In my 15 years working in recruitment, something that still surprises me is the number of people that attend their interview with an absence of questions to ask. As an interviewer, my first thought is typically ‘how can they not have questions, there must be something they want/need to know beyond the job description’ and my second thought is inevitably ‘they must not be very interested in the role’. That second thought can lead to a rejection. Most interviewers allow time for questions at the end, so coming up empty when you are given the chance is a wasted opportunity. As well as providing you with useful information about the firm, team and role, asking insightful questions shows you’ve done your research and are curious, thoughtful, interested and enthusiastic about the role, which can contribute towards a positive outcome.It could even be a deciding factor.
My recommendation is to ALWAYS go to an interview with questions prepared. Take a notebook with your questions listed so that you don’t have the added stress of having to memorise them, and you'll also be able to jot things down throughout the interview which could generate other questions to ask as well as or instead of the ones you already have. This kind of responsiveness to the interviewer could even earn you some extra brownie points.
If you’re stuck for questions, here’s a few general recommendations, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list – do your research ahead of the interview and make sure your questions are relevant to the role, situation and the people interviewing you.
What are the top qualities needed to succeed in this role?
What does success look like in this role and how will my performance be measured?
What do you feel are the biggest challenges of the role?
What opportunities are there for professional development?
How would you describe the culture of the firm?
What might a typical day look like in the role/team?
What are likely to be the biggest challenges for the firm in the next couple of years?
What’s the most exciting thing on the agenda for the firm?
What do you find most enjoyable about your role/working for the firm?
What are the next steps following the interview/when will I hear back?
I don’t recommend asking all of these, two or three is fine, but have a few prepared so that you have some left in the event others are answered throughout the interview. Don’t be afraid to take a moment to scan through and check before you ask – a good and fair interviewer won’t judge you for this, but make sure your notes are concise and easy to read so that the moment doesn’t become an awkward minute (or two).
One question I would highly recommend avoiding in your interview is about the salary, unless it’s raised by the interviewer of course. In my view, this is a topic to save for when you get the offer. You don’t want the interviewer to feel this is your main motivation for applying for or accepting the role, and you also need to show the value you can add to the role prior to discussing the offer - it could even shift the numbers in your favour.
My parting words of ‘wisdom’ are to remember that interviews are a two-way street – they’re also a chance for you to find out whether you want to work for the firm you’re interviewing for, so asking the right questions will help you to make that decision.
If it's a virtual interview you've been invited to, check out my last blog post for how to prepare for one of these.