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What to ask and not ask in an interview

Congratulations, you’ve secured a first interview so what’s next. From where you are seated, the interview is going well and you are sure your prayers for the job opportunity are getting answered. The interview panel has asked all the interview questions there is and the interview session is almost coming to a close. They then turn to you and ask if you have any questions for them. You smile sheepishly and say no, because you really can’t think of anything. You have no questions to ask.

The truth is, there are so many things you can ask about. You most likely know nothing about the company processes, your potential team members, the culture of the organization, how your projects will run; and many other aspects of your potential employer other than what you see on their company website.

Why You Should Ask Questions:

  • Asking questions shows the interviewer that you are interested in the job, the company and that you did some homework.
  • Asking questions helps you know more about your potential employer. This information will help you decide whether you would like to work for them or not.
  • Asking the right questions portrays you as the right fit for the company. It shows that you can think critically on your feet, shows your analytical skills and creates the impression that you could be an asset they wouldn’t want to miss.
  • Asking questions shows the employer that you have done research about them and read reviews on them. I shows that the opportunity is really important to you. It shows that you are not just after a paycheck, but you are concerned about every aspect of your new position.

So how do you ask the right questions to increase your chances of getting the job and leave a lasting impression of professionalism and competency? The tips below might help;

Questions You Should Ask in an Interview

Questions about the role

  • Do you have a list of skills that your ideal candidate should possess?
  • What are the opportunities for growth for a candidate in this role?
  • How do the duties of this role contribute to the overall business KPIs and success?
  • How does a typical day in this role look like?
  • What business problems is this role solving?
  • Is the position in question new, or did it become vacant after someone left?

Questions about your reporting lines;

  • Who will my manager be in this role and will I get to meet them?
  • Will I have clear KPIs and targets in this role?
  • What is the methodology of measuring performance in this role?
  • What is the preferred communication method in the company?

Questions about the company processes and policies;

  • Does the company offer proficiency training and opportunities for staff to further their education?
  • What would you say is the company’s culture?
  • What is your recruitment process like?/ what is the next step from here?/ When should I expect feedback from you?

Now, it is wise to note that you cannot ask all the questions above in the same seating. It would take a lot of time to answer all that. You can however choose 4-5 questions that are most relevant to the role you are interviewing for.

Questions You Should Never Ask in an Interview

Sometimes, a question could be valid, but when asked prematurely or too early into the interview process, could signal a lack of interest, lack of emotional intelligence or misplaced priorities. You should steer away from the following questions because they either send the wrong message to the interview panel, or raise red flags; things that could make you lose out in a promising job opportunity.

Premature questions on benefits and discounts 

  • What are the benefits accorded to someone in this role apart from salary?
  • What percentage discounts do employees enjoy?
  • Will I be able to enjoy my discounts/commissions immediately?

*(You should only ask these questions during the salary talk, further in into the interview after discussing the role and what will be expected of you.)

Questions that might show you are not interested in the role;

  • Are there other positions available?
  • What is the process of applying for another job within the company?
  • How soon can I apply for leave after starting?
  • When will I be eligible for leave after starting?
  • How soon can I get a promotion after starting?

*(These are things you can always find out after starting work, in a subtle way without arousing suspicion. The interview session is not the place to show how soon you want to switch positions within company departments.)

Questions that will show you didn’t do research or read the job ad well;

  • What are the duties of this role?
  • What is this role about?
  • What does this company do?
  • How long has the company been in operation?
  • What is the vision, mission or values of the company?
  • Who are the main competitors of the company?

*(Unless the job advert was made anonymously, or there was no job description on the job ad, asking the questions above is a show of complete lack of interest, competence or initiative on your part because most of this information is usually on company websites.)

Questions that might indicate you might be a lot to handle;

  • Is your office always this noisy?
  • Do you offer lunch or tea to your staff?
  • Do you have a strict time policy or can I leave early if I finish what is expected of me?
  • Do you offer transport for staff?
  • What other allowances do you offer staff?
  • Is there a time-flexible allowance for nursing mothers?
  • Can I have a seating space near the window?
  • I have a back problem, can I have an extra cushion on my seat?

*(Such questions will not only have the interview panel roll their eyes in agitation, you will not get the job because you are likely to be quite a handful.)

Questions that will raise red flags;

  • Do you call a candidate’s referees?
  • Does your recruitment team conduct background checks on candidates?
  • Do you conduct drug tests on your candidates?
  • Will my web use and email communication be monitored?
  • Do you have CCTV cameras checking on staff?

*(Such questions are likely to raise red flags and make the interviewers think that you have something to hide. It best to avoid asking such questions altogether.)

How to find information on companies before an interview

In conclusion, understand that you have to ask questions in interviews, ask questions that will impress your interviewers and create a  stimulating intellectual discussion during the interview session.

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