• Heather Topf

The 8 most interesting questions to ask in an interview to bag the job

Updated: May 23

2020 has, undoubtedly, shaken us all a little bit on the job front.

Whether you're considering a career change, you've decided to make the leap from freelancer to employee or furlough has given you the chance to reevaluate what you'd really like to get from your working day, you may be considering applying for a new job.

A daunting task at the best of times, it may feel even more difficult due to the sheer number of applicants you know are applying for a job at any one time.

A friend and I were discussing what a great question 'how did you treat your employees during lockdown' would be for that inevitably awkward bit at the end of the interview where they ask you if you have any questions for them.

Now, more than ever, it's important for your application to stand out from the others sitting on the prospective employee's desk. From a cover letter that screams 'read me!', to a grammatically perfect CV or application form subtly highlighting your experience tailored to the job in question, to the interview itself, you simply must present your best self to give yourself a fighting chance of getting the job.

The reason my friend and I thought the above question was so good, is because it's relevant, topical and ever so telling. You can learn a huge amount about a company from the way they treat their people, and just as much from the way a company deals with having to pivot in the face of adversity.

If I was an interviewer, I'd see great potential in someone who had the foresight to ask such a question and was brave enough to pose it out loud. And, I'll happily point out it was my friend's idea - I'm not just blowing my own trumpet here 🎺

Interviews are a little bit frightening and in the day and age of Zoom meetings and dodgy connections perhaps even more so. But, as they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

It's so easy to freeze when they ask you if you have any questions (yes, I'm talking from experience), but it's actually a really huge opportunity to present yourself as the correct person for the job.

The relevance of these questions will obviously depend a lot on the role in question, but here are an example of 8 interesting questions to ask in an interview to bag that dream job.

1. What is your favourite part of working here?

People enjoy talking about themselves, it's a fact of life. Let the interviewer give you some insights into what they love and mirror their answer if it's appropriate. Just don't outright lie! If their favourite part of the job is speaking at events and you cower in the face of talking in public, you're likely to get caught out pretty soon. Also, look out for negative answers. If your interviewer struggles to find something about the job they enjoy, is this really the company for you?

2. Is there anything I can do to improve my skillset while you're making your decision?

You're showing that you're willing to go the extra mile to impress someone. If you're going to do that in the interview process, you're likely to do it in the job as well - who doesn't want that person to be on their team?

3. What is it about your current favourite employee that makes them stand out?

Employees aren't like children, you're allowed to have your favourites. And chances are your potential employer has theirs. Whether it's an attitude or an aptitude that makes their current member of staff shine, learning about them will give you the chance to emulate that behaviour during the rest of your interview.

4. What type of employee tends to succeed and move onto more senior roles here?

As a rule of thumb, people want to employ ambitious people. If you're keen to progress up the career ladder, you're going to need to push forward, provide innovative ideas and work hard in your current role, which will be beneficial for everyone involved. Showing interest in how to be the kind of person that gets ahead in their company speaks volumes about the attitude you're likely to bring to a team.

5. Is there anything that we didn't cover during this interview that is important to your decision-making process?

We all know that feeling, where we suddenly think of the best question, remark or retort way after the moment has passed. Don't forget whoever is interviewing you is a person too. At this point in the interview, you're both likely to have relaxed a little, so it's the perfect opportunity to create a window for a question they're remembered they wanted to ask.

6. What do you see as reasonable boundaries to an employee's work-life balance?

Work-life balance is a crazy seesaw, especially in some industries where an 'always on' attitude is the only way to ensure proper quality of service. However, a good employer will recognise the need for everyone at a company to take adequate time away from a project to thrive in their role. Finding out if your idea of reasonable or even possible matches up to that of your potential new job role is so important to your long term mental health.

7. Where do you see the company in five years time?

They probably asked you a similar question sometime earlier in the interview, but that's no bad thing. Do the companies growth goals match yours? Are their ethics and ambitions something you can align to? If not, you may want to chalk this interview up to good experience and move on. Equally, if they're excited about a new idea, product or service, you may find yourself caught up in the excitement - it's catching after all. Genuine passion for an idea will show and your suitability for the role will shine with it if it's real.

8. Is there anything about me that you're unsure about? If so I'd love the opportunity to address them right now

This isn't a comfortable question, which is why it's great to ask. It's not easy to ask or answer questions that make us uncomfortable, but sadly they do come up in the work environment. Having the guts to ask outright shows a particular resilience. It may also offer you the opportunity to clear up something that was taken out of context or misunderstood, or to explain some experience that makes up for a gap in formal education or vice versa.

As with every part of looking for a new job, make sure you do your research. If possible, don't ask questions you can easily find the answers for on Google, but for bonus points make a statement about something you found interesting in your research of the company and elaborate with a well thought out question.

Are there any other questions you think should have made the list? If you've recently nailed an interview, or you're used to being on the other side of the table as an interviewer, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

And if you're reading this because you have an imminent interview - good luck!

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