I recently looked up the definition of “job interview” online and here’s what I found:
Dictionary.com said “an interview to determine whether an applicant is suitable for a position of employment”;
Wikipedia defined it as “a process in which a potential employee is evaluated by an employer for prospective employment in their company, organization, or firm. During this process, the employer hopes to determine whether or not the applicant is suitable for the job.”
Various other sources reaffirmed the notion that interviews are to assess candidates, suggesting the control of the process lay solely with the hiring company. This isn’t really the case though, as it’s as much an opportunity for candidates to assess the suitability of the position on offer. When job-seekers enter each interview with the mentality that their only responsibility is to prove their worth to the employer, they set themselves up for failure.
If you’re interviewing this summer for internships or graduate positions, ensure you are forthright in your questions so the interview flows more like a natural conversation rather than an examination. If you get to the end of an interview and you’re asked “So do you have any questions for me?”, then you’ve left your run too late to ascertain the intricacies of the position. Most people would use this as an opportunity to find out more about the qualities the successful candidate should possess, and other necessary details of the position. However if you were to discover the answers to such questions earlier in the interview, you can tailor your responses to suit the requirements. Why wait until the end?
An interview should be a two-way street and thrive on engagement. In fact any meeting of people in any context succeeds only when all parties are actively communicating. Have you ever been on a date where the other person is just nodding and listening to what you say with nothing interesting to contribute to the conversation? Perhaps you might have taught a creative writing course to primary school students that never contributed to the discussion. An interview is a similar situation and asking questions throughout not only shows a keen interest in the role but demonstrates your interpersonal skills.
Here are a list of some questions you might want to consider asking in your interview. Try and segue into them also; avoid randomly dropping them in when it’s inappropriate:
- What are some of the challenges associated with this position?
- How would you describe the ideal candidate for this position? What qualities should they possess?
- How do you assess if I’m doing a good job? Are there any specific appraisal metrics?
- What is the likely career progression for this position within your company?
- How would you describe the organisational culture?
I think it’s of benefit to ask suitable questions that arouse a personal response from the hiring manager also. It shows you’re interested in not only the job on offer but the people behind the company and their bigger picture. Here’s an example:
- What do you enjoy most about working for this company? (In my previous company everyone on the interview panel was taken aback when asked this by one of the candidates. I recall us going around the room and answering it one by one, and it seemed obvious that we were all in tune with each other. We later offered the said candidate a position and he was swayed not by the job itself, but rather the people he was going to work with.)
- If you could change anything about the company, what would it be? (Some might think this is controversial [perhaps more so in Asia], but I think it’s relevant and shows you have the cojones to ask what most others are afraid to. After all there are aspects of any job you aren’t going to like – The Pope would probably hate responding to criticism against the Catholic Church in the media, Michael Phelps probably wishes he was in bed sleeping rather than doing laps on many an occasion, and I as a start-up founder hate doing administrative duties. These things just have to be done though!
If the interview has progressed successfully based on a healthy dialogue, then it should culminate to the interviewer asking you “So do you have any OTHER questions for me?”. This is a timely opportunity to pose some wrap-up questions if they haven’t been answered previously:
- Based on the screening process so far, do I possess the competencies required to excel in this role?
- Are there any qualities you feel I need to improve on in order to be successful in this role?
- Is there anything further you would like to know about me to assess my suitability for this role?
- What is the process going forward? When will candidates be notified of the outcome?
There are so many other intelligent questions that candidates can pose in interviews, that creating a definitive list would be impossible. The crux of the questioning should be to respond in a manner that illustrates you’re the best person for the job.
If you found these tips useful then feel free to share them with friends and others in your network that are seeking work.