Interviews can be a stressful time, depending on your personality and experience with it. Preparing for interviews is something you should always do, but since you do not know exactly what you will be faced with; there are still those areas you are not sure how to prepare for. There is, however, one area you can be prepared for, and that is the time you get to ask your questions.
Many people do not know what to ask, or if they should ask what might be on their mind to ask, and so they often ask nothing – or the wrong things.
Things you do not want to ask about would be specific issues with upcoming vacation concerns, or time off in general, or anything that may reveal a lack of dedication to the job (like being overly concerned with overtime issues, salary, hours, etc.), or a lack of knowledge about the company (like asking “what does the company do?”). There are a host of other areas of questioning that you should pursue that not only keeps it on a more professional level, but also shows you are alert, paying attention and motivated to be involved.
It is important during an interview to have a small pad and take some very brief, key word type notes that can be referenced to later provoke thoughtful questions. Do not bury your head in the notebook while the interview is going on, but keep a few short and quick notes, especially on issues that you would like further information about.
When to ask questions will vary from situation to situation. If the interview is more of a casual conversation, then interjecting questions during the discussion is fine, but if they appear to be using a script or reading a list of prepared questions then interrupting the process is probably not best. Usually at the end of the hiring agent’s series of questions, they will open up the conversation to allow you to ask questions. Here are a few questions to help you get started in thinking of your own types to ask:
- What do you feel are some of the biggest issues this company currently has that someone with my background and experience can be of most benefit in helping to solve? This type of question shows you care about the main need of the company at the current time, and can allow you to know a bit more of what would be expected of you at the job.
- If I were to start tomorrow, what would be the most pressing issues that would be my priority? This can be somewhat of a follow up to question number one, and helps you to understand the initial thrust of your position. These may also reveal other key points to your experience that you may want to discuss further to highlight for them. Maybe you have experience in an area, but did not focus as much on it on your resume, and now knowing this priority at the position, you may wish to follow up with your level of experience in that particular area.
- How would you describe the workplace culture here? This can assist you in figuring how what kind of workday you can expect if hired. Some places are very team oriented, some are more individual task oriented, some of very high paced with lots of critical deadlines, and others are not as much so. These can help determine how you might handle the day-to-day routine at the company.
- Where do you see my position, my department, or this whole company in five years; or what are some long and short term goals for the department/company? This can help determine where the company is expecting to go, how the job might grow, and what kind of advancements they expect in the near future.
Once you done with these specific types of questions, turn to your notes and ask for additional information in some of the areas you noted. This shows not only that you were paying attention, but that you are thinking about much of what was said in the interview. Hopefully you have also spent time prior to the interview, to do some research on the company and have formulated other questions based on what you have discovered.
The key thing to remember about interviews, is that it is not just a one sided conversation for the hiring agent to find out about you. You need to be prepared and ready to engage them as well, to assure your continued interest and long term “fit” with the company.