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Copyright 2009, Paul Sloane
Seven Great Questions to Ask at a Job Interview
By: Paul Sloane
Paul Sloane is the founder of Destination Innovation (www.destination-innovation.com). He writes and speaks on lateral thinking and innovation. His books, The Innovative Leader and The Leader’s Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills, are published by Kogan-Page.
If you are going for an interview as a prospective employee then you should
do some research. Read the job
description and requirements carefully. Browse the web site to see
how the organization presents itself. Search for news items and comments
about the company on news sites and blogs.
For the interview itself you should dress smartly and appropriately.
It is important to have some questions prepared and here are a few that could
- What exactly would my day-to-day responsibilities be? It is
essential that you clearly understand your role and the tasks that you would be
expected to undertake. It is easy to make assumptions and get the wrong
impression of what the work would be so it is vital for both sides that there
is clarity in what is expected of you. If the interviewer cannot give a
clear answer then this is a worrying sign, so politely follow up with more
questions. Some people even ask to see exactly where they will sit.
- What are the opportunities for training and career advancement?
This question serves two purposes. It helps you to understand where the
job might lead and what skills you might acquire. It also signals that
you are ambitious and thinking ahead.
- What is the biggest challenge facing the organization today?
This sort of question takes the interview away from the detail and towards
strategic issues. It allows to you see and discuss the bigger picture.
It proves that you are interested in more than just the 9 to 5 aspects of the job.
It can lead to interesting discussions that can show you in a good light -
especially if you have done some intelligent preparation. If appropriate
you can follow up this question with some questions about the objectives of the
department and the manager who is interviewing you.
- When did you join? After the interviewer has asked a number
of questions about you it can make a good change to ask a gentle question about
them. People often like talking about themselves and if you can get them
talking about their progress in the company you can learn useful and
- What are the criteria that you are looking for in the successful
candidate for this position? The job advertisement may have listed what was
wanted in a candidate but it is very useful to hear the criteria directly from
the interviewer. The more that you can discover about what they want and
how they will make the decision the better placed you are to influence that
- How do you feel that I measure up to your requirements for this
position? This follows on naturally from the previous questions. It
may seem a little pushy but it is a perfectly fair thing to ask. In sales
parlance this is a 'trial close'. If they say that you are a good fit
then you can ask whether there is any reason you might not be offered the
job. If they say that you are lacking in some key skill or attribute then
you can move into objection handling mode and point out some relevant
experience or a countervailing strength.
- Would you like to hear what I could do to really help your
department? If you want the job then this is a great question to ask at the
end of the interview. Most interviewers will reply, 'Yes.' Drawing
on what you have learnt in the conversation, you can give a short sales pitch
on why you fit the criteria and why your strengths and ideas will siginficantly
assist the boss
to meet their objectives. Make it short, direct and clear with the
emphasis on the benefits for them of having you in the team. At the end
ask something like, 'how does that sound?'
Many candidates take a passive role at the interview. They competently
answer the questions that are put to them but they never take the initiative by
asking intelligent questions that steer the interview in a helpful
direction. If you are a proactive candidate who asks the sorts of
questions given above then you will be seen as more dynamic and you will
significantly increase your chances of being offered the job.
Books by Paul Sloane
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