Two seemingly simple words asked typically at the end of an interview but yet taken for granted by many candidates. I am sure most of us have questions to ask the interviewer at the end of an interview; perhaps it is about their vision or organisation direction, the team or company culture, or maybe just to ask the interviewer on elaborating more on the roles and responsibilities of the job you’re applying for.
I am not saying there is a lack of questions asked but how more so it is being phrased and most importantly how it is a reflection of what you think and want to know as a potential hire – thus showing your level of maturity and professionalism. Of course, this will be a good chance for you to find out what you can about the organisation you are interviewing for, using a few KEY questions because we assume you cannot be asking 10 to 20 questions at one go!
As the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Similarly, there are many ways to ask the same question and what you must do is to ensure you articulate it with finesse and leave a lasting positive impression. Always phrase your questions in an intelligent, thoughtful and cordial manner. That means putting extra thought into the choice of words you use.
Refrain from asking dull questions that can easily be found in a web search, but more on something that you are really interested to know that would impact your decision to consider the role.
Here are six guidelines and tips I feel will give you a good idea on what to ask and to ace your Q&A segment of the interview as an active candidate.
1. Be prepared
I would recommend you prepare around 5 questions in advance and perhaps ask only 2 or 3. This is because during the course of the interview, you may find that the interviewer has inadvertently answered some of your questions. Having no questions may seemingly portray that you are not interested enough in the job/company or, worse, are ill-prepared. We had an experience from a hiring manager who took a candidate out of the running despite him checking all the boxes “because he didn’t have any questions”.
You should also prioritise your questions based on the interview situation.
If it is the first interview, you may want to ask for information that matters most early and more probing questions at subsequent interviews.
If it is an an all-day interview during which you meet with different interviewers, you may consider asking questions that fit the roles of those individuals as well as a common question for all in order to compare responses! We like questions like, “How would you describe the culture here?” and see if they all tell you the same thing!
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff
When interviewing for a senior management role, trivial questions are best avoided. Examples of this would be what are the company benefits, working hours, parking charges - you get the idea. There is a time and place for these to be discussed, and it is usually when you are viewing the employment contract, not during the interview process.
3. Asking specific job related questions with “I” or “me”
“What is your vision for the company?” VS “Could you share with me your strategic vision for the function within the next 12 months and how I can help you to achieve it?"
“What are you looking for in a candidate?” VS “Could you identify what are some of the key traits you wish for me to have OR key milestones you me to achieve in the first 3, 6 or 12 months?”
“What are problems you encounter in this function?” VS “What are some of challenges that you have encountered that you think I can be of help to resolve them?”
Notice that by using “I”, it shows the assumption that you are hired for the role. A subtle but nice touch of confidence! These questions are also phrased with finesse. As an added benefit, if the interviewer mentions a trait that you can identify with or a challenge that you have thoughts on how to resolve, this is a perfect opportunity for you to showcase your ideas and thoughts.
4. Do your research
There is nothing more desirable for an interviewer than talking to a candidate who take pains and makes an effort to research on the company and read its related news. So this question is really selected just for the purpose of making this positive impression. If you read somewhere that the company is opening up a new office or making a new product investment, this is a good chance to mention the little nugget of information phrased into a question.
“I have read that the Company has started launching a new product in the next quarter and would like to know what kind of opportunities and challenges you may foresee in this new launch”.
5. Your new “family”
In all my years of recruiting experience, one of the most popular question is always “what is the company culture?” This is a very subjective question with no real “bad” answer, only pretty vague ones! So what you really want to know is not generic culture of the whole company of 10,000 employees worldwide but who are in YOUR team – the people you will interact with on a daily basis – and how are they like. So start asking the interviewer to tell you more about the team. How long have they been with the organisation, could he or she tell you more about their background and working styles.
6. Getting personal
Whether the interviewer has been with the organisation for months or years, there is a reason why he or she joined and this is a good chance to ask them what the interviewer likes most about the company so far, and why he or she has stayed so long (if your interviewer he has stayed there for many years) and if he or she has the same values you have for you to envision yourself working there. This allows the interviewer to share his or her personal perspective and feelings on the company, what made him or her successful and will also give you unique insights into what makes an employee happy with their job within the company! Most “happy” hiring managers to whom the candidates posed this question to often answer with spontaneity and enthusiasm, so if the interviewer visibly struggles to give you an answer, this may signal a red flag!
Written by: Imae Hong