In a job interview, bring questions for the interviewer

Diane Stafford
Kansas City Star
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The interviewer doesn’t get to ask all the questions.

If and when you’ve nabbed a job interview, you’re going to be nervous. You’re going to practice your answers to “tell me about yourself” and “tell me why we should hire you.” You’re going to dress nicely and mute your cellphone.

But are you preparing questions to ask the employer? You should.

Your answers to the interviewer’s queries aren’t the only way to show you’re a good fit for the job. The answers you get to your questions could help you decide if the job (or place) is right for you.

Here are a few great suggestions that The Five O’Clock Club, a career transition service, shares with its clients, meshed with some of my thoughts. You should ask:

■How long have you worked here? What do you like about working here?

It’s a good way to level the power field by posing personal questions to the interviewer — but in a human interest way. They indicate you have an interest in others, a good asset in “team-oriented” workplaces.

■Is the job I’m interviewing for a new position? Do others do the same work here? Or did someone previously hold the job who’s not here anymore?

The answers will help you determine whether standards already have been set for the position or if you’ll be plowing new ground.

■May I speak with someone else who does (or did) this job?

If I’m a serious candidate for the job, I’d be concerned if the hiring system barred me from talking to other employees. “Best places” organizations often set up group interviews as another way to detect fit with co-workers and the workplace.

■What is the corporate culture like here?

Interviewers can and do blow smoke, but listen for canned or genuine responses. You could also ask how top management contributes to the culture. It’s good when you get an enthusiastic description of good vibes coming from the top down.

■Can you show me examples of the projects I’d work on?

Presumably you have a clue already. And this question is best posed to a line manager, not a human resources generalist. But if you really don’t have a clear picture of what the job entails, now is the time to get it straight.

■Could you describe your ideal candidate for this job?

If the answer doesn’t sound like you, you need to adjust your pitch to convince the interviewer why you’re a strong applicant. If the answer doesn’t sound like you and you have no interest in being that person, it will help you walk out the door with your head high.

■What would be my biggest challenges in the job?

An honest answer might help you decide if you’re up to the challenge, whether it’s customer complaints, red tape, understaffing or inadequate technical support. If the answer you hear is, “I can’t think of any challenges,” you’re either talking to someone who doesn’t understand the job or someone doing a public relations act.

Remember: A job interview is due diligence time for both sides.

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