You’ve been applying for weeks or months on end, and finally you’re talking with companies. The inner Girlboss in you is screaming from the rooftops, but secretly it’s scary as hell. Going on job interviews in nervewrecking. The night before, you’re prepping like you’re studying for final exams, you sift through a company’s website like you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, and on the day itself you try to wear your best women-in-business outfit that does not show any creases, bra straps, or potential nerve-sweat. So, you’ve had your 30 minutes to 1 hour interview trying to best answer and present yourself and then comes the final question: Do you have any questions? OF COURSE YOU DO! First things first, never say you no longer have any questions. It is A. untrue, ‘cause people are generally curious beings and B. it shows you have no real interest for the job if you couldn’t even be bothered to research the company/team/product/project/role and think on additional questions.
I’m the kind of person that already starts asking 10 minutes in, because the question either is relevant to the topic of conversation, or something that I want clarity on from the start. Interviewing is a two way street. You’re not in court. These are people you’ll be working with 40 hours a week, for months, perhaps years to come. It needs to be a conversation. So, what are good questions to ask? and what if the worst thing happens: what if you blank out? What if you’ve forgotten what was on your meticulously put together scrap cards? what to ask?!
Do you have flexible workspaces and hours?
In this day and age, I find it astonishing to come across companies where people really stick to 9 to 5 and have to be IN-HOUSE behind their desks in their cubicles. It’s 2015 and we no longer need to be fixed to the same place. I sometimes start at 7 and can leave at 2, or I start at 10 and work till 6. Or I go to the gym from 13.30 to 14.30 when it’s super quiet. Sometimes I’m on a plane slamming out e-mails, or on a train having a Skype call. We live in a mobile world, and I find it highly important to be able to move. This affects both the business and my health positively. To have the flexibility to work when I want, where I want. As an employee, I want and need to make the best of my time possible. Some of my most productive work has been put together while I was out on my balcony in my PJ’s sipping on some fine coffee. So make sure to check what their policy is. Do you really want to be stuck in a grey cubicle for 30% of your days?
What does success in this role look like?
This is a great indicator of what your potential new boss will ‘score’ or evaluate you on along the year. It reaches far beyond just the job description. It will tell you about the development you can go through, even future career possibilities. It also might highlight responsibilities or trademarks you might still need to learn. It’s a good evaluation for you to see whether you think you’ll be able to deliver
Does the role require a lot of travel?
This is a very subjective question. ‘a lot’ for one person can seem like ‘a little’ to another. For me, travel is a big plus. However, if you’ve got pets/a manfriend/husband/kids/plants to water this might be something to consider. Not everybody likes to be on the road. So, first await their response. It can be that they travel 2 days out of the week (which is a lot) and think it’s normal. This again shows a lot about culture and the ‘standards’ at a company. Follow up asking how many days in the week/month of travelling she or he does and if the role you’re applying for is similar.
What do you like best about working for this company?
AKA, how’s the culture and what do employees appreciate most. It’s an unexpected and personal question which often puts people out of ‘interviewing’ mode and back into ‘human being’. This is a question that has given me the best insights into a job. Because after all, you don’t choose just the job, you choose the whole package. It is also a way, for a smart interviewer, to pick out some key items he/she would like to sell you on. Growth opportunities, benefits, impact, responsibility, flexible workhours, office events, international career possibility. It’s all passed in conversations. Including the bad ones. For example, there was one company for which I had 7 interviews and 7 times I got the same answer: ‘well, we have free food day and night’ Believe me, I’m a sucker for anything eatable, but if that’s the best your employees can come up with, it doesn’t seem their jobs are very challenging or inspiring now are they? I ended up going to the competition.
What’s your perception so far and do you have any reservations about hiring me?
BAM, straight up. Locked and loaded. It depends very much on whether you feel comfortable with asking this or not. But it’s good to know the hesitations your interviewer might have. It gives you a clear insight into how you’ve presented yourself so far and how you’ve been perceived. It also gives you a direct opportunity to elaborate or lift any of their reservations. I’ve once had that I came in to apply for one role and ended up leaving with another as it was a better fit. Same company, same manager, but my experience could be better applied in a different function. Generally, I find interviewers rather liked this boldness. It shows you’re not afraid of potential confrontations and feedback. If it’s simply not a right fit, you know straight away, instead of anxiously waiting 6 days before a bad-news call. Sometimes it ends up not even being something about you personally, but practical reasons like headcount, visa requirements, internal hiring policies vs external. If you’re brave enough to ask it, you’ll have clarity from the start
Don’t kill them with kindness, kill them with questions