Good questions to ask at an interview
Published: 23 Mar 2012
Candidate questions: Six of the best
What are the reasons that you work for this company?
It normally raises a smile or a laugh from those conducting the interview. Not only will it show that you are enthusiastic about working for the company, but it will give you a good picture of office life as they (the interviewers) are the best people to explain what is best about working there. You’ll also get a useful insight into the motivations and personality of your interviewer. Thirdly, the question moves the interview onto a more personal, even-handed discussion.
Andy Dallas Robert Half; Sundeep Bakshi, director of Venn Group
What does success look like to you commercially and culturally?
The question should yield an overview of what the company’s goals and aspirations are. You can then try and relate these to your personal ambitions and aspirations. Does it offer opportunities for the future, or will you be stuck in a role that goes nowhere? Are all employees encouraged to be part of success role and will you be rewarded for contribution?
Kathleen Saxton, founder, The Lighthouse Company
Where do you feel the business is facing its biggest challenges?
A candidate going for a senior post could even ask ‘Where do you think the business is likeliest to fail?’ although this could sound cocky coming from a junior candidate. It’s a fair question for any candidate, because you have the right to make a judgement on whether the company is going to be around for the long haul. However, you need to put the question with elegance and make sure you listen really well to the answer and respond where appropriate.
Kathleen Saxton, founder, The Lighthouse Company
How will my performance be measured?
Any organisation worth its salt will have systems and metrics in place to encourage progress and to reward success: credit should not be dished out on a wing and a prayer. You need to get a good measure of how you will need to perform in order to succeed in this particular organisation. If there is no formal and regular scheme for plotting personal development, think twice.
Darren Hayman, director, Macmillan Davies Hodes
What do you like to see in a person who works for you?
Gives advance notice of whether you have what it takes to work well with this person and whether you would enjoy it. You should have worked out quite quickly whether there’s the right chemistry, but this will provide a more objective confirmation. Definitely worth asking of your line manager at a second interview!
Sundeep Bakshi, director of Venn Group
Do you have any reservations about my ability to perform this job to a high standard?
A classic sales technique, this is a brave question but also a golden opportunity to overcome objections. So many candidates leave the interview room without knowing what their interviewer thinks about them. So, ask the question and then, depending on any concern raised, offer: “I would like to put that concern to rest by assuring you of my commitment/ previous experience gained in this field/positive feedback I have received in this area.
Ian Mills, chief executive of Transform People International
Employer answers: Six of the best
What personal qualities and behaviour would you hope to see in your ideal employee?
“We would hope that employees would want to develop a full understanding of the organisation both commercially and culturally, so that they can make as full a contribution as possible to both aspects. A willingness to learn and to work intelligently with others while recognising and responding to their requirements and differences would also be very desirable.”
What potential do you see in me; what might the company do to help me realise it?
“Academic achievement and limited working experience can only tell us so much and cannot be a reliable indicator of future performance. What has attracted us is the attitude and personal traits shown in your application and during the recruitment process. We would want to ensure you develop a close working relationship with your line manager that enables us to identify not just your potential but the factors that most motivate you so that we can work with you to develop a Personal Development Plan.”
What are the most important things I could do in my first three months here?
“Take every opportunity to ask questions and demonstrate that you have not just heard but listened to the answers. As far as possible, show that you have taken the answers on board in asking more questions: for us to help you make the most of your future here, we need you to participate fully in identifying what shape that might take.”
What are the organisation’s values, and how does it go about living them?
“Our values are respect, integrity, intelligence, energy and commerce. We spell out what they mean internally and externally, with each other and with clients. They’re not just in our handbook, but in every performance plan and discussion that every member of staff has, and we see performance management as a daily process, not a yearly event. Our values aren’t a plaque in reception, they are how we are.”
Could you describe your company's management style and the type of employee who fits well with it?
“We are committed to the principles of personal growth and fulfillment, and we achieve them by being open and honest with each other in a friendly, supportive and caring way. We encourage individuals to take full responsibility for themselves and the organisation of which they are a part. Employees fit in well here where their values are closely aligned with ours, and where they are as committed to them as we are. We also accept that part of the responsibility for helping them to achieve that lies with us, and with the behaviours and interactions of our managers.”
How much guidance or assistance do employees get in developing their career or their career and personal development goals?
“Every employee has a personal development plan, and opportunities to review and refine this with their line manager on an ongoing basis. Our HR and Learning & Development Department publishes details of all development opportunities on the intranet, and sends email updates to all employees on a bi-weekly basis; employees can arrange one-off, confidential discussions with representatives from our Talent Management team at any time to discuss options open to them.
Thanks to Anton Franckeiss’, managing director, ASK Europe and the ASK Guide to preparing for job interviews