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Ask Questions in Your Job Interview

2 September 2019

It is a skill to ask great questions.  When you are able to do it well, especially in a job interview, the rewards can be tremendous. Without interviewers even knowing why, when you ask them good questions the level of rapport and trust they feel for you gets supercharged.  And when trust and liking are high interviewers see more potential in you.

The ability to ask questions in a job interview marks you out as someone who is inquisitive, open to learning, and high in emotional intelligence. Asking questions also shows you care about and respect the other person.  When you master the skill of asking great interview questions you go a long way to convincing the interview panel that you are someone they would get great value from and enjoy having around.  

Asking questions in a job interview first requires a mind shift.  You have to see the interview as a partnership rather than a one way inquisition.  You are working in partnership with the panel to solve the problem of getting a great person into the role.  Your part of the partnership requires you to not just present the best of yourself so they can assess you, but to also be inquisitive about the role so you can assess if what you bring will fit both your career and what the role needs.

Often people don’t ask questions because they are afraid they will come across as rude, or that their question will betray their ignorance.  To avoid this here are a couple of job applicant question rules to follow:

  • Ask questions the interview panel will enjoy answering.  Ask surprising, generative, positively framed questions that allow them to think.  A good rule of thumb here is to ask future based questions.
  • Ask questions to build rapport. Be keen to understand how the team and the manager and the organisation tick.  Be on a quest to find out the ways in which you are like them.  
  • Ask follow up questions as this shows you have listened and engaged with the answer.  Even something as simple as “Can you tell me a little more about that?” will do. 
    If you are someone who is concerned about falling a little too far along the self promoting line in an interview, asking questions is a good way to shift the focus from you to them.

In looking for things you can ask questions about sit down and list what will really interest you about the role, the organisation, and the team, as often there are great questions sitting behind your interest.  Also consider the things you find curious about it, for example, why does it sit in a particular department and not another, what history has led to it having the status it currently has, what interactions will it have with another area…  

You can ask about things that concern you, just prepare yourself to ask the question positively.  For example: “This role has tight deadlines.  I’m up for this challenge with my skills of x and y.  I am curious about what is being put in place organisationally to support these timeframes?”

What you are specifically interested and curious about should frame your questions, but if you need some inspiration to get you started consider these:

  • It is two years from now.   What would you like to see that is particularly going to mark success in this role? 
  • What level of [insert as appropriate: e.g. creativity, autonomy, flexibility…] will be needed in this role?
  • How does this team celebrate successes?  Follow up with “What successes have been celebrated recently?”
  • How would you sum up your approach as a manager?
  • If you were in my shoes what other questions would you ask?

Finally, take care in asking ‘conditions’ type questions (pay, hours, leave…).  If there are conditions that would stop you taking the role get clear on those before deciding to apply.  Your conditions type questions can be held until you are offered the job and can form part of the negotiations you engage in.

Enjoy partnering with your interviewers and together exploring your fit for their need.

As always, wish you a flourishing career.



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