How to interview the interviewer

We all know the scenario.  The interview is coming to a close.  Your tea has long gone cold since you’ve been too busy answering questions to drink it, your throat is dry from speaking, your head is sore from concentrating, and the interviewer asks that all-important question…

“Do you have any questions for me?”

Most of us will have been in this situation at some stage in our careers, and inevitably most of us at some stage completely froze as we realised we had forgotten every single question we were planning to ask.  Or worse still, we didn’t prepare any.

This is a very important part of the interview – asking nothing can raise alarm bells with the interviewer as they might perceive that you are not that interested in the opportunity.  But asking inappropriate questions can also put them off, by sending the wrong sort of message.  Let’s take a look at some inappropriate questions:

  •  “How much sick pay do I get?”
  • “When can I start taking holidays?”
  • “How often can I work from home?”

Asking any of these will set off alarm bells with the interviewer – they all relate to time spent away from the office and the interviewer will wonder why you are not asking about the scope and content of the role and the company’s culture.  If these things are particularly important to you, you ought to have discussed them with the recruiter in advance of the interview.

You don’t need to quiz the interviewer to death but bear in mind that the interview is a two way process and this is a really great opportunity to get to the nitty gritty of the role and fill in any blanks before you make a decision.  Here are some good examples of questions:

“What sort of long-term growth and advancement can this position, and this company, offer me?”

This demonstrates that you are serious about making a long term commitment to your next employer, and that you are interested in a career rather than just your next job.  And of course, it’s important to find out as if there is no potential for growth, you might not be interested in taking things further after all.

“Why did you choose to work for this company?”

This will help you to establish a personal connection with the interviewer by finding out what their motivations were for joining the company.  It might even give you some insight into what the company could offer to you above and beyond other organisations you are considering.

“What do you like about working here?”

Another good question that will give you a chance to find out a few more positives about the working environment – information about the company’s culture are largely missing from job specifications and the best way to find out what it’s like is to ask someone that works there.

“How will my progress be evaluated?”

It’s important to find out how you will know if you are doing a good job – will your manager sit down with you regularly and discuss your progress, or will you be left to your own devices?

And finally:

“Would it be ok for me to get in touch if I have any more questions at a later stage?”

This invites further discussion at a later stage and shows enthusiasm – you might find that once you’ve had a chance to reflect on the interview, you have a few more questions.

If you have ever been advised to ask the interviewer “how did I do?” (Again, this gets asked more often than you’d think!) we would definitely advise against it – the interviewer won’t appreciate being put on the spot and like you, will want time to reflect on the interview and perhaps weigh up what you can offer to the company compared to other candidates.  A much better alternative is to ask “do you have any additional questions that you want to ask me?” This is less aggressive and gives the interviewer a final chance to address any niggling doubts they might have.

If your mind genuinely goes blank and you can’t think of a single question, it’s best to politely explain that you think all your questions have been answered during the course of the interview, and ask if it would be ok to get in touch if you think of anything else you would like to know.  And if they are happy for you to follow up, don’t be afraid to act on it – it shows you are serious about the opportunity and want to make the right move for your career.