Top 5 Questions You Must Ask in an Interview
While most of your job interview will be employer-driven, at some point you’ll be asked whether you have any questions. This is your opportunity to drive the interview. It’s time explore whether the position meets your needs. After all, work consumes a significant portion of your life, so the organization you join must meet your basic requirements. We recommend starting with the top 5 questions you must ask in an interview, outlined below. Ask more questions as you require, but this set of questions is more than enough to intelligently appraise the job.
#1 – What are the responsibilities and duties of this position?
The central purpose of this question is to find out what you will be doing each day. In some interviews, you might even have the opportunity to see the desk you’ll be assigned. Depending on the complexity of the role, you may need to expand the question. Good exploratory questions include:
- What action-items need immediate attention from the person who accepts this job?
- Is there a handover period or training provided at the outset of employment?
- Who will I be managing, reporting to and/or working with on a daily basis?
- Can you describe the daily activities for someone in this role in the first week?
- Can you describe the daily activities for someone in this role after the first 2 months?
- What is the greatest challenge of this position?
- Tell me about the office environment and typical working hours for this role?
You should also try to gauge the time-pressure inherent in the role. For example, if your first task is to compile the Company’s quarterly report, ask whether you’ll be required to do the task in a week or a month. If appropriate, also ask about the resources available for completing the task. Do you have the authority to use/demand the resources you require, or do you require approval from a more senior manager?
All of these sub-questions give you a good idea of what your daily working life will be like and how well you’ll be able to meet the role requirements.
#2 – How is performance measured for someone in this role?
Every organization evaluates people differently. You need to know how you’ll be measured and rewarded on an ongoing basis.
Your interviewer may give an answer such as “XYZ Company reviews all employees on a quarterly basis. In your case, you will be assessed on overall billable hours and customer satisfaction. As part of your salary package, you may receive a 2% bonus based on the outcome of your quarterly performance review.”
If you don’t get such a complete answer, ask a few more questions in an attempt to understand:
- Will your performance be measured at all?
- How does the company measure performance? Is there a standard company-wide procedure?
- Who measures your performance?
- Are you solely responsible for your results, or will you be assessed on team-based results?
- How often does the company review performance of individual employees?
- What are the outcomes of performance review? Is there are reward system for excellent performance? Does the company provide training to aid areas of poor performance?
If you’re especially motivated to move up the career ladder, ask about opportunity for promotion. For example: “Assuming my performance is outstanding over the next 12-24 months, do you see an opportunity for promotion or growth within this job position?” This shows you are thinking long-term and are interested in finding success within the organization.
#3 – Why is the position vacant?
This question gives you great insight into the future of the position. If it’s a newly created position, or the previous person was promoted, that’s a positive sign for you. It shows the role has opportunity for promotion and growth.
In less positive circumstances, you need to ask more probing questions to uncover how ‘safe’ the role is for you as a potential employee:
- If the previous person was fired: Watch out for underlying issues that might have caused the person to perform poorly such as impossible sales targets, lack of resources or a difficult manager.
- If the previous person resigned: Try to find out how many people have occupied this role in the past 12-24 months. If the position has a high turnover history, it may indicate unpleasant working conditions you’d rather avoid.
- If the previous person was made redundant: Question why someone in this role was chosen for redundancy and why the role must now be filled. Be aware that some positions may be cyclical in nature. You don’t want to take the job only to find yourself unemployed again in a few months.
#4 – What’s it Like to Work for XYZ Company?
This question demonstrates you recognize the importance of company culture in the overall success of the company. You want to hear XYZ Company is a great place to work. You also want to work out whether the Company is a good fit for your personal working style. For example:
- What is the general management style of the business?
- How formal or informal is company culture?
- What’s the dress code?
- How strict is the reporting protocol?
To ensure your happiness in the role, consider your personal preferences and how you feel about the company culture. If you’re the kind of person who prefers to work alone, you might feel stifled by a company culture that values weekly reporting and strict progress meetings.
#5 – How Do You Feel I Measure Up for this Position?
Although it seems awkward to ask, this is an empowering question. Not only will you discover whether you’re in with a chance, you’ll also get an opportunity to alleviate any doubts or concerns the interviewer may express.
Imagine there is a simple misunderstanding causing the interviewer to doubt your suitability for the job. You’ll never know if you don’t ask. If you’re courageous enough to ask during the interview, you’ll have a chance to clear up misunderstandings and reassure the interviewer of your suitability for the job.
Never Say ‘No’
It’s easy to see why these are the 5 most important questions to ask in an interview. When you’re given the opportunity to ask questions, never say “no” or “I don’t have any questions”. This makes you look unprepared and uninterested. Instead, begin with the 5 questions outlined above and then explore more deeply as this article explains. Make the most of your interview time and genuinely examine whether or not you really want the job.
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