10 Probing Questions Candidates Should Ask Their Interviewers, Part 1
Generally speaking, candidates are far more nervous about interviews than their interviewers are. After all, the interviewer hold’s the candidate’s future in the palm of their hands. As a result, the fight or flight reflex kicks in — but because we can’t run or fight, we often just freeze up. Our natural enthusiasm and curiosity are stifled, and we are afraid to ask even the simplest of questions — let alone the very important ones.
However, asking questions is a natural part of the interview process. That’s how candidates establish fit, negotiate terms, and show off their skills and enthusiasm. In fact, candidates who don’t ask questions are often frowned upon by interviewers.
If you want to maximize your chance of getting the job, you need to ask questions — some of which will be quite challenging to ask. Still, these probing questions are necessary to help you feel out the position, determine whether you’re a good fit, and showcase your abilities.
Here are five powerful questions that candidates shouldn’t shy away from asking, no matter how nervous they feel — and be sure to check out part two for five more critical questions you should ask your interviewer.
1. How Did This Vacancy Come About?
This is a direct, prying sort of question — but that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to ask it. Knowing how the position came about will give you important insight into the role.
For example, if the employee who used to hold the job was fired or resigned, that could be a sign that there are shortcomings in the role itself. If, on the other hand, the employee who used to hold the job was internally promoted, that will show you that this company and role offer room for you to grow and develop.
2. What Is Your Management Style?
Research shows that more than half of us quit our jobs because of dissatisfaction with our bosses. That’s why this question is so important: It could be the difference between whether you stay and succeed in the role or leave prematurely.
You may want to follow up on this query with some additional clarifying questions, like:
- What behaviors do you value most in your team members?
- Are you a hands-on or hands-off manager?
- How do you personally recognize good/exceptional performance?
- How do you get better performances from team members?
Note: It probably goes without saying, but just to be safe, we’d like to remind you that these questions should be saved for when you’re interviewing with the person who will be your direct manager. It doesn’t really make any sense to ask, say, a recruiter how they would manage you — because they won’t be your manager.
3. How Would You Describe the Company Culture?
If you don’t enjoy the culture at a company, you might not be an engaged employee. It’s your duty to establish what the company culture is like before joining.
Some follow-up questions you may want to ask on this topic include:
- What do you like the most and the least about the culture here?
- How does the company react to mistakes?
- What sets a “superstar” apart from a “good performer”?
- What would your team members say are the best two things about working here?
4. What Are the Biggest Challenges I Will Need to Overcome in This Role?
No job is easy, but some jobs can be borderline impossible. It’s important that you don’t walk into a role where you’re destined to fail.
You want to be sure you keep things positive when you ask this question. That’s why it’s important to focus on “overcoming” challenges, rather than being potentially overwhelmed by them.
Another reason for asking this question is to help yourself understand the difficulty level of the role, which could affect the salary you are prepared to ask for if you take on the role.
5. What Tasks Will Be in the New Hire’s Inbox the First Day?
This question will give you a realistic preview of the job and the tasks that will be waiting for you should you start the role. The answer could excite you more or ring alarm bells. Either way, it is crucial information you should know.
On the other hand, if the interviewer can’t answer this question convincingly, that could be an indication that you are entering a disorganized team environment.
As you can see, it’s vital that you take an active questioning role in the interview. Remember, though, that you don’t have to ask every single one of these questions in every interview. Just pick and choose the most pertinent ones.
And one final point: You don’t have to save these questions up for the end of the interview. It can feel more natural and less threatening if you raise these queries at opportune points throughout the interview.
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