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To ask or not to ask. 5+1 questions for your interviewer

An interview is not really a stroll through the park, no matter how many you’ve been through or what your current work situation is. An interview is a meeting which usually decides your future employment, or at the very least helps you create further opportunities.

No wonder that candidates are often nervous and focus on how to best point out their abilities, on examples of their previous accomplishments or on keywords that leave a mark in the interviewer’s mind. But then, at the end of the meeting, comes a question that few really prepare for: “So, is there anything (else) you would like to ask me?”

By this time, details about important qualities of the ideal candidate, working hours, payment or direct supervisors, have already been addressed. And now would be the moment to ask those important questions, the ones that are going to leave a bigger mark than the keywords you had on a checklist.

But what are those questions? Good thing you asked…

  • Is this a new position or a vacancy?
    The objective of this question is to actually find out if the position is vacant and the reason why it is. Was it a case of “the previous employee moved to another country” or more of a “clash of personalities with the new supervisor” one?
  • Can you tell me a little bit about the team I will be working with?
    This question is meant to give you a peek into the atmosphere in the office. Look to find out if the environment is a friendly or competitive one, if team members typically go out for lunch or don’t have time for breaks and eat at their desks or if the rhythm is a fast paced one. This way you can find out if you have chances to fit into your future team.
  • What have you enjoyed most about working here?
    Find out firsthand how satisfied people are with their jobs there, especially if the interviewer didn’t know too many details for the previous question. Not to mention this will help you connect on a more personal level with your interviewer, making the time spent with you feel more like a pleasurable talk.
  • What are the company’s plans for the future?
    This will help you find out if the company is doing well or your job is not really as safe as you might think (not to mention if you are actually their last hope of coming out of a series of not so happy business events). Or if they are preparing to expand or launch new products, which means a very stressful period is coming up, which you should know to expect. Take care, however, not to ask things that you could have found out from their website.
  • What is an important problem the team (the company) is facing and how would I be helping to solve it from this position?
    Aside from the obvious glimpse into the challenges you would be facing, this question shows the interviewer that you are ready to dive right into helping your future team and bringing value to the company. Also, it brings the discussion to a point of “What would I be doing WHEN I get the job?” instead of “IF I get the job”.

    Bonus question

  • Do you have any hesitations about me meeting the requirements, after this conversation?
    Surely it takes some courage to ask this question (which is a good thing to show you possess), when you think about the fact that the answer might be “Yes”. And it’s understandable: imagine yourself having gone through questions about your experience and accomplishments, having shown how you would be an asset for the company and discussed your future responsibilities, just to find out that the interviewer actually has doubts.
    Well, wait. After having gone through all of that, wouldn’t you want to know the hesitations, in order to have a chance at addressing them and make sure nothing remains unanswered?

Certainly, you might be wondering if asking these questions is appropriate, since you are the one applying for a job. But the fact of the matter is you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you.
Asking your own smart questions will show your interviewer that you are indeed interested in working for the company, but, most of all, will help you draw a more accurate image of the place, helping you to decide if that is the company you want to work for.

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