Picture the scene – you’re mid-interview for a new job: you’ve prepared to answer any question thrown at you; your body language is calm, friendly and approachable; you’re inquisitive, positive and speak fondly of the opportunity presented to you. Then, your interviewer asks you “have you got any questions for me?”
Here is the crux of any interview you will have, from humble barista to CFO – you need to be able to ask context-driven, relevant questions where the answer will provide further details about the role and signify your interest, passion and unique personal view on the job.
The most important thing to remember is: the questions you ask say more about you than you know.
Interviews should always be a two-way street – they’re equitable opportunities for you, as a candidate, to “interview” your employer on everything from their working culture to leave structures to maternity leave, and more. However, an employer asking you to quiz them is an incredibly open-ended question, and candidates need to be wise and ensure they do not go on a tangent or ask wild, or irrelevant questions.
In short, precise questioning signifies a strong understanding of the role and company and how you fit into it. Vague, or disinterested questioning is a sign of a candidate who, at best, doesn’t have a handle on the role or, at worst, really doesn’t want to be there.
It’s worth noting, that knowing what to ask does get easier the older, and more experienced you get, but there is a framework of questioning that applies no matter your age, demographic or even the type of job you’re applying for.
The power of candidate-centric questioning is in displaying your value proposition – through questioning, you communicate your drivers, your passions, and what you value as an employee.
Consider the following example:
- If your first question to an employer is “what’s the benefit structure like and how do I get a bonus?”. What does that tell your employer about your value system as a worker?
- It could tell them you’re motivated by money and demand competitive remuneration (which is no bad thing!),
- Or it could tell them you’re only motivated by money, at the detriment of everything else.
Equally, candidate-driven questioning gives the employer a chance to talk in more depth about certain aspects of the role not covered in the initial conversation – employers cannot afford to generalise answers especially in sectors with candidate shortfalls, and they need to provide a strong amount of detail and resonance in their answers to convince the applicant they want to work there.
It’s also a chance for employers to be a bit more open about the culture, history and plans for the company, as there are typical lines of questioning from candidates that you can prepare for. And, similar to your candidate’s reasoning, this an opportunity to talk more about your company values.
To break it down further, let’s look at both parties in more depth – candidates and clients, and how they should both approach candidate-led interview questions.
Opening up the floor to a candidate to inquire about your firm is essential for you to get a full understanding of what your candidate values.
However, times are changing: in a post-covid world, and with a digitally native workforce of Gen Z’ers entering the workforce, priorities are shifting to meet the demands of our new normal. You must be prepared to answer questions that circle day to day operations, focus on wellbeing, career-mapping, and workplace culture, such as:
- How did you support your teams through COVID?
- What mental health support do you offer?
- Have you adjusted your benefit offer to take into account remote work?
- How have you changed your operations to take into account remote/hybrid work?
- Have your company priorities changed since COVID took hold?
- What learning and development can I expect in this role?
Younger workers, and workers most affected by COVID, are driven by more than a pay check – they want to see their labour tangibly attached to promotional opportunity; they want to see employee support be much more involved and conscious, and they want their work to be worth more than a profit margin.
You must be expected to understand this, empathise with it, answer any questions regarding it, and use these lines of questioning to advocate for your own unique working culture.
If the last 18 months has shown us anything it’s that the meaning of work has changed – long gone are the city-centric modes of career building. We’re entering a time of hybrid, decentralised work forces and portfolio working – you deserve to know how employers are stepping up to the plate to look after their work forces.
Our advice is, when asked to quiz your prospective employer, focus on what matters to you but equally be empathetic – your new employer has had to ride the pandemic wave, and undoubtedly their systems and method of work will have changed, or be in the process of changing.
- Enquire fairly, and spread your questioning to cover working culture, career expectations and support,
- Do talk about COVID – it was generationally defining, and no one was left unmoved or unscarred by it. Ask your employer how they have changed, and what priorities have changed as a result,
- Finally, ask them what they need in an employee of the future – get your client to talk positively about skills and characteristics, and remind them (where appropriate) of your ability to fit this mould.
Questions in interviews shouldn’t be feared, but they should be prepared for!