The Benefits of Talking Back: What Questions Should a Candidate Ask in an Interview?

Posted on July 2014 By Speller International
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It’s the question interviewers always finish up with and the one our minds so often go blank on. You had questions, loads of them, but what were they? They were there a minute ago! Where once a hundred questions lay in wait, a single tumbleweed blows through the ghost town of your mind…

In all seriousness, it is important to remember that when you attend an interview, the company is interviewing you, but you are interviewing the company too. Just as it is important for the person recruiting to find the right fit for their team, it is important for you to find a team that you fit into as well.

The best way to do this is to use that question time wisely! Because we have all experienced the mind-blank when that final question comes up, we’ve devised a few easy-to-remember questions that will show you whether you and your dream job are destined to live happily ever after.

Here they are in no particular order (in case you were worried):

What do you like about working for this company?

Gaining an understanding about what your interviewer likes about his or her workplace is crucial in getting to know what your day-to-day existence will be like should your interview be successful. This question is particularly good if the interviewer is going to be your direct manager as it gives you an idea not only about the company, but also what they are like as a person. Which leads us to a related but more broadly scoped question…

Can you give me an overview of the company culture?

Whether your position will be short or long term, contract or permanent, it is important to understand what the company culture is and what that means for you. Companies, like people, have unique personalities and these drive operations, problem solving, work flow and any number of other elements that can directly affect your role on a day-to-day basis.

If I started working here and in 12 months we reviewed what I had achieved, what factors would have made me successful in this position?


What are the three most important skills required to excel in this position?

These two questions go together like peas and carrots and their outcome is the same: gaining a genuine understanding of what the interviewer is looking for in terms of skills, so you can get a clear picture of whether or not you are a good fit for the position. While it might seem like the job is perfect for you on paper, position descriptions can be unclear – so it always pays to ask.

What are the biggest challenges this team/department faces?

The answer to this question doesn’t just offer a great insight into how the team or department is currently working, it also allows you to showcase how your skills will benefit the team in addressing these challenges, rather than just completing the basic functions of the role you are applying for.

How can I best contribute to this department?

“Think not what the department can do for you, but what you can do for the department.” Joining a team means exactly that – making your achievements part of a wider, shared success. Asking this question not only gives you valuable information as to how to achieve in your prospective role, it also shows you are a team player who is concerned with the team doing well – not just meeting your own KPIs.

Does the company offer personal development or training?

This question is better suited to interviews for permanent roles. Interviewers want to see that you are interested in growing with your role and adding value to yourself as well as to the organisation. Additional training is mutually beneficial and so is this question: it shows the interviewer you are interested in learning and it shows you whether the organisation is interested in helping you add to your skills set.

So there you have it. Hopefully these burning questions will stop those tumbleweeds through your brain at the end of an interview and assist you in finding and securing a position that is genuinely perfect for you. Stay tuned next month when the tables turn and we talk about what an interviewer should always ask a candidate.