May 23, 2022 5:15 pm

Smart Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

How To Find a Good Job

It can seem like securing a good job is not an easy thing to do these days. You can spend hours scanning job advertisements, applying for many different roles whilst adjusting your CV to suit each role. CV tweaking is one way of securing a job interview, and making sure your future employers know how you suit the role they’ve advertised.

Now, there’s just the small matter of the job interview to go! Are you prepared?

Ask yourself how long it has been since you sat in a job interview. If it was years, because this is your first one in ages, you need to prepare. If it was last week, ask yourself why you are still going to job interviews and don’t have a job! Either way, you need to get your job interview technique right, as it is the final stage before an employer commits to you, and will seriously affect their opinion of you.

Day-to-Day Tasks and Asking the Right Questions the Right Way

Go back to the initial job description and break it down into a table of duties described, and translate this into day-to-day tasks. For example, if the job says you will be “… updating the internal newsletter and contributing content and title ideas to internal publications,” what does this mean? Are you the sole editor or does the job title suggest you are part of a wider team? Will you be the only one writing the newsletter or do others help? What this means is that when you sit in the interview, you need to present yourself as someone who has worked with an editorial team, putting out a publication to deadline.

What do you think you’ll be doing here on a day-to-day basis?

This is one of the most common job interview questions.

1. “At XYZ I worked with a team of five to produce our quarterly newsletter. How many people are involved with the newsletter here?”

Notice how this is much better than:

2. “How many people are involved with the newsletter here? I only ask because in my opinion it works better if there is a team involved.”

Because the phrasing in statement one puts the question second, and some information about your experience first, it sounds as if you are enquiring after the team you will be working with. In the second example, putting your question first can make you seem like a bit of a know-it-all.

The simple technique of turning questions into two-part statements, stating your experience first and the question you want to ask second, is a great way to talk through the statement of duties in the job description AND get across the valuable experience you bring to the role.

Phrases to Watch out for:

You’ll be… Managing Customer Service Issues.

The is code for dealing with customer complaints. The smart way to prepare for a job interview is to have to hand a few anecdotes about how you have dealt with customer complaints, resolving them successfully. When you have discussed these, ask the following question: “Do you have a policy for escalating a serious complaint?” This shows you understand you can’t solve everything, and it may give you a clue about who in the room is going to be your day-to-day line manager.

You’ll be… Creating Sales Presentations OR Assisting to Create Sales Presentations.

This can mean you’ll be tasked with anything from creating PowerPoint slides, to typing up conference notes for sales people. You might be asked to book the event stand for the sales team at a local exhibition, source the signage, posters and leaflets from a local supplier, and in general, do a lot of the sales administration work. If you suspect you’ll be overloaded by all of this, make sure you determine how big a part of your role this will take up. Using the experience first approach:

“I’ve worked on sales presentations and events as part of a previous office team; I’m wondering what percentage of the role you would say, is allocated to assisting the sales team with this?”

You will usually get an honest response if you put it in terms of percentages, and alert the interviewing team you are aware of potential clashes with day-to-day responsibilities.

You’ll be… Working With some Interesting Characters.

The world ain’t a perfect place, and neither are work colleagues. One of the most difficult things to glean from job interviews is what the job will be like in terms of people. If one of the interviewers says this phrase, it is a hint someone in the office is difficult to work with. The kind of question you need to ask in response to this (again, put your experience first… ):

“I’ve observed some colleagues in disciplinary proceedings in my last job. Is there a current issue?”

This will either get them to answer defensively with “Oh, nothing that bad,” to “well, actually, we are looking into this right now.” Remember, a job is often advertised when an organisation wishes to replace someone they’ve found doesn’t fit the role. The person could be seriously unhappy in the company and making everyone miserable. This kind of question will elicit if you will be stuck with them. Once they’ve answered this question, the best response you can make is to say something simple like: “I’ve noted this.” Resist the temptation to give a platitude such as: “Oh well, it takes all kinds to make up a world!” As this makes you sound like you can cope with the difficult person whilst no-one else is able to. You may just get lumped with them!

Tricky End of Interview Questions and Smart Answers to Go With Them

When I look back over interviews I’ve been to, mock interviews I’ve held (as an employment trainer) and interviews I’ve attended, there are a series of tricky end of interview questions that get asked.

1. “What are your strengths AND/OR weaknesses? (Groan). Don’t answer “I’m a comedy superhero allergic to Kryptonite.” Try for a strength, “genuinely interested in people,” which means you are friendly and sociable. For a weakness, something like this: “I’m trying to learn more about XXX right now,” the topic should be job related, as in, you are studying more about the role you want to do every day. One of the worst answers I ever got for weaknesses was; “I suffer from excessive ear wax” – and the candidate proceeded to stick their finger in their ear!”

2. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?” I know you probably want to say “I just want to be NOT unemployed in five minutes time”, but resist this! For everyone, this is an individual answer. If you want to progress in the role, industry or company, and this is something most people do in your particular job, then say so. Sales person to Sales Manager. If it is a stand-alone role, perhaps say you’d like to do a long-term stint with one company and work environment as you are a team person.

… and finally…

3. “What’s your availability over the next few weeks”. This is a coded reference to how soon can you start. Be careful, as saying you are free straight away can be a giveaway you are unemployed and lead to questions about how long this has been the case. Better off answering a question with the question: “Did you want an immediate start?” and then offer this if the answer is yes. If they say they need time to set up their system or whatever, say you are expecting to hear within a week or two if the job is yours, and this should satisfy them.

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