Let’s face it, job interviews are stressful. Not only do you have to do a lot of research on the company before hand, but you also have to somehow figure out a way to make yourself stand out from the other candidates. Then once you’ve got all that sorted, you have to remember the little things – like how long it’s going to take to get to the office, what you’re going to wear, what the names are of the people interviewing you, and the questions you plan on asking them.
If I’ve ever met you in person, you might have noticed that I can come across as shy, and maybe even a bit awkward. I’m not great at small talk, and I get nervous easily. This definitely makes things like networking (or even first dates) kind of a problem, and it should also make interviews a nightmare. But for some reason, I’m good at them. Still haven’t figured out why that is!
My boss told me that I won my current job over another candidate with more directly related experience (I don’t know anything about nuclear science!) because I showed that I was confident, passionate, and believed in what I do. When I was less than a year into the workforce, I was offered two different fairly high profile jobs (which both required 5-7 years of experience), and once during the final round of interviewing, a city manager told me that I had a quality about me that he couldn’t pinpoint, but found very appealing.
Now, I’m not saying all of this to boast. It’s to illustrate my point that your resume and experience might get you the interview, but it’s how you come across in person that will win you the job. At least that’s been my experience in my industry. With a 2-year technical diploma, I’m likely never going to be the most qualified person – but I make up for it by showing enthusiasm throughout the entire interview. And I think one of the best ways to do this is near the end, when they ask “do you have any questions about the job?”
I feel like it’s common knowledge to have a few standard questions to ask, but I’ve been surprised over the years when conducting interviews, many people just say no. Then the interview is over, and it’s been completely one-sided – with one person asking, and one person answering. You wouldn’t go on a date and not ask any questions, would you? So it shouldn’t be any different with an interview. Sure, they’re interviewing you for the job, but you’re also interviewing them to see if they’re the right employer for you.
These might be pretty generic, but here are my favourite questions to ask employers:
1. Is this a new position to the company?
This is by far my favourite question to ask, if I haven’t already been able to find the answer online. It can give you a lot of seriously good insight into what the position is all about.
If it’s a new position, the follow-up questions become pretty important: why the position was created in the first place (was it to go in a new corporate direction, take the burden off of another employee, or because they’re expanding so rapidly?), or where they see the position moving to in the future. Is there room for growth?
Sometimes with completely new positions, they don’t really know what they’re looking for – just that they know they want somebody. In my current position, I was hired to write. But in the 9 months I’ve been there, I haven’t done any writing, and I knew that based on the interview. I was the first and only hire in the newly created marketing position, so I knew I would take on everything else that marketing encompasses, like trade shows, graphic design, event coordination, website maintenance, etc.
If the position you’re interviewing for is to take over for somebody else, asking why that person is leaving is also a good question to ask. Usually LinkedIn will provide clues as to whether the company has a high turnover rate, or if their employees stay long-term.
2. What is the corporate/company culture like?
For me, this is an important one because I want to know what it’s going to be like working there on a day-to-day basis. What are my co-workers like? Is everyone social, or do they keep to themselves? It’s also important because it shows the employer that you’re likely interested in staying long-term, and that you’re looking for more than just a pay cheque.
Usually you’ll learn things about the corporate environment (open space vs. offices), and sometimes they might even bring a few employees in to talk about what it’s like there. I really appreciate it when they do that. Getting to talk to potential colleagues makes it real, and you will likely get a much better feel for the company that way. Not that I want to make best friends out of my co-workers, but it’s important that you like the people you work with.
3. What direction do you see the company headed in the next 5 to 10 years?
I like this question because you will be able to see how your position can affect the company’s short-term and long(er)-term goals. If they’re looking to expand, perhaps that means there will be opportunities for advancement or movement/travel to different offices. If they’re looking to chase competition, that might mean exciting opportunities. If they’re looking to go a different direction, you will get a glimpse into whether you want to go that direction as well.
Related: Are you a job hopper?
As a side note, I think there’s a fine line between presenting the best version of yourself that you can be, and being fake. Once, I crossed that line. I got caught up in the personalities of the two people interviewing me, and I started to act and answer questions in a way that I knew they would like, but wasn’t me at all. In the end, I got the job… but once I actually started working, we all quickly realized that my day to day personality was a lot different (and that came across in my writing, which is what I was hired for). I was let go within my probation period. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a good one nonetheless.