Imagine you’re in a job interview and everything is looking great – the job looks interesting, the salary and perks are about right, people seem nice.
What you really need to know now is, “Is this a nice place to work?” Are people happy at work here? Are the managers good? Are the co-workers nice? Or is this company a branch office of one of the nastier levels of hell?
You could always ask them straight out at the interview. “Say… I was wondering… Is this a good place to work?”
But you pretty much know what they’ll say, don’t you? “Why certainly, dear applicant, this company is fully committed to the well-being of its employees. We strive to maintain a high level of employee satisfaction and employees are our number one asset.”
Before you start ‘interrogating’ the interviewer, it’s important to assess who you’re dealing with. You should be able to gauge this within a few minutes of talking to them.
A professional would have taken the time at the beginning of the interview to make you feel comfortable, opening the interview with some small talk. These are the best people to deal with, as they’re likely to listen attentively to what you say. But they will be intolerant if you take liberties.
The psychologist-styled interviewer may try to look for hidden clues in everything you say, but it may be difficult to spot this type. So it’s best to stick to the truth and be brief at all times.
The formalist interviewer usually sticks to a script. This can be frustrating, but don’t let it intimidate you. Just be patient and affirmative, because your chance to have your say will probably come at the end of the interview, or when answering their questions.
The interrogator tries to intimidate you. The key to dealing with these people is not to get flustered. Take your time answering the questions and hold your nerve.
The smooth talker is one to watch. If they’re waxing lyrical about the job and its prospects, without too much concern for your ability, then the alarm bells should be going off. This is the type of ‘high staff turnover’ job to avoid.
The pretentious interviewer is another to watch for, as they can intimidate you with their ‘know it all’ attitude. But if you remain humble and respectful you’re still likely to make a good impression.
Here are some questions to get you going
- What’s been your best experience working at this company?
- When do you have the most fun at work ?
- Who do you enjoy working with the most here? What do you like about them?
- Which manager do you admire the most in this company? What do you admire about that person?
- What’s the greatest thing your manager has done for his/her people?
- How big is the team I’d be working with?
- Who would my co-workers be, and what are their functions?
- How many people would I be managing?
- What are the goals of this department?
- What are the company’s objectives for the year?
- What would my primary tasks on this project be?
- What does the client expect at the end of the project?
- What would I go to work on first, and what would my function be?
- What is the deadline for this project? How will success be measured?
- What makes this company different from its competitors?
- What do you like about this company? What keeps you here?
- If I meet or exceed the company’s expectations, will there be additional opportunities to expand my responsibilities?
- What sort of communication style works best with this team?
- What are the main challenges associated with the team?
- What are the biggest hurdles you hope to overcome in the next quarter?
- What can you tell me about the culture and the environment?
- How would you characterise successful employees in this department? What are their common qualities?
- What is the department head’s leadership style? How often would we interact?
- Which internal customers would I be interacting with most frequently? What are their typical expectations?
- Please describe the duties of the job for me.
- Is this a new position or am I replacing someone?
- Does your company encourage further education?
- How often are performance reviews given?
- Do you have plans for expansion?
- How do you feel about creativity and individuality?
Your questions may fall into the following categories:
- What sort of responsibilities the job entails
• Challenging or routine/mundane aspects of the tasks at hand
• What support and guidance is available, such as managerial assistance, flexibility, size of budget, mentoring etc.
• How often your performance is reviewed and details on any bonus schemes
• Training and development opportunities
• Scope for promotion and career path enhancement
• Extra expectations of the employer such as travel etc
Timing is everything. During the interview you need to look for opportunities to be proactive and ask your own questions or try to lead the discussion where appropriate. Be careful not to dominate the discussion or take up too much time. Generally interviewers will give you an opportunity to ask questions, but even if they don’t actually ask you directly if you have any questions it pays to have a few prepared.
Questions should reflect your keenness to work for the company and generally you should try to limit yourself to asking just a couple of the most significant questions you have. You don’t want to make the interviewer feel brow-beaten with a long list.
Significant questions to ask about the job:
- Why has the job become vacant?
• What are the key tasks and responsibilities of the job?
• How was the job handled in the past?
• What is the largest challenge facing staff at present?
• How do you review performance?
• What support and guidance is available?
• What training will be available?
Find out about the company’s long-term strategy. Are there plans for expansion? What new product plans are in the pipeline? These kinds of questions will be essential in helping you to decide whether this company is one you would like to work for. It will also demonstrate your keenness for the company and not just the job.
Pertinent aspects of the company to ask about:
- Structure of the organisation
• Staffing: is it growing, contracting, outsourcing etc?
• Decision making process and line of authority
• Success of the organisation, its profitability and product portfolio
• Future strategies and development
Making an impression
Keep your concentration levels up during the interview and make sure you listen to the responses the interviewer gives you. The worst mistakes happen when people end up asking questions about topics that have already been covered in the interview or don’t hear or understand what the interviewer has said. For that reason your questions need to evolve with the interview. But don’t be afraid to ask for something to be explained in more detail.