Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Job Interview Tips: Questions You Must Ask

I've been to a lot of interviews in my professional career, and in all that time I've learned that there are a few questions that you, as a candidate, simply must ask your interviewer during that first round. I've shared them below.

Skills & Responsibilities

What are the top skills I will need for this position?

What responsibilities will this position entail?

What are the top tasks that I will need to accomplish on a daily basis?

What responsibilities and tasks will take up most of my time?

Is there anything you have seen in other people you have interviewed that you have not seen in me?

The Position

Whom will I be reporting to?

Whom will I be working most closely with?

Is this a new position? If not, why did the previous person leave?

Are there any particular concerns I need to be prepared for in this position?

What will a typical day/week be like?

The Department

How is this dept. structured?

How many people does this dept have?

What are the current challenges in this dept?

The company

What scope is there for personal development at your company?

Are there opportunities for growth, both horizontal and vertical?*

Pointed Questions

What do you like about working here?

Is there anything you would like to change?

When can I expect a response from you?

Do not:

Don't ask general questions about the company's work - you're expected to know this.

Don't ask about work days & timings, overtime & leave policy, travel & relocation requirements, etc. It might give your employers the impression that you're finicky. Just wait for your interviewers to brief you about these details themselves. It's what they usually do. If not, wait until a later round before you bring them up.

Don't discuss your salary under any circumstance during the first interview round. If you are asked for a figure, don't mention a specific sum or range. Wait till the final round and make them put a number down, which you can then use to negotiate over.

*Don't ask too many questions about your career path unless you're a fresher or young executive interviewing at a large firm. Large firms want young people to grow with them (though that growth can be slow and somewhat bureaucratic). If you have experience, or are being interviewed for a specialist or very technical and somewhat senior role, or interviewing at a small firm that probably has a flattish hierarchy, asking too many questions about vertical growth might give your interviewers the jitters, as they're looking for someone to perform a certain role and remain in that role, and not necessarily grow.

Don't ask if your job is going to be fun or if the company is a fun place to work. Everyone wants a fun place to work but asking this question at a company with a serious corporate culture is like committing Seppuku. Instead, observe the company's culture yourself by looking around when you visit their office. If in doubt, or if it's a telephonic interview, ask an open ended question about company culture.

If you're planning to go on leave, wait till you get an offer first before mentioning it.

Please note: 

These questions apply to jobs in general. If you're being interviewed for a sales, business development, strategic planning role, etc. you're probably going to want to ask a lot more pointed questions involving the company's prospects, targets and revenue, etc. And you're questions would automatically take on a more technical bent if you're applying for a technical job.

Do have any good candidate questions that you feel should be included on this list?



Gyanban said...

When I take interviews I always tend to ask -

were it not for the branding,money,and growth..why else would you join this company?

90% fail to answer.They say joining because of the branding, or money is good,...gives me the impression that the person is unclear on what he wants to achieve in life.

Daniel D'Mello said...

Thanks Gyanban, that's a topic so vast, I'll need to dedicate a completely different post to it, as it brings into focus the question of personal motivation.

Why do we want to do this type of work? What is it about this type of work that excites us? How will it fit into my long term goals? A candidate needs to ask himself/herself these questions before attending an interview, IMO.

Nice blog, by the way. I'm following.

Gyanban said...

read this bit - see if it matches your pov -


thanks for the follow.

Daniel D'Mello said...

Oh yeah, and the interviewer's faults are another matter entirely. Glad to see someone do a post on it. In all fairness, I don't think it's possible to find an interviewer who doesn't have any prejudices. We all have a few. But the best interviews I've been to are ones without people holding checklists in their hands.

Roshmi Sinha said...

Useful tips...

Daniel D'Mello said...


Vishal said...

Thanks for sharing most valuable tips. Keep good work.

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