You prepared well, you know the company and you know your role but now the interview is drawing to a close and the dreaded question arises: “Do you have any questions to ask us?” Some advice sites will simply say if you don’t have any legitimate questions then don’t ask. Others will give you a list of set-in-stone questions to ask regardless of whether they’re relevant to your interview or not. Our thoughts lie somewhere in the middle. Be aware that this is your chance to gain an insight into company culture. By politely declining you could miss out on a valuable opportunity to learn more about your potential new employers.
We’ve compiled a list of ten questions, that far from simply ticking a box, will actually help you to get an idea of how the culture of the business could affect how you do your new job.
- Why is the position vacant?
This seems like a simple enquiry but could tell you a lot about the role you’re potentially going to undertake. Did the previous employee leave or is this a brand-new position? This knowledge will help you to understand whether you’ll be creating the role from scratch or if there are already a set of rules and KPIs on how to get the best from the position. If the previous employee left, were they made redundant, did they leave the company, or did they get promoted? Whatever the answer, you’ll already have a little understanding of the organisations and your potential career path.
If the job has a high staff turnover that could be an indication of unrealistic expectations, lack of training, a difficult manager or some other issue. Don’t panic if you don’t hear the answer you want but do follow up with a relevant question such as, “Do you know what has led to the high turnover?”
It will also be useful to have an idea of how long the position has been vacant. If they’ve been trying to fill the role for some time without success, then that could be a red flag. Is the hiring process problematic, are they asking too much from their interview process or have other candidates turned down the position? Knowledge is power, as they say!
- Can you give me an idea of the day-to-day responsibilities of the job?
The interview process is your chance to learn as much as you can about the role and to find out if you really want the job. You’ll probably have seen a job description already by this point, but does that really tally with what the management team will expect of you? By learning more about the daily tasks, you’ll gain an insight into the strengths and skills required to do the job well and be realistic about whether they are skills you have or are hoping to learn (or not).
If the job description states, for example, a mix of clerical and creative duties, it would be useful to learn the ratio. A role that requires 90% admin will differ greatly from a role of a similar name that is heavily creative. By asking this question, you may find that the element of the role you’re most excited about will only come up a couple of times a year. But, major bombshells aside, this question will enable you to have a much clearer idea of what your working life could look like.
If the interview team give a vague answer such as, “the role changes all the time”, ask what a month might look like. You’re potentially going to be spending 40 hours a week working at this company, you’re well within your rights to push for an answer.
- What are some of the challenges you expect for this role?
This question will unearth aspects of the job that may not get covered in the interview process. Are certain clients notoriously tricky to get hold of? Are there budget restrictions that will affect how you do your job? Will you have to get sign off from multiple stakeholders before proceeding with work? If there are challenges then rather than be put off by this, it can be your opportunity to think how you’d deal with this ahead of time. It may also open up the chance for you to discuss how you’ve approached similar issues in the past which might be very reassuring for your interviewer.
- What is a typical career path for this role?
It’s good to know the potential for growth before you even start. If previous holders of the post have gone on to managerial positions for example, then you’ll know that the company hires internally, and your prospects of career progression are high. By asking the question, you’ll also show your long-term interest in the position and your desire to succeed.
- What would the ideal candidate achieve in the first six months?
First and foremost, hiring managers will want to know that you can get the job done and fit in well with the team on a short-term basis but it’s good to know what you’ll need to do to impress further down the line. It lets you know where your focus should be when it comes to bigger picture projects. The answer will also let you know whether you’re likely to be a good fit and enjoy the role. If the answer is far from anything you want to do, then it might be an idea to consider whether or not you really want the job.
- What do you like about working here?
This question will likely raise a bit of a smile from your interviewer. Most people enjoy talking about their own experiences and this question gives you the chance to build a bit of a rapport with your hiring manager. Plus, you could learn a lot from their answer. This requires a personal response and will likely give you an insider’s view into the company culture and work environment.
- Can you tell me more about the team I’ll be working in?
This will give you an idea of how your role fits into the department and the type of people you’ll be working most closely with. Does your line manager hold the role you’d expect, or will you be reporting to someone in a different field and if so, why? You’ll have the chance to find out about the team dynamic and working methods and know whether to expect a bijou team of two or a mammoth team of 200.
- What is the culture like? Is there a certain type of person that thrives here?
If you’re a natural extrovert and the interviewer tells you that most of your team like to work remotely and the office is usually pretty quiet, then this might not be your dream role. Similarly, if you thrive in a relaxed atmosphere but the workplace you’re interviewing for is very target focussed and sales driven, you might want to think again. It might not be a complete no-no and there may be other elements of your job that make it worthwhile but it’s good to start a new job with your eyes open.
- What are the company’s priorities over the next five years?
This question is particularly relevant to senior and executive roles. The answer will give you an insight into where the company is heading (or where it would like to be) and how that could affect you and your role. Ask about any specific goals that could be significant for your role and if you have experience in working towards these goals then now could be a good time to mention them.
- What are the next steps in the hiring process (and when can I expect to hear from you)?
This is always useful to know. Will there be presentations and meetings with the CEO to follow or is it a simple matter of meeting with your line manager? Not only will the answer allow you to plan ahead but it will also give you an idea of the timeline so that you can follow up appropriately.
Interviewing is a two-way street. Of course, you want to impress but don’t focus so much on being impressive that you forget your own needs. You should take this opportunity to assess the job, the company and the hiring manager. If your focus is solely on getting the job and not on whether it’s the right job for you, you run the risk of working in an environment where you’re not happy. Before the interview process, spend time thinking about what you really want to know.
What did you love/loathe about previous positions? Are there any red flags or deal-breakers that would mean you no longer wanted the role? Find out about working hours if you’re currently trying to get away from 12-hour workdays and non-existent weekends. Find out about targets and KPIs if you’re looking for more structure than your current place of work. Of course, your hiring manager’s answers shouldn’t be the only research you do. Check out the company’s social pages and look for reviews or check the industry press. By all means, plan to answer their questions to the best of your ability but don’t forget to spend some time thinking about what you want to know too.
All that’s left to say is, good luck!
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