An article by contributor Craig Scott.
When you go on a job interview, your interviewer will ask you a lot of questions. That makes sense. They’re trying to see if you’re a good fit for the position and for their company. Typically, they’ll ask you if you have any questions toward the end of the interview. You might think it makes more sense, or makes you look better, to not ask questions. But you actually should ask several specific questions. Even if they don’t ask if you have any questions, make sure you always ask a couple of these questions:
“What skills and experiences would the ideal candidate have?”
This question is important for a couple of reasons. One is that it puts the interviewer in the spotlight and has him lay out exactly what he’s looking for. This allows you to determine if you’re a good fit.
The second reason is that if the interviewer mentions a skill or experience that you have that hasn’t come up yet, this is your opportunity to toot your own horn and mention it.
“Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?”
This question shows confidence in yourself and your abilities. It invites the interviewer to describe a potential flaw, giving you the opportunity to correct that impression and turn what might be a negative into a positive.
It will also give you a little insight into what the interviewer thinks about your chances of getting the job. If she describes numerous things that are giving her pause, you may not have much of a chance. But if she only has one or two doubts, or none at all, you still might have a great chance at getting the job.
“How do you define success for this job?”
We all have our own visions of what success means, overall and in specific terms related to a job, a relationship, etc. But if your vision of success isn’t in line with the company’s vision of it, you may find that you’re out of your successful job before you barely got settled into it.
By finding out how the organization defines success for someone in the position you’re interviewing for, you learn whether you see the same thing or not. If their vision is different than yours, it also gives you a clearer picture of what the job entails and what they’ll expect from you. This allows you to determine whether you’re a good fit for the job and the organization overall.
“What is your favorite part about working here?”
When you interview, the company is trying to make as good a first impression on you as you are on them. They’ll talk up all the perks and benefits of working there, but sometimes, those perks and benefits are on paper only.
By asking the people you meet what their favorite part about working there is, you’ll get a better sense of the company’s overall culture and the perks and benefits you can expect to enjoy. If you consistently hear that employees enjoy getting home for dinner each night, or being able to work remotely from home a couple of times a week, you’ll know that work-life balance or telecommuting are real options and not just vague promises.
“Can you tell me a story about something that happens here that wouldn’t happen anywhere else?”
Organizational psychologist Adam Grant recommends asking this question to be able to really get a feel for the culture, as opposed to the values that might be outlined but not really followed.
This question can net you negative or positive stories, but either way, it can help you make a decision. If the stories you hear are of employees throwing chairs or reaming out a co-worker, you’ll know this may not be the right fit for you. On the other hand, if you hear about how everyone chips in for birthday cakes and is always willing to help you meet a deadline even if it means staying late, that can be a great sign that this is a nice place to work.
“How have you recognized the achievements of employees in the past?”
High pay, decent sick time and a nice vacation package are all nice, but sometimes what really gets you through the day is getting a little recognition from your employer. Asking how they’ve recognized employees previously will let you know if you’re going to find that motivation here. If there’s a lot of stammering and confusion, or they don’t recognize employees at all beyond a paycheck and some vacation time, you’ll know you want to reconsider this employer.
“Can you give me examples of collaboration within the company?”
Teamwork is important. This question accomplishes two goals: it sets the stage that you’re a team player, which is a quality that most employers want. But it also gives you more insight into the company culture. If there’s a ton of collaboration, teamwork is a priority and you can feel confident that you’ll never be entirely alone on anything you work on.
“How has this position evolved?”
Knowing whether the job you’re interviewing for is a dead end or merely a stepping stone to bigger and better things is critical to whether or not you accept the job if it’s offered. Asking how the position has evolved helps you learn whether people who’ve previously held it have been promoted or have sought better positions with other companies.
It also shows your interviewer that you’re thinking of the future, considering where this position can go, and that shows the interviewer that you’re planning to stick around if you get the job.
“What are the challenges of this position?”
If the interviewer tells you there are no challenges, be cautious about moving ahead. Every job, as with anything in life, has its challenges. You want to know what those challenges might be before you find yourself engulfed in them. If the interviewer claims there aren’t any, consider that that may mean the challenges are much greater than the rewards.
“If I’m hired, what will a typical day look like for me?”
There are always going to be days that are totally different than usual, but on average, most of your days are going to look the same. Finding out what that view will be like is a first step toward deciding if you really want this job or not. You may learn that the day-to-day is far too boring for you, or that you’ll never be in the office and you’d prefer a job that keeps you in the office more than it takes you out.
Something specific about the company
Before your interview, take some time to look over the company’s website and learn a bit about them. Try to find something that you can ask a thoughtful question about. This shows potential employers that you’ve taken the time to do your research, that you’re very interested in the company, and thinking about more than just a salary.
Job interviews can feel nerve-wracking. With these questions on your list, you can look prepared, invested, and relaxed. You’ll also get the information you need to make your own decision about taking the job, instead of leaving it all in their hands.
Craig loves to spend as much time as he can outdoors and he is an advocate for the wild. He runs the Green and Growing blog and regularly writes and edits content about the environment and sustainability. Connect with Green and Growing and Craig on Facebook.