No probes: Asking the right questions at an interview

Published October 6th, 2016 - 09:05 GMT

In job interviews, you know that a hiring manager will pause at a certain point and ask you if you have any questions. As common wisdom and professional advice would tell you, you should have a list of questions prepared ahead, and always should make sure that you ask a question or two.

What if your hiring manager has done a great job covering all the points? You still should be able to ask at least a couple of follow-up questions. Whatever the circumstances, be aware that this segment of any interview tells the hiring manager a lot about you.

It might be the only time when you’re in charge of directing the conversation, and you can take this opportunity to showcase your knowledge and interest.

This is a tricky segment, however. If your questions seem too narrow or too focused on a particular aspect of the job, the employer may get the impression that the topic is all that you care about.

That is why it is important to prepare a mix of questions and be aware of them if they get answered during the interview. If they do, have follow-up questions ready.

To make sure that this segment of you bringing topics to the table goes in your favour, keep the following in mind.

Behind the questions

Hiring managers will look at what is behind your questions. Are you concerned about your work-life balance, corporate culture, money, professional advancement, etc.? If your questions solely focus on the work hours and schedule, they may raise employer concerns about your flexibility when it comes to working longer hours, if needed. If you bring up salary as your first question, you may appear to be too money-driven.

Any of these questions brought up among other job-related inquiries may not be as detrimental. The key again is to avoid an impression of being too concerned about details that are not related to the job in itself. Of course, if any of these aspects is a deal breaker for you, you need to get as much visibility as early as possible, but be sure that you don’t excluded yourself too soon in the process.

Framing the questions

When you prepare for the questions, think — or even rehearse — how you will phrase them. This is your opportunity to ask questions that are coherent and clear — and show that you have organised thoughts. If you still don’t get your question across clearly, try again. Try not only to use different words, but to explain what you’re really asking about.

Asking questions that are relevant to the job using the proper jargon also demonstrates your experience and knowledge. Having said that, if you’re not fully certain that you’re using the right terminology, do not use it. Preparation is the key again. The more you learn about the company, and how it fits your experience, the better opportunity you will create for a successful interview. Questions that cover any points that were missed by the hiring manager are proof that you are on top of the game, and know the ins and outs of the advertised position.

Avoiding questions

Topics that involve personal details of the interviewer or the team or confidential information about the business should not be discussed. In addition, you should be sensitive to any other topic that the hiring manager seems to be avoiding. For example, if you inquire why this position is open, and the hiring manager touches briefly on the departure of a former employee, that could be a topic that is better left undiscussed — unless you really want to make it your cause to investigate the circumstances around that situation.

Similarly, avoid digging for information that is typically not shared in first interviews. For example, don’t get in the details of the details of daily work if your interviewer is sticking with big-picture topics. In short, follow your interviewer’s suit, unless these details are so relevant to your decision making.

By Rania Oteify

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