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14 May 2019 | Great Place to Work

You’re interviewing for a big new job, and have practised your responses to questions you anticipate the interviewers will ask. 

But the employer’s interviewer is not the only one who is looking for someone to fit the brief; as a top candidate in a talent and skills shortage environment, the interviewer will expect you to pose heavy-hitting questions as well.

What are they? 

First: know what you are looking for in a new role. What are the most important elements to you – challenging new responsibilities, compatible professional colleagues, corporate values that align with how you like to conduct business or a perhaps a less structured environment than you’ve been used in which results are emphasised above presenteeism?

As a workplace veteran, you know that asking in the first interview about salary and benefits is a little, well, gauche. You will also know that the interviewing organisation will try to sell you on joining their business. So the questions you put forward in your initial meet-up -- with what may be your future employer -- must demonstrate your clear thinking and straightforward approach in getting a good understanding of the hirer’s business and what working there could mean for you.

You will have thoroughly researched the company to understand their business and to learn about any high-profile activity in the past year in their market. Questions about the business’s operations may be highly pertinent during your interview, depending on the role you are interviewing for.

In the current global workplace climate, what people wear to work can vary wildly, even within the same sector. If possible, find out what the ‘dress code’ is at the interviewing company generally and for the level of the role you’re seeking. (They can be different for different types of jobs. A professional manager might dress differently than a developer at the same company.) You want to be neither overdressed or underdressed for the role on offer.

Ultimately, let your own curiosity and ‘need to know’ quest for information guide you through the interview, along with some of these questions to keep in your back pocket.

What does a typical day/week look like in this role?

What are the top priorities that need to be addressed immediately?

What would you like to see accomplished within the first 100 days in this role?

What attributes and characteristics are you looking for in the successful candidate?

Why is this position available/vacant?

What are the major challenges that the person in this role would face?

Please give me an idea of the annual budget overseen by the person in this role.

What is the appraisal process here, and what metrics would my performance be appraised against?

What can you tell me about plans for the next two years?

What is the company most proud of?

How does the company celebrate success? 

Tell me about the team and the department I would be working with. 

How would you describe the company culture in terms of values, preference for a collaborative or independent approach to work, and embedding its purpose? 

What keeps you here in this company?

How has the company changed in the last five years?

What can you tell me about the company’s approach to diversity & inclusion?

What would you say this company is best known for?

What are the next steps in the interview process for this role?

Is there any other information I can provide you?

Even within the same industry, a variety of environments, dress, cultures and core beliefs can and will differ. Be on the lookout for those differences when you visit organisations for interviews so that when it comes time to make a choice, you’re armed with the information, the visual knowledge and the ‘feel’ of the place.

And while salary is less important than your enjoyment of the work and how you can develop your career, be wary of employers who don’t want to talk salary until the very last minute. They may know they pay less than other companies in your sector and would rather not discuss it.

Or, more positively, they may want to be absolutely sure that you want the type of work on offer, like the company and that a good salary is just the icing on the cake of the employment package.

Remember: there’s no such thing as a stupid question, particularly when you could be committing yourself to a few years with this organisation.