What to Ask at an Interview

Picture the scene. You’re at a job interview, and, thus far, you’re nailing it. You’ve done your research, shown up on time and appropriately dressed, given the answers your prospective employers are looking for, and impressed them with your skillset and insight.

But then the interviewer concludes with a question you may not have prepared for quite as carefully.

“Is there anything you’d like to ask us?”

When this question is sprung on you, not having anything to say can sink your chances surprisingly quickly. Initiative is a highly sought-after quality for most employers, and this is basically screaming that you don’t have any. But you don’t want to be asking just any old question either; remember, this, like the rest of the interview, is an opportunity to sell yourself to the company.

What not to ask at a job interview

Let’s get the biggest pitfall out of the way first: now is not the time to ask about salaries. The interviewers want someone who will have more investment in the company than just the money, and bringing up your potential salary here will not reflect well on you.

Obviously it’s important, and worth talking about, but it might be better to wait until you’ve been offered the position to do so.

On a similar note, asking about holidays and leave at a job interview is also unwise; you don’t want to be displaying more interest in being out of work than in it!
Finally, avoid questions you should know the answers to already. If you could have found something out through your preliminary research, or even through the rest of the application, asking the interviewer now is likely to come across as an indication that you’re not really putting the effort in.

Learning about your role

One very obvious and relevant type of question to ask is what exactly your role will entail. If you’re applying for the job, of course, you probably know a fair bit about your duties already, but job descriptions do tend to paint with broad strokes; perhaps you’d like to learn a bit more about the outline of your typical working day, or what exactly you can expect to be doing with your time.

Likewise, you may be interested in what the most challenging aspects of the job are – do use “challenging” rather than “difficult” here, as this frames the obstacle in a positive light – and what key qualities they’re looking for that might not be immediately obvious.

You might also wish to bring up opportunities for advancement within the company, but do be careful with this. Showing interest in promotions does hint that you’re hoping to be in this job for the long haul, but equally you don’t want to look overambitious.

Engaging with the company

A good, subtle way to endear yourself to an interviewer is to demonstrate that your interest in this job extends beyond your own personal role. You could do this by engaging the interviewer directly, perhaps by asking them about their experience working there or what they enjoy most about their job. Try not to overdo it, though; you don’t want to turn the interview around completely.

And you might want to learn more about the wider context in which you’ll be working – the department, or even the company as a whole.

Where is this company going in the next, say, five years? How does it define success? If you’re feeling bold, you could ask the interviewer to tell you something about the company that most people don’t know. Again, though, be cautious, and don’t ask anything that could be answered with a quick Google search, otherwise you risk looking like you haven’t done your research.

Just like the answers you give to an interviewer, there’s no magic formula for the questions you ask at a job interview that’s guaranteed to land you a position, but, with a bit of forethought, they can be a subtle, invaluable way to show yourself off. And, of course, you might well have genuine questions – knowing more about what you’re getting yourself into never hurts!

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