Many people spend the majority of their time preparing for a job interview worrying about all the questions their interviewer is likely to ask. For example:
How would you describe your leadership style?
How do you get the most out of your team?
How do you handle pressure?
A good thing about this is that preparing an appropriate response to each question you're likely to be asked is crucial to performing confidently in an interview. Many C-level candidates walk into jobs and are surprised. Their responsibilities don't match expectations, which surprises them. Or they are surprised by the metrics used to evaluate them. Alternatively, they discover that they have very little managerial discretion.
Interviewing is a two-way street, which often gets overlooked, so preparing questions for your interviewer is just as important. The best interviews are conversations rather than one-way questions. The quality of the questions you prepare will differentiate you from other candidates who may not have put as much thought into them.
You can discover valuable information about the company and position you are applying for using the questions you ask, which will allow you to make an informed decision if you are offered the job.
Below are 10 of our Managing Director, Ben Horn’s favourite questions to ask in a job interview along with a short summary explaining why:
What’s different about working here than anywhere else you’ve worked?
This question compels your interviewer to think about how the company compares to other companies they’ve worked for in the past, and its open-ended nature allows for both negative and positive aspects of their experience. This will enable you to get a better sense of its truly differentiating factors than if you had asked a standard question about what it’s like to work for the company.
How do you measure success?
As a prospective hire, you're likely to be interested in the measures of success in this role. This gives you insight into how you may be measured and at what intervals. It allows you to understand how expectations are set and measured against. It may be worth understanding how your prospective immediate team is performing against their goals.
What attributes would someone in this role need to be successful?
Understanding the attributes that lead to success in the role you’re interviewing for will help you determine whether or not the role may be a good fit. It’s usually a more effective strategy to leverage and build on strengths you already have in case you feel you’ve missed an opportunity to communicate these attributes of yours that fit the role after the interviewer has responded.
How does the company support employees to expand their skills and reach their career goals?
Career development is a desire for all employees so finding out how the company endeavours to support their people to climb the ladder is a good way of understanding the type of support and resources you’ll have at your disposal if you were to join or what you’d have to offer to your team to encourage them to grow in their roles. It also showcases a good amount of ambition without implying that you expect a rapid promotion and a desire to put your team’s careers at the forefront of your mind to get the best out of them.
How does the company recognise and award outstanding performance?
Here, what you’re actually saying is “I plan on being a top performer here or at least a desire for my team to be top performing, therefore how will I be rewarded for that?” This positions you as ambitious and driven, someone who cares about being the best and is willing to put in the hard work to make it happen. It also allows you to understand how your prospective team may be being awarded and if you feel anything you’ve seen from other companies you have worked for could be used as examples of what has worked well to get the best out of people.
What’s important to know about this role that isn’t mentioned in the job description?
This question is great because of how open-ended it is. Not everything can be published on a job description and therefore when you ask it, you never quite know what you’re going to get. It gives your interviewer an opportunity to share something they otherwise wouldn’t and give you information that a lot of candidates would never receive. You could of course get the standard spiel, but it’s worth finding out.
How do I compare with other candidates who have interviewed for this role?
I know, this question is a bit risky, but it can pay off if it falls in your favour. If you happen to be the choice candidate, getting your interviewer to admit as many positives inevitably reinforces their preference towards you. Often, we find that once people commit to something, they are naturally unlikely to go against their nature to reverse that commitment. Having your interviewer say “Yes, you’re my person!” puts you in a great spot. If you find it to be the opposite response, it’s not the end of the world — find out why and strive to change their perception.
If you could change one thing about this company, what would it be?
As mentioned earlier, interviewing is a two-way street. Therefore, the interviewer is equally trying to sell the company to you. This question can uncover some of the standard planned responses (fluff) and uncover interesting aspects of the company that can give you better insight about the company to aid your decision if you are to be offered the role. It’s up to you to read between the lines of what they say, and you can ask follow-up questions if needed (just don’t overplay on this topic).
What are the Board’s expectations?
This question showcases that the board’s views are important to you. You can ask what their strategic plan is or how the role will contribute to the business goals to ensure you are successful in your approach when leading the team/department.
Based on what you know about me at this stage, is there anything that concerns you as to my fit for this role?
Definitely one of my favourite questions that can be asked in an interview, and I’d recommend you pose this one right at the end before the interview is closed. It can go a couple of ways, your interviewer may say “No,” then you’ve almost certainly guaranteed making it to the next stage. If they say “Yes,” then you can work to dispel the opinion and suggest more time with other people on the team to alleviate their concerns. Either way, you’re moving forward in the process and have more time to make your case. However, be warned that it doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it helps massively know where you stand in the process.
Asking your questions during an interview puts some of the power back into your hands. Stand firm when you want clarity if you’re uncertain about something and probe the details you’re interested in learning more about.
This is the time to do your due diligence and uncover something you don’t like than to uncover it when you’ve already started your new role. It’s your career, and you want to make the most informed decision at the end of the process.