It’s important to remember that an interview is not a one-way street, nor is it an interrogation of a candidate by a potential employer. The point of an interview should be a mutual exploration of the business, the role, and the candidate’s qualities and both parties’ expectations to find the best fit for all concerned.
Though the discussion should be balanced throughout the process, at the end of most interviews the potential employer will usually ask the candidate if they have any questions. This is not only a moment to genuinely request answers to your burning questions (and if you are serious about your career progression and job satisfaction you should have them!), but often the litmus test for interviewers to assess the candidate’s interest and enthusiasm.
Asking insightful and considered questions in an interview demonstrates to your potential new employer that you are taking the process seriously, that you are as interested in whether the employer is right for you as they are about whether you are right for them. It’s easy to feign interest in a company, but exhibiting that you have done your due diligence will level the playing field and bolster your position.
Easy, you think. Well, perhaps asking pertinent questions isn’t as simple as we thought. When we collate valuable interview feedback from our clients about candidates, we learn that this is probably the area that most often lets candidates down, even when they are suitable and interview well otherwise. Very often, people are very eager to talk through their own experience and sell themselves, but they forget that they need to be prepared to ask meaningful and shrewd questions. The result is that they come across as insincere.
Here is my list of the top five interview question blunders to avoid an awkward ‘face-palm’ moment:
1. Half-hearted questioning will make you appear as limp as your critical thinking skills
Only ask questions that you are genuinely interested in, rather than just for the sake of it. If you are enquiring about general information that can be found on the company website or in the job description you will look ill-prepared. It will be obvious if you are just paying lip service to this part of the interview process, so be specific, make sure you actively listen to the answer, and ask the interviewer to expand on certain points if needs be.
2. Give the interviewer a chance to open up
Asking closed questions which require a simple one-word answer won’t allow the interviewer to go into much detail, or the opportunity to open a dialogue about the issues you are interested in. Instead opt for focused, open-ended questions that give the interviewer an opportunity to expand with a more detailed response. But don’t ask questions that are so open it leaves the interviewer stumped – the object is to build rapport, not to catch them out.
3. This isn’t a social occasion
There will be plenty of time to get to know your potential boss on a personal level over too many glasses of wine at the future Christmas party, should you be successful. Of course it’s essential to build rapport during an interview, and leave everyone feeling positive about the conversation, but it’s crucial to avoid being overly familiar and it would be a huge faux pas to ask personal questions. Keep the tone amiable but professional.
4. Don’t attempt to negotiate
Tempting as it is, it’s best to avoid asking questions surrounding the practical and remunerative elements such as salary, holidays and flexible working early on in an interview process. Ideally, these are conversations that you should have directly with your recruitment consultant, who can negotiate on your behalf and help you achieve the best deal possible. Answer any questions directly and honestly, but leave the nitty gritty to the experts.
5. Curb your enthusiasm
Ask just one question at a time rather than lengthy and cumbersome questions with multiple parts. Throughout an interview the conversation should flow and it should never feel like an interrogation from either side. Your objective is to open a dialogue on a subject, not to overwhelm your future employer or put them on the spot.
The moral of all interview technique stories is ‘always be prepared’
Strong preparation, research and a genuine desire for insight into your potential future role and employer will help you to develop an astute questioning technique that will leave your interviewer with a strong and lasting impression.
My top tips on how to ace your next interview