Career Advice

Questions to ask at your interview

In theory, answering questions fired at you by an interviewer should be a much sterner test than coming up with questions from your side of the desk. Yet many people struggle to think of really good topics to raise with the interviewer. Others are so anxious to avoid being seen as overly demanding that they ask only the most insipid or trivial questions.

Licence to ask

  1. Cuts both ways: Don’t assume it’s only you who has to impress; the interviewer also has work to do: ‘selling’ the job, the workplace and the organisation. Your questions will be both welcome and expected
  2. Dead giveaways: The questions you ask may reveal as much about your preparedness, confidence or commitment as the answers you gave earlier; interviewers are not inviting you to ask questions just to be polite

Prepare and remember

  1. Lists, lists and more lists: Write out your ‘stock’ questions before going to the interview – this will help you recall and select when you’re invited to take your turn asking questions; the more you prepare, the less restricted you’ll feel (especially if, as often happens, many of your questions are actually answered during the normal course of the interview)
  2. Challenge the interviewer: Most interviewers will respond well to more taxing questions – it tells them that you’re interested in your work and in the organisation; you might ask them what the top priorities are for the team over the coming year (and why); how public sector spending cuts might impact on the work of the team and the skills the organisation needs; or what training support will be given (and to what extent employees have an input on their own development)
  3. Look to the future: By all means ask about where the job may take you in the future – but be careful not to give the impression of being impatient to get the job for which you’re applying out the way as soon as possible before climbing the ladder (especially if you’re being interviewed by the very person who might stand in your way)

Caution prevails…

  1. Absolute no-no: Certain topics should be strictly off-limits – asking personal questions about the interviewer or people in the team; holidays, lunch hours, how likely it is that you’ll be able to get out the door on the dot of five o’clock… anything that’s unlikely to be a major factor in your decision to accept an offer (should one be made) is best left unsaid
  2. Homework:The least the interviewer will expect of you is that you’ve visited his or her organisation’s website beforehand – so don’t ask questions whose answers are there for all to see on the website (but by all means ask follow-up questions, showing you’ve done your homework)
  3. Money’s too tight to mention: Unless the interviewer raises the subject, it’s best to leave salary discussions to your consultant – asking directly about pay or benefits may highlight the fact that the interviewer doesn’t have the personal authority to make promises, leaving them feeling uncomfortable – and while that might not be your fault, it’s better for them to associate their meeting with you for positive reasons
  1. Putting together a winning CV
  2. Writing a covering letter/email
  3. Handling panel interviews
  4. Building your professional network
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