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Question your questions
“How much do you guys pay?” was the first question posed by one of the interviews we talked to during one of the recent hirings here at poss.ca. “Can I work from home? Because I live really close to here,” was another gem (paraphrased) we heard during the interviews. Neither of those two gentleman work here, in case you’re wondering. What should’ve they asked? In our Ask Good Questions blog, we gave suggestions on asking the right questions, such as: “Good questions are open-ended, and thus cannot be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ You want the person responding to be able to elaborate.” An enthusiastic interview, backed up with great examples and great social manners will go far. But good questions during interviews are almost as important as all that other stuff. In this article we’ll expand a little bit on that and will also talk about what questions to absolutely avoid and why.
What to ask
First of all, you just have to have questions prepared before you go for the interview. These questions should be relevant to the position you’re applying to and even to the place where you’re hoping to be working. This shows that you know the company and have done your research and are enthusiastic about working there. The article The Best Questions to Ask in the Interview on careerbuilder.ca lists some of the questions that would demonstrate your interest:
- What do you see ahead for your company in the next five years?
- How do you see the future for this industry?
- What do you consider to be your firm's most important assets?
- What can you tell me about your new product or plans for growth?
- How do you rate your competition?
You can also ask questions about company culture (more about that later), about the team you will be working on, what the goals are for your team or the company, etc. Ask questions that you really want to know the answer to — asking just for the sake of asking is pointless. (Note that not all of these questions will apply — for example, it would be silly to ask an organization about a product if no actual products are created. Anyway, use your common sense.)
Outside of questions that show your interest in the company, you must ask questions related to your own future — this shows that you’re truly invested in working there and are motivated to be as useful as possible. Your questions about specific position and roles, are music to an employer’s ears. According to the Forbes article Any Questions? What To Ask in an Interview, there are many kinds of questions that demonstrate your interest:
- Ask for clarification if you’re not entirely sure about the position, for example, ask what are the “most immediate projects that need to be addressed?”
- Use questions to your advantage — if you haven’t been able to talk about a particular strength or experience you have, you can use a question to direct the conversation that way. For example, asking, “Is there anything that concerns you about my background being a fit for this role?” may give you the opportunity to clear up any doubts and reiterate the skills and experience you do have. (A great question of this nature is: ”Are there any shortcoming in my application that may prevent you from offering me the job? Would you like me to clarify anything else?”)
- Forbes suggests questions that build a relationship, in which you ask the interviewer about himself or herself. This is based on belief that people love talking about themselves. However, this is a tricky area and you might come off as nosy instead of interested. A gentle question of this category would be, “What’s your favourite part about working here?” (This may also give you the opportunity to talk about your own preferences — assuming that they are similar to your employers’.)
- Ask about the future — outside of asking about the company’s future you can also inquire about what the future would hold in store for you if you landed the position. This is where you ask about training programs, opportunities for advancement and professional development.
- Finally, it’s okay to ask about what comes next — most employers are happy to tell you when they hope to finish the interviewing part, when they may call you back and anything else that will give you some sort of an idea about your chances of getting the job.
What not to ask
Yes, that salary question is never cool. You can actually do some research if you’re dying to find out about the salary that you should be expecting (based on the industry you’re working in) and some positions will actually specify what they pay.
Forbes’ article lists asking too many questions as a major no-no. “If [the employer] seems engaged in the conversation and encourages you to keep asking, great. But if you see [the employer] looking at [the] watch, time to wrap it up! It’s best to pick a handful of questions that are most important to you and leave on a positive note.” Other not-so-brilliant questions you should avoid:
- “What do you guys do?” It goes without saying that you should know the answer to this.
- “Did I get the job?” If you actually ask that, the question will most likely be “No.”
- “Can I work from home?” — Unless it’s listed in your job description the answer is probably no.
- “Do you have a happy hour?” This is sort of a work culture question, sure, but you shouldn’t ask it during the interview — it may indicate that you’ve got your priorities mixed up a bit.
- “How did you end up here?” This is actually none of your business and it may come off as aggressive and confrontational. Other questions include asking about personal matters. f you need to make small talk (which is not a bad idea as an ice-breaker), talk about the weather.
- “Can I see the lunch room?” Apparently a version of this question was asked by one of the candidates for my position.
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