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Candidates should ask future employers smart questions at the time of interview

February 16, 2018

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A candidate asking questions? Is this a typo or some kind of misinformation? Not really. Interviewing for a job is not a one-way street. Yes, as a candidate, you are expected to answer questions most of the time, but there is a stage when the interviewer would want to know if you have any questions. This is a great opportunity for realizing two things:

  • One, the interviewer is interested in your candidature, but for which she would not be interested in knowing if you have any questions;
  • Two, it is a wonderful opportunity to have your doubts about your future employer clarified.

Bear in mind that the organization needs you as much as you need it. It is for this reason that the franker you are at this stage, the better. Agreed, not everything can be revealed at the time of the first meeting, but being bold about finding out what the organization expects or requires from you offers a chance to prevent misunderstanding from building up. Any misunderstanding caused due to lack of open communication from the earlier stage of the relationship weakens the foundation of the relationship.

So, what should a candidate ask when given the chance to ask questions? A few points may be worth keeping in mind, but always remember, these cannot be a standard set of questions. They can change according to the organization or the mood of the interview, or on the content and tone of the interview.

A few common questions

Why did the opening come up?

In most cases, a new candidate is being hired to fill up someone else's shoes. So, the candidate should be clear about why the opening came up. Is it because the previous person left the job? Is it because there is an expansion plan, for which the new hire is being considered? Or, is it because there are some additional responsibilities that need to be taken care of? Asking what exactly the candidate is being taken for will give a clear idea of what expectations the organization has from the potential hire.

That will also give an idea about the new position. If the position is to fill up a position that has fallen vacant, the organization will have different expectations than it would if the position is part of an expansion plan. Getting an answer to a question like this will give the candidate a strong means to judge her suitability to the position being considered.

What priority does the organization give to training its employees?

As someone who is starting a relationship with a new organization, you'd be interested in knowing your career path. Delicate questions like this need to be asked with tact. Instead of asking "what are my growth prospects with this organization", rephrase it into something like: "how much importance does this organization attach to training employees? A smart interviewer would get a whiff of what you are driving at.

This question is also important to understand how your profile could get enriched during the time you are employed with the organization. When the organization attaches importance to employees' learning; you grow with it, and with it, you also augment your own profile, which will be of value for your own career at any later stage.

Does the organization face a particular issue that needs resolving?

A candidate also sends a positive signal by inquiring if there is a particular challenge that the organization is presently facing. This is a major point, because it shows not only that the prospective employee is interested in knowing more about the organization; it also shows that she is willing to be part of the problem-solving aspect.

Should the candidate avoid asking questions?

This is not a healthy sign and is not likely to go down well with most interviewers. If you are not going to ask questions it could present you as a candidate who is not really interested in the job. Or, it could give the impression to the interviewer that you are desperate for the job, and fear that asking questions could endanger your prospects for getting selected. Who would want to hire such a candidate?

Yet, if you feel that there is nothing to ask that was not already discussed at the interview, make sure you mention so. This clears the air and shows you as someone who is interested, but that you understood everything that was discussed and that you don't have anything extra to ask.

The point is, questions should be perceptive and insightful. They should give the organization the confidence that they are looking at someone who not only has the credentials, but also the right positive attitude for the job.

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