Despite the fact that turning the tables at the end of the interview has become quite common, a surprising number of people still struggle with the part of the interview where they get to ask the questions. Whether they translate it as a sort of hidden test, where they have to solve the riddle and ask the ‘right’ questions, or choose silence in a bid to not seem difficult, many people miss out by not taking this opportunity at face value. Interviews are two-way streets, and contrary to popular belief, asking questions at the end is not about impressing, but about making sure that the place you’re considering building your career is right for you. Here are five of the best questions to ask at the end of an interview to do just that.
1. What do you like the most about working here?
A simple question to elicit a genuine response. Asking the interviewer what they enjoy most about their work life will help you understand company culture and values, which you can then match up to your own priorities. It should also be easy to detect sincerity about the role (those people that can name more than one reason) versus those that have their own reservations (beware pauses).
2.What are the key results you’re hoping to see from someone in this role?
When you’re being interviewed, it’s natural to want to put your best foot forward. But are you really interested in the role? This question will help you learn what the employer’s expectations are and whether their aims align to yours. Ideally, a role should offer both employer and employee something. If you are confident that you can achieve their results, but also feel excited (or even a little nervous!) to deliver them, that’s a good sign.
3. What challenges could I face in this role? And where do you see opportunities?
In the same ways that interviewees will present themselves in the best possible light, so too will interviewers. But understanding the scars of the role is important to working out where you can add value. You should balance this question by asking about opportunities too, and where possible show examples of where you’ve countered similar challenges or taken on similar opportunities.
4. How would you describe your company culture and values?
Where and how you work matters as much as what you do. We spend approximately a third of our lives at work, and if we don’t gel with the people we work with and company culture, that can take a real toll on day-to-day life. Whether you’re looking for a sociable company, autonomy, work-life balance or a fast pace, it’s important to make sure that you’ll be working in an environment where you can thrive.
5. Is there anything else you would like to learn about me, or anything I’ve said that you would like me to expand on?
This question will give you the opportunity to directly tackle any doubts the interviewer has about you, but it will also give you valuable insight about what kind of challenges there may be. For example, if the interviewer says they would like to hear more leadership examples, you know this is a role where team management and motivation is going to be important.
You can also build on these questions to open up other points of interest in the role for you. For example, ‘What are you hoping the person that fills this role will have achieved in their first three months?’ will give you an idea of immediate priorities, while ‘Who will I be working closest with day-to-day?’ will help you understand where your role fits in the business structure. Your questions should be tailored to your key priorities, while giving the interviewer the chance to sell the opportunity to you.
Another great way to find interesting interview questions is to research the business and find genuine points of curiosity. For example, have they recently expanded into a new market? Have they made a new acquisition or merged? Have they won any recent awards or been (positively) featured in the press? You could ask questions such as ‘How has being merged with x company changed the strategy of the business and how will my role support that?’ or ‘I saw you’ve recently won an award on your company culture, what do you think makes your culture special?’
While the end of the interview should be about assessing whether the role is right for you, don’t feel afraid to ask more specific questions (just avoid closed ‘yes/no’ questions!). Not only will this show that you’ve done your homework and are genuinely invested in the opportunity, but it could help you to understand important drivers and influences in the business. After all, important changes in strategic direction may well affect how you do your job.
Whatever interview questions you ask, make sure you make them work for you and your goals. Don’t worry about fashioning unique interview questions meant to impress. Instead, reframe the end of the interview as an opportunity to learn more about the role and acquire the vital knowledge you need to make a decision, should it come to it. The worst thing to do is to leave an interview with something left unsaid.
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