Whilst most of us understandably focus our interview preparation on anticipating what we might be asked, it is so important to give some serious thought to what you want to know about them too. Quite often when we're asked, 'Do you have any questions for us?', we're so relieved to be nearing the end of the interview that we throw them a couple of generic tick-the-box questions (and don't really listen to the answers) just so we can wrap it all up and get out of there! But this part of the interview is your best opportunity to do two things - find out the nitty gritty of the role, the people and the company, and stand out as the candidate who really made them stop and think.
We suggest you have five or six questions prepared for them - some might be answered earlier in the interview, and others might not seem appropriate once you reach the end, so you should have a solid two or three left in your arsenal when the time comes. Don't be afraid to spend time on this part of the interview - this is your last chance to ask anything that isn't clear about the position, and your opportunity to seriously impress them.
Here are a few of our favourites...
1. What do you like about working here?
This one is great for two reasons - it gives the interviewer a chance to talk about themselves (everyone's favourite subject!) and reflect on their own experiences, and you get to hear what it's like to work for your prospective employer and find out a bit more about your would-be line manager. You could end up expanding on this question, finding out how long they've been with the company and understanding their professional journey to this point. You're building rapport, showing interest in them personally and also assessing whether this is someone you'd like and want to manage you.
2. Can you tell me about the team I'll be working with?
The people you work with will likely make or break your enjoyment of the role. Finding out more about them will help you make a judgment on whether they're a group you'd want to be part of. You might want to adapt this question if you're going to have direct reports yourself to better understand the people you will be managing - what are their strengths? The opportunities for the team? Plans for growth and hiring? Who will you work with most closely?
3. Can you run through some of the immediate tasks of this role?
Assuming you haven't covered this off in detail in the bulk of your interview, questions about the day-to-day running of the organisation and/or department will give you an insight into the pace and responsibilities of the role. You might want to ask about the immediate priorities, any skills gaps in the team, the anticipated biggest challenges and the budgets you'd be working within. Establishing whether this is a new role or a replacement is also important to explore - if it's new, why has it been created? If you'd be replacing someone, why are they moving on?
4. How will I be trained?
This isn't just a job, it's the next step on your career path and you'll want to understand how it fits with your long-term goals - what training programmes are available? What are the opportunities for advancement and progression? How supportive is the company of attending external courses or working towards professional qualifications? If you're ambitious and driven, this will be an important subject to cover at interview.
5. How can I impress you in the first 12 months?
Depending on the role, it might be more appropriate to revise the timescale down to three or six months, but what you want to establish is how your success will be defined and measured. What metrics do they use, and what is the performance review process like there? You could even drill down further and ask specifically what tasks the successful candidate will be expected to deliver in the first month - then make a call on whether their expectations are realistic, and whether your potential line manager has a working understanding of the role.
6. Where do you see the organisation in the next five years?
Most of us want to work somewhere with a clear vision (and a line manager who can explain it with enthusiasm) - asking a question about the company's goals and plans will help you understand how your role fits in with the bigger picture. You might want to find out more about new products or services, their biggest challenges, the leadership team, etc. These questions show you're interested in the wider organisation and are thinking more broadly than your own role - and it also gives you the chance to assess whether you buy into their values and direction. A great variation of this question is 'What gets you most excited about where the company is going?'
7. Can you describe the culture of the organisation?
Is it relaxed or formal? Collaborative or independent? Good work/life balance or full of workaholics? There are no right or wrong answers, only ones that either work for you or don't. You could dig a little deeper by asking what people typically to do for lunch, whether there are company or team events, or office traditions? Do people work their hours or stay late, and is there flexibility? Your goal is to uncover the subtle, but oh-so-important aspects of company culture.
If the information isn't offered voluntarily at the end of the interview, make sure to ask when you can expect to hear from them (of course, if you're working with a recruitment agency, they'll follow up on your behalf).
If you're still looking for a job, then pop this page in your bookmarks (ready for your next interview!) and get in touch if we're not already working with you on your job search. You can reach us on 01932 355000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's get you to that next interview together!