As a candidate, asking questions at the end of the interview is so important – even if it means touching on some of the more awkward to broach subjects. If something matters to you at this early stage, you can guarantee it will impact your job satisfaction in the long run, so we’ve outlined some tips and tools to make sure you can approach this final part of the interview with confidence.
There are three core things that every interview is designed to establish. Firstly, can you do the job? Secondly, will you do it? And thirdly, will you fit in? As for who needs to know, the answer is simple; both the interviewer and the interviewee. Ultimately, both you and your prospective employer need to leave no stone unturned in establishing whether you’ll take to each other like a duck to water, or whether you will feel more like a fish out of water. That’s why asking your questions at the end of the interview is so important.
Of course, nailing a job interview is about getting across your very best self, brimming with confidence and full of bright ideas. The aim is to come across as you on a great day, hardworking, committed and focused, with all the knowledge, skills and expertise necessary to do the job. You want the hiring manager to realise that you are the perfect fit for this role and that you are the right choice over everyone else in the running. Securing a job offer in this way is the ideal outcome, but it has to be the right job – one that dovetails with your lifestyle, fulfills your purpose, aligns with your core values, and moves you in the right direction based on your career, personal and financial goals. So, portraying your best self at interview is crucial … but so is establishing whether the job you are working so hard to secure is, in fact, the right one for you. So, when the interviewer finishes up with the inevitable ‘Do you have any questions for me?’- don’t miss out on the opportunity to turn the spotlight around, asking questions that will really help you make an informed decision when the time comes.
The interview process is your chance to find out more about the company you may be working for, an opportunity that you may not get again until much further down the line, when you’ve started in the role – so it’s important to use this opportunity wisely. Asking questions, and ironing any niggles out at the very beginning of the recruitment process will really benefit you in the long run and could provide important information which will influence your decisions in the face of an offer. So if you need to know about flexible working so that you can see whether this job will work for you personally, then you need to ask! If you need to ask about time off for voluntary work or travelling, then ask! If you need to know when the next salary review will take place so you can plan financially, then ask! Employers are there to offer information as well as glean it, and most hiring managers will anticipate questions from candidates at some point during the interview.
Asking Questions – Our 10 Top Tips
The problem is that many candidates feel awkward or embarrassed about asking questions around certain subjects because they are worried about how they will come across. Job interviews can be tricky at the best of times and finding a way to ask about things like pay, time off and flexible working can seem daunting. After all, asking about a sabbatical before you’ve even started may not portray you in the best light. But this doesn’t mean they’re not important questions, just that you need to be mindful to approach them in the right way.
To help you along the way, we’ve come up with some tips on how to ask those tricky questions, leaving you to feel calm and composed and still come out with all the necessary information to decide whether this job really is the perfect fit for you.
- Prepare: make a list of key information you need to know by the end of the interview. This will help you to focus and remember everything you need to know, even if you become nervous at the meeting. If you want to ask about salary, you may want to research some benchmarks for the type of role you’re going for – even looking at job adverts for similar roles will help with this. There’s a strong chance that the question may be pointed back at you, in terms of your expectations, and – fair’s fair – if you’re opening up the discussion then you need to be prepared with your own take on it. Equally, if you’re asking about home working or flexible hours, have a look on the company website to see if they list this as one of their values as an organisation, and verse yourself in how you might respond if they ask what kind of flexibility you might be hoping for and how you would make it work.
- Set some boundaries: decide what you are and aren’t willing to compromise on, identify your deal-breakers and what you might be prepared to negotiate on down the line. Understand that these may be different to those of your friends and colleagues – go back to your Psychological Selfie to reassure yourself that you are covering all bases in terms of your core personal values. Don’t risk asking for the moon on a stick, but instead focus on the questions that will really matter in order to make an informed decision – the right decision – in the face of a job offer.
