What can I expect the next steps of the recruitment process to look like?
Although you don’t want to appear pushy or presumptuous, getting an idea about the next steps of the recruitment journey is important.
This is true for a couple of reasons:
You demonstrate your desire to move forward with the application and that you are a serious contender.
The answer will determine your own timeline and inform any decisions you need to make. This is especially important if you are interviewing elsewhere. It will help you to decide if you should follow up, or move on!
Ask a question that shows you have done your homework.
Here we suggest you pick a blog post, or social media account from the company pages and ask a question generated from that. Ensure that this is a topic that you are knowledgeable about and have an informed personal opinion on. This will allow you to “show off” a bit and build a rapport with your interviewer. Engaging in a meaningful conversation on a subject that you know to be important to them will leave you holding an ace card. This is also of benefit to you if you hold a particular ethical viewpoint on a certain subject. To be fully in-line with your company’s ethics is crucial to your happiness and so your employment longevity. Having these conversations early may make or break your decision. Alternatively, if the company is large and has a notable CEO, then you may like to show you are genuinely interested in the company and its leaders by mentioning something that you have read with regard to them. A word of warning here though! Be sure to only choose reputable sources and definitely avoid any topics that may just be salacious rumour!
Have I answered all your questions? Is there anything you’d like me to expand on?
Your interviewer will appreciate the offer, and it’ll give you a good indication about how you have performed. You may also get a second chance for a re-do if you feel like you could have done better! You will also get an indication on where the priorities of the organisation lie. If they need further information from you, it is likely they will ask you to expand on only those subjects directly relating to the aims of the business.
The opportunity to turn the tables on your interviewer at the close of your interview is definitely an opportunity not to be missed or wasted. The answers to these questions are vital pieces of your decision making puzzle. Indeed, they may make or break your decision - especially if you have more than one iron in the fire. Used wisely, they are also a chance to further showcase your interest in both the role and company. By asking the right questions, we believe you can do both these at once making sure you use this chance to its full advantage. We hope this post has proved useful, and has given you a springboard for ideas. Have you any that you’d like to add to the list? We’d love to hear them!