Written by: Ben White
One of the mistakes entry level candidates make is not being prepared to ask questions. I have always maintained that an interview is as much about you learning about the company as it is them learning about you. That in of itself should be motivation enough for you to think up high impact questions that provide you with clarity on what is a huge decision. Switching jobs is always a gamble and since we spend so much time at work, it’s a decision of great consequence. However, that is not the only reason you should be asking questions. I also feel strongly that at the end of the day, you want to be the one making the decisions. So that means ultimately you want to be extended an offer and you should be the person deciding whether or not it is the right career move for you. With that end goal in mind it is extremely important that you come prepared with questions ask, at every level of interview. The reason I say that is having questions prepared is going to be a positive indicator in the eyes of virtually everyone you speak to during the hiring process. From sourcer, to recruiter, to hiring manager and human resources manager, if they talk with you, they will most likely ask you if you have any questions. Given the gravity of the situation, who wouldn’t have several questions to ask? So, we ask questions not only to find out necessary information but also because having thoughtful questions reflects highly on us. With that being said, below are some questions you should be asking during your interviews.
- Why is this role open?
The answer to this question will give you an idea about the companies urgency to fill the role. While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, there are exceptions, if a position is newly created as opposed to a position being open because somebody left, they may not be in a hurry to fill it. Why is that the case? Well it is most often the case because when a company has a new role, it is something they have lived without up until this point. When you have an employee doing a job and that job becomes vacant, it usually means that task is no longer being done or they are having to spread resources in order to get this task completed. This either means other things aren’t getting done or employees are working longer hours. Both of these scenarios create a strain and therefor extra motivation to get the role filled. For you own information you want to be aware of their potential timing and desire to fill the role. When you ask recruiter something like “when do you want to have this position filled?” 99% of the time they are going to tell you “as soon as we can find the right person” and quite frankly that’s not really helpful. If you really want to know their urgency, ask why the role is open. Now that being said sometimes a role is created and it is just as urgent, but most of the time it won’t be.
- What have past employees done to be successful in roles like this?
This is a great question to ask. For starters, in my opinion, it is super insightful. Some questions you may ask because you are genuinely curious, some you ask because it will impress the person interviewing you and questions like this you ask for both reasons. I especially like this question if you have further interviews because it allows you to figure out what parts of your experience make sense to highlight in upcoming interviews. For example, if they mention that people in the past behave been successful in this role who happen to have strong communication skills, then clearly they have given you an area of your background that it makes sense to expand upon. Not only will this tell you if you personality or skills will help you succeed if you gets the role but it will help you shift the very make up of potential answers you can give down the road. Now, I don’t recommend exaggerating or pretending to have skills you don’t actually possess, that is always a terrible idea. But if they happen to mention a strong indicator for success that aligns with your strengths, by all means you should try and work that into answers for future questions.
- What do you like about working here?
This question is purely for you. The passion in the persons voice should probably tell you everything you need to know. Does it take them a long time to think of things? Do they sound like they are describing a trip to the dentist instead of what you were hoping to hear described as a great culture? Do they give you a quick canned answer or is there something more to work with there. Everyone knows what is important to them. For some people it is growth opportunity, for some it is work life balance and for some they want to hear about employee development. Do you hear an answer that indicates this company can give you what you are looking for?
- What’s the top priority for the person who takes this job for the first three months?
This is another great question. It gives you an insight into what you can expect to be doing for the first 90 days, which is a crucial time for their post hire evaluation. If heard employers say that they treat those first 90 days almost as another extended interview. When taking a new role, the first 90 days are absolutely crucial. By learning what those first 90 days will consist of it also positions you to better understand whether or not you will be able to thrive during this extremely important time in your tenure at your new company. It’s another question that, as a recruiter, makes me feel strongly about the thought a candidate is putting into the process. To put it simply, it’s the kind of question good candidates ask. Good candidates, who want a full picture of the situation and make sure they make decisions having all available information ask questions like that.
- What challenges will this person likely face in this role?
This is another great question that not only falls under the “questions good candidates ask” category but can also really help you down the road determining if the role is right for you. When someone conducting an interview is asked a question like this it can be really hard to quickly think of an answer that isn’t a genuine issue that might come up. While most of the time interviewers will attempt to not dissuade you from wanting the role, a question like this is usually pretty good at generating an honest answer. That answer might be invaluable down the road as you decide whether or not the role is a right fit for you. For example, let’s say you are a Quality Engineer. You ask the question and the answer is that often production doesn’t want to adhere to the quality standards and that it can be a challenge to get management on board when it comes to backing your quality implementations. Well whoa, if you are a quality engineer wouldn’t you want to know that? I know I would. In addition to that, much like the prior success question it can help you find different pain points that align with the skills you would be able to bring to the position. This can help you sell your abilities further into the interview process and set you up for interview success.
Well there you have it, those are my 5 excellent interview questions you need to ask. That being said, there are other questions you can ask in addition to those. For example I always like to ask about development opportunities they have for their employees. What a company is willing to invest in you will tell you a lot about how they treat and value their employees. There is also a lot you can learn from the lengths at which they go to answer your questions. If they answer with a lot of quick and short answers, you can probably figure out that there isn’t a lot of interest in you as a candidate. On the other hand, when an interviewer goes out of their way to fully answer your questions and continues to sell the company and the role, you can probably figure that they have interest in you as a candidate. Again, I wouldn’t consider this a hard and fast rule. The fact is that some people are overly enthusiastic and some people have more steady sounding voices that don’t give a lot away. However generally speaking there is a lot you can gain if you pay attention to the tone, duration and passion in their answers. Hope that helped! Thanks for reading!