Attending job interviews is one of the hardest parts of the job search process. The main reason for this is the uneven distribution of power that can exist. When being interviewed, some people feel their very survival (real or perceived) relies on them getting that job.
What’s interesting about this power imbalance, where the recruiter or hiring manager holds most of the power, and the candidate feels like a victim, is that this imbalance can be corrected and I’m going to show you how.
Please consider this. The person interviewing you would much rather you show your true self in the interview, rather than the nervous you who acts like a deer caught in the headlights while crossing the highway.
But how do I tackle those nerves Marina, I hear you ask! And I am so glad you are reading this and wondering this, because it’s your ability to ask great questions in an interview that will help you prepare and perform better at interviews. It’s also my hope that it will redistribute the perceived power inequity and help you make better choices about your next role.
Let’s flip your thinking on this power issue and consider this. As a candidate, you have the power to help the person recruiting for the role solve a problem. You have skills, expertise and abilities that they want. The person interviewing you may have more at stake than you do because a bad decision on their part means significant and unnecessary cost and impact to their reputation within the company.
To be successful in an interview you need to be authentic and present the best possible you. Stop thinking about how you ‘should’ behave in an interview and what the ‘right’ thing to say is and focus more on researching the company and considering what they’re looking for and how you best meet their requirements. Spend time thinking through and writing down examples of previous experience and scenarios that match what you are capable of and what they need. Think about how you would describe these examples in words you normally use, practice your delivery and focus on cultivating your inner strength. This will enable you to present a more comfortable and real experience for everyone at your next interview.
And here’s the thing I really want to share with you, because it’s a game changer if you’re yet to try it. When you understand that an interview is a conversation that allows both (or all) of you to explore the possibility of you being part of or leading the team, then you will appreciate the value of asking questions. It’s a key way for you to show the real you, relax into and engage better in the conversation.
While there will be some formality during the interview, there will also be opportunities to ask questions. If you see an opportunity, as you’re being asked questions on any of the topics below, ask whether you may please ask a question. If you’d prefer, you can wait until the end of the interview to ask your questions. Use your discretion as to what’s appropriate, and consider whether you want to work at an organisation where asking questions for clarity or further understanding is discouraged.
Here are some examples of the types of questions you may ask during a job interview. While you may prepare these in advance (in your head, at least), I encourage you to ask questions relevant to the conversation during the interview. The act of listening will be an asset if you use it to inform some of the questions you ask.
Examples of questions you may like to ask about the role include:
Open questions exploring the job description in more detail are a great way for you to assess the challenges and opportunities within this role.
Asking about the team dynamics, including size of the team, how long team members have been with the company, how the team meets, celebrates success and communicates are great ways to assess the organisational culture and your ‘fit’ within the team dynamic.
If your Manager is in the interview, it may be suitable to ask questions directly to them. If not, you can ask about who this role reports to and how they would describe this person’s leadership style.
This is where your pre-reading before the interview will help. Hopefully you’ve read the organisation’s annual report (if publicly available), made your way through their website and follow their updates on LinkedIn.
Develop some questions based on what you’ve noticed about the company’s approach and plans based on what you’d like to know more about. You may like to ask:
Rewards and remuneration are a focus in many industries right now as a way to attract great talent. Asking questions about employee benefits goes beyond remuneration and considers questions that may relate to remote and flexible work options. Many organisations also offer wellness programs. If you’ve done your research, you’ll be well versed on how they approach these elements. Prepare some questions based on your findings if this is relevant to your particular situation.
Many organisations offer an induction program for new employees. You can ask questions like:
As you come towards the end of the interview it’s absolutely to fine to ask what the next steps may be for their interviewing process. This will help you assess their timeline and how many other people they are interviewing.
At the end of the interview you may also like to ask “Is there anything I need to add or clarify, to help you make your decision?” This is an especially important question if you are getting positive vibes in regard to whether this is the right job and company for you!
Asking some of these questions, as relevant to the role and your research, will help you assess:
It’s how you determine whether this opportunity is just ‘a job’ or ‘the job’.
I know you need a job. What I want for you is the right job that matches your goals and aspirations, leverages your skills and experience, is located in the right company with values that align with yours, and has you working with co workers who’ll really ‘get you’. And it’s my belief, based on the many clients I’ve worked with who are in active job search, that if you use the suggestions I share about asking the right questions at your next job interview you’ll be in a much stronger position to assess if this is the right job for you. It’s also how you can balance out the power and reveal the real you in the interview.
A job interview does not need to feel like a test. It can and should be an exploration of how you and your potential employer click. What you can control in the interview is the opportunity to assess ‘role and cultural fit’. The person interviewing you will be thinking about your suitability in terms of the team dynamic, the organisation and the hiring manager. Importantly, if you’re not the right fit, it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you. It just means that there was someone who was a better option for that particular set of circumstances.
If you are in active job search or have a family member, friend or colleague who needs some extra support in their job search, I can help. I partner with men and women to provide clarity and guidance on achieving a more satisfying career. I will support you until you get a job and can review your CV, prepare you for interviewing and help you navigate the open & hidden market to find your ideal job.