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8 questions to ask in an interview

Employer Insight

A job interview is a two-way street. Here are just a couple things you can ask employers to learn more, show you care and help secure that job.

At some point, you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions to your interviewer. This is an excellent chance to really dig into info that isn’t publically available, widely known or otherwise. It’s also an opportunity to show you know how to ask good questions and care about the company, its history, progress and what it’s like to work there. 

In this article, we’ll go over some important questions you can ask and why they’re important.

Having an arsenal of killer questions to choose from will help you adapt to the situation, particularly if they answer one or more of your pre-prepared questions throughout the body of the interview. If you feel one is more applicable to the conversation than another, you can draw upon them. Expect to be able to ask maybe four or five of these in an interview, perhaps more if it’s a particularly personal interview, but prepare at least six or seven. Feel free to personalise or change them as you see fit, or just use them wholesale. They’re worded in such a way as to be appropriate to many contexts without offending anyone. 

1. ‘What do you enjoy most about working here?’

Learning why someone who’s already invested in the company works there can be a wonderful insight into the nuances of its environment. Your interviewer may be caught a little off-balance by this question, but their answer should prove valuable. It also doesn’t put them on the spot to say something negative about their company, which can just make the entire interview awkward! It’s easier to be honest when the truth is positive. 

2. ‘What does success look like in this role?’

Every good graduate job should have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) associated with them. They let both you and your supervisor(s) know if you’re reaching your targets and meeting the predefined criteria for success. If you don’t know what success looks like, it’s therefore not possible to know if you’re doing well in your job. By establishing right from the word ‘go’ what performance looks like in your job, you’re giving yourself the best chance at hitting the ground running and giving your employer exactly what they want. It also gives them the chance to clarify any preconceptions or details left from the initial job advert. 

3. ‘How long have you and the team worked together?’

This one’s great for interviews at smaller companies, but can work in departments of larger organisations too. The purpose of this is to gauge how well they’re retaining talent. If the turnover’s pretty high, that can be an indication something’s wrong with staff retention. Could be a hostile work environment, or maybe it’s just stressful. Basically, phrasing the question in the way suggested is polite, a bit more personal than “what’s your turnover?” and serves to let you in on how you may fit in. It can be a bit of a nerve-wracking question to ask, but an important one once you’ve built a bit of a rapport with your interviewer. 

4. ‘What are some of the primary challenges I’ll face in my role?’

This is another hard-ball question in a polite format! Similar to the KPI question, the intent is to discover more about the less sexy aspects of the job. It’ll also help you compare this role to others you may be exploring, or at least visualise more accurately some of the more strenuous elements of the job. These may not even be directly task-oriented. It could be general time management is difficult in this job. Perhaps you’ll always be on-call, or required to come into the office on weekends or during busy periods. The hours could be longer than you’re expecting. Maybe you have to travel a lot? These are all things worth asking if you suspect them to be the case. To that end, feel free to refine this question to your needs and suspicions. 

5. ‘What are the opportunities for growth in my role?’

If you’re interested in what the promotion track looks like, this is a must. Just about every graduate wants to rest assured there’s somewhere for them to go in their first job. If you’re clear on what that path is, you’ll have a much better time in your job. It’ll also let the interviewer know you’re ambitious, an attractive quality in any professional. 

Growth doesn’t have to be in responsibilities or salary package either. This question can be in regard to learning opportunities generally. To that end, you can refine the question accordingly. For instance, you could ask if there’s much opportunity to develop a particular skill set or learn an entirely new one. Perhaps there are chances to work across departments, or in different parts of the world. You’ll need to ask to find out. 

Expressing a desire to grow in this sense is positive in and of itself. Any graduate who roles into a job interview simply looking to settle down comfortably and not explore their bounds isn’t going to score the same brownie points as someone with their eyes always on the horizon. 

6. ‘What makes this role important to the company?’

It’s one thing to know what your performance metrics and on-the-job challenges are. It’s another to know where you fit in the grand scheme. This question lets employers know you’re interested not only in your own job, but the industry or sector as a whole. Having an interest in the forest rather than just the trees can help you conceive of new ideas that may benefit the entire company. It’s also far easier to make decisions each day knowing why and how they affect everyone else. You may be able to correct any inefficiencies, streamline processes and generally be more valuable to the company as a result. Just asking the question can express these possibilities. 

If it’s a clear-cut graduate role, which for many of you it will be, feel free to reword this question. For instance, you can ask what the company as a whole expects of their graduates. What sort of mindset they ought to have.

7. ‘Do you have any reservations about my education or experience?’

This one’s popular among bold candidates because it offers a chance to assuage interviewers of their doubts. It also gives you a brief window into the selection process and what they’d like to see from their candidates. 

Asking this question can be a powerful tool. If you weren’t particularly high on an interviewer’s pecking order, proper execution can put you at the top. The trick is not only to hear out their answer, but directly addressing each point of concern. You can use the STAR method to use situations from your previous work experience or study to develop a rebuttal.

  • S = situation. Set the scene for the interviewer. What were you doing, where was it and what was the problem?
  • T = task. What were you required to accomplish in your role?

  • A = action. What did you do?

  • R = result. Were your efforts successful or unsuccessful?

It can be tricky developing an answer in this format on the fly, so try to preempt any concerns they may have about your experience or education beforehand. If you’re applying for a graduate role, they’re not going to expect much in the way of experience, but they will expect aptitude, enthusiasm and drive. If these are things you can illustrate with anecdotes, think of some beforehand and have them ready to go. Remember: you’re in the interview room! Don’t be too over-eager to please. You’ve already piqued their interest. All you’re doing now is typing up loose ends (if you forgive the sinister turn of phrase!). 

8. ‘What advice would you give to someone in this role?’

You’re giving the interviewer an opportunity to talk about any miscellaneous useful information you may not have heard up until now. As such, this is a great question to finish on. 

Some final words to the wise...

Try not to put interviewers in a position where they have to say something negative about the company. It would be lovely if every interviewer was comfortable dishing the dirt so you can get an honest appraisal, but that’s neither realistic nor fair on them. Keep the questions in a positive light to show you’re excited about the opportunity and how you can fit it best. 

It also pays (literally) to keep the salary question to yourself until they bring it up. Same goes for hours. If you ask about money at any point, you risk being seen as ‘in it for the money’. Even if that’s technically true for you, you don’t want that to be the focus of your interest! There are plenty of new and exciting opportunities when working in a graduate role, so try to focus on some of the others first. When they bring it up however, no holds barred! Do your research and haggle within reason, making sure to ask about benefits, leave, working hours and anything else pertaining to finances. 

Finally, remember these questions aren’t gospel; they don’t have to be asked verbatim, or at all if you don’t feel they’re appropriate when you get in there. If you can formulate questions organically within the interview directly pertaining to what you just discussed at any given point, your conversation will flow better. Prepared questions are a great fallback position. The most important thing is being yourself and saying only what’s true to you. If you do that, we think you’ll do a great job.