Published: 26 October 2020

OK, hands up if you have ever got to the stage of an interview where you’re asked, “Do you have any questions for us? and felt slightly relieved that the interview was reaching its conclusion?. This question can sometimes indicate that the interviewer has gathered sufficient information from their questions to make a judgement. However, you shouldn’t relax just yet, there is still plenty of value you can add to your application by asking carefully considered and insightful questions.

Asking intelligent questions can often be the icing on the cake, a fitting closure to the interview and ultimately push you ahead of the competition to land the role. These questions should always be tailored to show a genuine interest in the role, the organisation itself and in some cases the interviewer. You should always take time as part of your interview preparation to draft a selection of insightful questions. It’s good advice to prepare plenty of these questions, just in case they are genuinely answered during the general interview. Having a selection of carefully thought out questions will avoid falling into the trap of asking questions such as, “Can you tell me how many holidays come with this role?”, just for the sake of asking a question.

Examples of questions that will help to demonstrate a genuine enthusiasm and interest for the role:- 

What would be expected of me in my first 12 weeks, and how would my achievement be measured?

Your probationary period can be a stressful enough time without knowing exactly what your new employer’s expectations are. Asking the right questions to establish exactly what their expectations are and how they are measured will always help to set you off on the right foot. Understanding this at the interview stage will help you to establish if the clients' expectations are realistic and whether their measurement tools are supportive of success. It’s a powerful and positive opening question as it demonstrated that you are already starting to think ahead and picturing yourself in the position. Gaining a clear understanding of a client's expectations at this early stage will help you make the right decision when offered the position.

Can you tell me more about the team, and how it sits within the organisation's hierarchy?

Let’s face it, many of us spend more time with our work family than our actual family (Well in a non-pandemic time anyway!). Why wouldn’t we want to know a little more about our potential new colleagues? Every team tends to have an eclectic mix of personalities and characters, knowing a little more ahead of any potential start dates can often help you to prepare for what you will be walking into. Understanding the dynamics will help you to identify potential mentors, top performers and how to avoid the "Team Gossip". By understanding more about the team dynamics you can make comparisons to previous teams you have worked with and offer positive examples of where you have delivered success. Getting to know how the activities of the team affect the wider organisation will help you to understand potential career paths and what opportunities there may be to progress within the business.

What attributes would you say the top performers in this team/company demonstrate?

This question may often lead on from the point above about team dynamics but it is nonetheless important to understand what it takes to be a success…after all, that’s the aim, isn’t it?. Gaining an insight into what makes people succeed can go a long way to helping you understand if you possess those same attributes which ultimately may result in your success. It will all help to understand if the business is a “Good Fit” for you. If you are fortunate to be offered the role, any responses to this question will help to guide you towards knowing what it takes to be considered a success too.

What would be my biggest challenges in this role?

Getting to understand the challenges of a role will help you to appreciate what you are potentially getting yourself into. Equally, these may be challenges that you have successfully overcome in previous roles, in which case another opportunity to sell yourself. As long as you are not being interviewed by someone wearing rose-tinted spectacles most line managers will be happy to share with you the good, the bad and the ugly. Knowing what challenges your new role will present can go along way towards increasing your desire to succeed at interview. Alternatively, it can also warn you of any potential pitfalls you may be letting yourself in for. We all know starting a new role is never a smooth ride, planning and understanding key challenges will help you to anticipate them and take necessary steps to avoid any previous mistakes made by others in the role. Seeing how transparent your interviewer is about these challenges is often a good indicator as to how transparent they would be as a line manager too.

It’s good to focus some questions on the company as well:-

Are there any specific goals/plans the company are working towards at the moment?

Gaining an insight into the ambitions of the organisation will help to understand if they are aligned with your own. You should always show an interest in the wider organisation but taking it a step further to establish how this role can influence those ambitions is key. It can also help demonstrate that you can see the "wider picture" and can take a commercial viewpoint. Understanding what the business is trying to achieve will help you to promote your previous experience in such matters too. For example, the organisation may be planning a new system implementation in the next 6 months, which may be something you have helped a former business to deliver. This can only help to increase the organisation's appeal to hiring yourself.

What are the biggest challenges the business is facing at present or has faced in the last year?

All organisations face constant challenges, it's how they overcome these challenges that often determines their success. At the time of publishing this article, it's highly likely that any response to this question will be centred around the current Covid Pandemic but business face challenges of all kinds. Understanding how a business is or has coped with such challenges is a good indication as to how agile and “solutions” orientated their culture is. If they can demonstrate that they have been flexible enough to evolve, it’s a strong indication that they are going to be able to face future challenges and thrive. This question also presents a great opportunity to discuss any industry-specific challenges that your research into the company may have unearthed and another chance to impress with your knowledge.

What opportunities for training and progression do the company offer? 

Don't forget to ask what support mechanisms are in place for continuous personal development. Getting a feel for an organisations training and development policy is usually a good indication as to whether they believe in investing in their people. Demonstrating a passion for continuous personal development can be an appealing attribute that many employers will look for in new hires. Depending on how much of a priority offering training opportunities to their employees is, will often be a good barometer as to whether this new role will present genuine opportunities for career progression. Asking these types of questions also helps to demonstrate that you are serious about committing to this new employer and would be looking to offer them a return on their investment.

And finally…don't miss out the odd question about the interviewer:-

What attracted you to work for the business and how have you remained motivated to work for ACME Ltd?

With most people having some form of social media presence these days, you will likely have been able to research your interviewer before your meeting. At the very least discover how long they have been with the business and potentially the journey they've taken during that time. Likely, whoever is sitting on the other side of the desk/zoom call will be your line manager if you were to be successful. Getting to know a little more about them cannot be a bad thing, its only courteous to show a little interest in their background during the interview. if you have managed to research them, don’t make it creepy, don’t recite back everything you’ve discovered about them on their social profiles ..that’s borderline stalking.  Understanding their journey, especially if they once sat in the level of role you are applying for, can offer an indication as to your potential for promotion.

So next time, you hear the words, “Do you have any questions for us?”..don’t drop your guard, it's not your cue to start thinking about the journey home, it's your opportunity to put the icing on the interview and if you lucky, maybe even the cherry on top!

I've tried to offer just a small insight into some of the questions you may wish to ask within this article but as ever, I'm always happy to discuss the matter more details at any time. Please don’t hesitate to get in contact here.