I recently looked up the definition of “job interview” online and this is what I found:
Dictionary.com said “an interview to determine if an applicant is suitable for a job”;
Wikipedia defined it as “a process in which an employer evaluates a potential employee for possible employment with his company, organization, or company. During this process, the employer hopes to determine whether the applicant is a good fit for the job.”
Several other sources reaffirmed the notion that interviews are for evaluating candidates, suggesting that control of the process rests solely with the hiring company. However, this is not really the case as it is an opportunity for candidates to assess the suitability of the position on offer. When job applicants enter every interview with the mindset that their only responsibility is to prove themselves to the employer, they set themselves up for failure.
If you’re interviewing this summer for internships or graduate positions, be sure to be candid in your questions so the interview flows more like a natural conversation than an exam. If you come to the end of an interview and are asked “Do you have any questions for me?” then you have left your career too late to figure out the intricacies of the position. Most people would use this as an opportunity to learn more about the qualities a successful candidate should possess and other necessary details of the position. However, if you discover the answers to such questions earlier in the interview, you can tailor your answers to meet the requirements. Why wait until the end?
An interview should be a two-way street and thrive on compromise. In fact, any meeting of people in any context is only successful when all parties are actively communicating. Have you ever been on a date where the other person just nods and listens to what you say with nothing interesting to add to the conversation? Perhaps you’ve taught a creative writing course to elementary school students who never contributed to the discussion. An interview is a similar situation, and asking questions at all times not only shows a keen interest in the position, but also demonstrates your interpersonal skills.
Here is a list of some questions you may want to consider asking at your interview. Try to get past them as well; avoid placing them randomly when inappropriate:
- What are some of the challenges associated with this position?
- How would you describe the ideal candidate for this position? What qualities must they possess?
- How do you assess if I’m doing a good job? Are there any specific evaluation metrics?
- What is the likely career progression for this position within your company?
- How would you describe the organizational culture?
I think it’s beneficial to ask the right questions that also elicit a personal response from the hiring manager. It shows that he is interested not only in the job on offer, but also in the people behind the company and its bigger picture. Here is an example:
- What do you enjoy most about working for this company? (At my previous company, everyone on the interview panel was shocked when one of the candidates asked them this. I remember going around the room and answering one by one, and it seemed obvious that we were all on the same page. Later we offered a position to said candidate and was not convinced by the job itself, but by the people with whom he was going to work).
- If you could change one thing 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 that you have the balls to ask what most other people are afraid of. After all, there are aspects of any job that you’re not going to like: the Pope would probably hate responding to criticism of the Catholic Church in the media, Michael Phelps would probably wish he was in bed sleeping instead of slipping up too many times, and I, as a founder of a new company, hate doing administrative tasks. However, these things just have to be done!
If the interview has progressed successfully on the basis of healthy dialogue, then it should end with the interviewer asking “So do you have OTHER questions for me?” This is a timely opportunity to pose a few closing questions if they haven’t been answered previously:
- Based on the selection process so far, do I have the necessary competencies to excel in this position?
- Are there any qualities that you feel I need to improve to be successful in this position?
- Is there anything else you would like to know about me to assess my suitability for this position?
- What is the process that follows? When will candidates be notified of the result?
There are so many other smart questions candidates can ask in interviews that creating a definitive list would be impossible. The point of the questions should be to answer them in a way that illustrates that you are the best person for the job.
If you found these tips, feel free to share them with friends and others in your network who are looking for jobs.