- Pick your moment: it’s best not to launch straight in with a question about leaving early or transferring to work at the company’s office in the Bahamas. Wait until the opportunity to ask questions arises (often at the end of the interview). By this stage you will have built some rapport with the person interviewing you and will be able to ask the question more openly and comfortably. You’ll also be able to gauge whether this is the right person to ask those questions, or whether it would be more appropriate at a later stage of the process.
- Provide context: if you’re asking about flexibility or working from home, provide an explanation as to why this is important to you, and preferably back it up with an example of how this has worked successfully for you and your employer in the past, and how it could benefit the company and others in it. If the response is negative, ask if they would be willing to hold a trial period. If you can demonstrate a positive value for the company, they are much more likely to consider offering what you want.
- Be clear: don’t beat around the bush or shy away from finding out what you need to know. Remember you want to appear confident and professional so don’t be embarrassed about asking for information. You could practice asking the question aloud before you go to the interview to see how confidently you come across or ask a friend to role-play the scenario with you.
- Maintain focus on your goal. It’s far better to enquire about job parameters and working patterns at the interview stage than to get down the line to a job offer before you realise the role won’t work for you or won’t be fulfilling for you on a personal level.
- Keep a record of any key points from the interview. It’s often difficult to write things down during the meeting because you want to appear fully engaged with the process. However, taking five minutes afterwards to make some notes about what was discussed, and crucially, any promises made at that stage, will serve you well in the future. You could also use it as a chance to note down what went well (and what didn’t) or any questions that you might want to prepare for in the future. If you don’t do this immediately after the interview, it’s likely that your recollection of the meeting will become a bit vague.
- Speak to other people in the company and in the industry: concepts such as workplace culture can be tricky to define and may be better understood by speaking to a variety of people. It’s common for interview processes to have several stages, so if you ask people at each stage of the process a few key questions, you will get a more balanced view. You can also research companies online (although be wary that reviews are often written by ex-employees who may or may not have a biased agenda).
- Remember the human element: the person interviewing may be extremely polished and professional but underneath the guise of interviewer, they too are real people, and someone once interviewed them for this role. They too have other interests and commitments outside of the world of work and may be more understanding than you think about pay scales or flexible working. At the very least, people who interview others regularly are pretty unshockable and it’s unlikely that you will ask anything that hasn’t been asked before. Depending on the interview style and rapport built, you may even want to consider asking your interviewer(s) if there is anything which, in hindsight, they wish they had asked about or known more about before they joined the company.
- Reserve judgement. If you’re really looking for the right role for you, don’t be afraid to say no or stick to your guns if it doesn’t feel right. There will be other jobs, other opportunities that may be more suited to you. Don’t be swayed by others. If you’re aware of your own strengths and values then you know what will work for you and what won’t. The biggest mistake you can make is to talk yourself into accepting a role that doesn’t align with your values, purpose and goals, or that just won’t work for you in practical terms.
Preparing Your Questions – How FindMyWhy Can Help
At FindMyWhy we can help you prepare your mindset around exactly who you are, what’s important to you, and how this might influence the type of job role and working environment that best fits with your sense of self. Developed by our team of expert psychologists, FindMyWhy is a personal purpose project which uses rigorous psychometric assessment to provide a psychological selfie, a series of detailed reports tailored specifically for you which offer practical advice on creating the life you love, both personally and professionally. FindMyWhy will help your unique strengths and abilities to shine through, enabling you to speak credibly and confidently about yourself at interview and putting you head and shoulders above the competition in any selection process. It will also help you to be aware of your shadow side, the areas you may need to develop or manage in order to succeed. Creating this awareness is vital to achieve a well-rounded and realistic self-image – and could also come in handy for some of those trickier interview questions. As well as helping you to articulate your unique individual strengths, FindMyWhy will also highlight what’s important to you in terms of your personal value system, helping you to identify your priorities and find an organisation that fits with your own beliefs and standards. Finding your dream job depends upon knowing what’s important to you and being able to articulate this both in how you answer interview questions and how you are asking questions of your prospective employer. FindMyWhy is the perfect preparation tool to enable you to respond to, frame and pose questions at interview with confidence and candour.