Great questions to ask your interviewer in the first five minutes.

When you’re interviewing, you want the interviewer to know you’ve done your research, that you bring capability with you and that you will add value to their organisation.   In our previous article, we talked about a few interview approaches and how to prepare for them. 

One element that you need to prepare for – regardless of the interviewer’s approach – is a set of questions that demonstrate your understanding of the role, the company and the expectations they have of the successful candidate.

Don’t wait until the end

You can wait for the interviewer to ask “Do you have any questions for me?” but most often that happens at the end of the interview.  The interviewer has probably already formed a view of whether you’re the right candidate for the job. It can be difficult to turn things around at the very end if you feel you haven’t quite given enough information to help them with their decision. 

Instead, prepare a list of questions to use very early on to help convert any interview approach into ‘Free Form’. 

Free Form (as discussed in the previous article here) is where the interview becomes a two-way conversation, helping you develop a deeper understanding of the business and to build a rapport with the interviewer.

Be curious in your research

So how do you know what questions to ask?

The answer is in your research. 

  • Read the job description carefully. What interests you about the ‘problem’ they are trying to solve with this role?  Develop questions to help get them talking about how this role helps them achieve their business objectives. This will guide your conversation, and draw attention to your capability in helping them reach their goals.

    ” What does success look like for you in this role?”

  • Have a look at the Company page on LinkedIn, look at how many people they have, what functions those people perform, the percentage of staff per function and open job specs. This can help you identify areas where they might be experiencing pain, so have examples of how you’ve dealt with similar issues successfully.

    “How has the organisation changed over the last few years, and what is the direction for the coming years?

  • Search for video content from news outlets, conferences where the company’s leaders presented, interviews and podcasts.  This will tell you more about the company, how it is positioning itself in the market, how it’s perceived and what they’re up to. This gives you the information you need to ask about their achievements and how these are experienced in the team the role operates within.

    “I’m really interested in ‘example’ and how this guides the work this team are doing. How does ‘example’ affect this team and what does it mean for some of the challenges you face?”

  • Make sure you know what the industry is up to, where the advancements are, the challenges they face as a whole and research competitors to understand where the company might be front running or lacking in a particular area.

    “This trend ‘example’ in the industry looks like ‘X’. How is the organisation looking to compete, and what role does this team play in achieving this?”

Questions create conversations

When preparing your question list, remember these points;

  • Questions must be relevant to the job you’re interviewing for.
  • Questions must be ones where you’re able to tie back to your capability and accomplishments.
  • Don’t just choose the positive messages, be brave and tactfully ask about the negative ones too. Making sure you have a positive response to their answer.
  • Make sure you’ve anticipated the answer so that you can return with an insight/experience or a follow up question.

Once you have your arsenal of questions prepared, practice ways of ‘high-jacking’ the conversation to get them in as early as possible. 

Learn how to take the interviewer’s opening question and turn that into your opportunity to show them that you are prepared, knowledgeable and interested.

If you want to learn more about how to take control of your interview and help the hiring manager see your strengths shine through. sign up to Stay Nimble and access the support you need to learn the skills you develop to thrive.

Author: Penny

Penny is a business operations consultant, helping companies build robust operational frameworks to deliver their business goals. Believing that people are the heart and success of any business, she is passionate about helping people find fulfilling jobs that support their aspirations. For over 20 years, Penny has managed large operational teams, designing the organisational structure and defining the resource requirements. She is also a mentor to people preparing for interviews and people considering a career change.

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