Interviewees 101: Five questions you shouldn’t be afraid to ask in an interview

There’s no denying you’re in the hot seat during a job interview, but that’s not to say you should be afraid to ask some questions yourself. Here are five to position you ahead of the pack.

It’s easy to forget that job interviews are a two-way dialogue. Yes, the employer will primarily be the one asking the questions, to which you’ll be responding with insightful, articulate and witty answers, of course! However, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask some questions yourself. Such questions can show that you are inquisitive and interested, and they can also reveal part of the ‘real you’ to the interviewer.

1. How do you celebrate success?

This may seem like an odd one to ask, but don’t be fooled – the response can provide valuable insight into the culture of the organisation. Culture is usually defined as ‘the way things are done around here’, and having a good cultural fit is important for both an employee and an employer. You might want to know specifically how work success is celebrated, whether there are individual and team rewards, and how high performance is recognised.

2. Who will be my direct manager/supervisor?

You’re not even in the door yet and you’re asking this question? But you’re asking with good reason. Research from Gallup found that managers account for at least 70 per cent of variance in employee engagement scores. That means a manager has a major impact on your satisfaction with work. How long have they been with the company? What do they like most about it? Are they based in the same office? (In this era of global technology, they might be based on the other side of the world.)

3. How will my performance be assessed?

Is the role assessed on key performance indicators (KPIs)? Is it likely you’ll have personal, team and organisational goals to strive towards? Are there clear definitions between terms such as ‘high performing’, ‘performing’ and ‘underperforming’? How often is performance assessed? These are all important questions to gauge how far a company will go to help you achieve your career goals. For example, organisations such as AXA have created their own performance management system that emphasises employee evaluation by assessing all levels of employees against a multi-dimensional framework.

4. Are there opportunities for professional development?

You’ve just finished studying at university and you’re asking about more development? Should you be worried about being too eager? No. Many employers now recognise that continuous learning will not just benefit the company, but also act as a retention tool. Asking this question also highlights that you want to build a career in the company. During an era when employee tenures can be short, this might be music to an employer’s ears.

5. How is the company planning to handle ‘x’?

Where ‘x’ is a key challenge or potential upheaval. This question serves a double purpose. Not only does it show that you have given some thought to the organisation (and possibly even the department you will work in), but you might also gain insight into what may well be a very legitimate concern. For example, is there major government legislation coming in that will shake up the industry? Is the competition about to launch a new product line or service that will redefine the industry? Ask and gauge the reaction.

Regardless of how much research you’ve done on the company and how thorough the interviewer is in explaining the job, you will be expected to have some questions of your own. Your questions may be the one thing the interviewer remembers about you – and could position you as a shortlisted candidate.