Entrepreneurship, Posts by The Startup Girl, Start up Life

Questions every candidate should ask in an interview

20 Jan , 2015  

What candidates often forget in the interview process is that the interview is just as much about the company pleasing the candidate as it is the candidate pleasing the company. Just as much as you may want the role, you have to think about if the company fits in well with your goals and values. Too many candidates forget this and don’t make use of the question time that occurs in an interview. Asking as many questions in the interview in order to make an informed decision about the role can avoid any mismatch in expectations from both parties involved.

Word of warning! At the end of an interview when you’re asked if you have any questions, please don’t ask straight away what the next steps of the recruitment process are. It shows a lack of interest in the company and portrays that you think you already think you’re good enough to be selected.

Remember, questions can also be asked during the interview; you don’t always have to wait until the end to ask a set of questions. Go with the flow and include any questions appropriately in the conversation. It shows real enthusiasm and interest in the company you are applying for. Here are some suggestions for you:

  1. What is the company culture like? You want to be able to understand the work ethic, work/life balance, synergies in the team and understand what would the approach of the team in a difficult situation. Are they the sort that will commit to long hours to win a particular client or do they prefer to work the same sort of hours despite any pressing deadlines? Dig deeper and try to understand what everyone’s capabilities are, what the team lacks and how you might fit in.
  1. What would an average day would look like in your role? A question that is overlooked and somewhat generic. Here you are trying to understand what the daily/weekly tasks would involve, whom you would be working with, what tools you would be working with and what sort of clients/projects you will be working on. There’s no better way of understanding what your future role will look like and if an employer is too vague with the answer, question even further. This is also an opportunity to understand how much of your role is left for you to figure out yourself. Often, in the case of a start up, you may have to create your own role in the long term. If you’re not capable of finding your niche and prefer to be told what to do the majority of the time, then ask questions that will help you to figure out if you will be working to a thorough work plan executed by your senior.
  1. What would make ‘me’ a good employee? In this question you want to understand what the employer would want to see you achieve in the role. By listening to the key achievements they would like you to perform, you can begin to understand what types of work you will be carrying out, how demanding the role is and whether it is something you think you could do. If it sounds like a challenge – go for it! If it sounds too easy/if you feel like you’re overqualified, this should ring some alarm bells and you may want to take some time asking further questions as to how quickly you can progress in the company.

In a start up, there are numerous challenges and difficulties that will be faced. Try to pick out 2/3 things difficulties the company would like to overcome. Many times in a start up, the most valuable characteristic for them is to have employees that are willing to take the lead on something (a project /client/event/department etc). The biggest support you can do for a start up is to take away the worry. Founders/managers don’t necessarily care if you make mistakes along the way, but being able to say: ‘I’ve got this’ and to relieve some of the stress is invaluable.

Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and don’t be scared that your questions might be ‘silly’. It is within your right to know how long you should expect to hear from the employer next and of course you want to know what the next steps are. Carefully ask this question and if you want to go the extra mile, email the employer a day or two later explaining one or two key issues that came up in the interview that you particularly enjoyed discussing and how you could see yourself directly helping the company.

Here’s to hoping that you receive the job offer and when you do, accept with enthusiasm!


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