April 23, 2010

What questions should I ask in an interview?

There's a commonly myth that during an interview, the questions should only flow one way - from the hiring manager to you, the applicant.

It's true that for the majority of the interview, the questions will flow that way. But usually, near the end of the interview, the hiring manager will give you a chance to ask them questions.

And that's a great opportunity to find out more about the job (e.g. duties, reporting structure, career prospects, etc.) and the workplace culture (e.g. flex time, management styles, etc.).

So what questions should you ask during an interview?

Well, it really depends on the position.

For those entering the workforce for the first time, you're most likely concerned about the workplace culture and the benefits.

I often hear of applicants asking like, "What is the break schedule?" or "What is the starting wage?" or "What's the discount?".

For those starting out at their first job, these are legitimate questions. I know some career experts might disagree with me, but when you're 15 or 16, your concerns aren't the same as someone who is in their 20s or 30s.

Keep in mind that you can also ask questions about the recruitment process (e.g. "What are your recruitment time lines looking like?") or the long-term prospects of this job, especially if you're hired in a retail setting for a seasonal contract.

On the other hand, for those that already have work experience and might be pursing more of a permanent job, there's a range of questions you should ask in an interview.

For one thing, when doing research on the company, if you come across something that you do not understand, that always makes for a great question - especially if the topic deals with recent news about the company.

But if you're worried about appearing "dumb" because you don't understand something, mask the question and phrase it in a way that makes it appear as though you're asking about the future of this project.

So instead of asking "What does this new company policy X mean?"

Rephrase the question and ask "What goals does the company hope that policy X will meet?"

You can also ask questions about how this role fits within the broader organizational structure, the office culture, the technologies used, management styles, and career development and training opportunities.

I recommend writing down your questions and having them accessible in a notebook so that when the time comes, you already have the questions you want to ask during the interview

And remember you can also use your follow up email or phone call to ask additional questions that come to mind after your interview.

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