Job interviews can be daunting, especially if it’s been a while since you were on the job hunt or you’re looking to get into a new field. Even more so if you’re new to interviewing completely! It can make you feel underprepared when you’ve been out of the game for so long, but one of the best pieces of advice you can get is, “When in doubt, ask!”
Asking questions can seem easy. In fact, that advice doesn’t really feel like advice at all, but just common sense. And it is easy, but in reality how often do you truly do it? When we asked our consultants about how often candidates ask questions, the answer was always not often enough.
“Understand and extract as much information from your recruitment agency as you can to assist with your preparation.” — Tim Wearing, Co-Founder
Ask your recruiter everything you want to know about the job and the company, and everything you think might be relevant for your interview. Interviewing for a job is as much about you assessing the company as it is them assessing you, so information is key. It’s best to learn as much as you can from your recruiter than to go into the interview feeling unprepared.
Some example questions you can ask are: “Can you tell me more about the job?”, “How long has the job been open?”, “What are the top skills needed?”, “What is the company culture like?” and, if desired, “Does the company have a remote working policy?”. Recruiters will often have a lot more information about the company than what’s on the advert, so utilise this! If you’re out of questions, ask, “Is there anything else I need to know before going to meet them?”. This will get you an overview of everything you’ve gone over with your recruiter. Don’t forget to make notes!
During your interview, try to get as much first-hand information as you can. Ask about company growth plans, the background of their most successful people, where the company started, or what the opportunities are. Don’t hold back from asking whatever is important to you. As long as you’re displaying a genuine interest in what they’re doing, then your interest will definitely be appreciated, and their answers will help you get an impression of the company as a whole.
Companies want to know that you want to work for them. It’s good to take things they’ve said and incorporate them into your answers. Not only will this show that you’ve been paying attention, but it also demonstrates how you would fit into the company based on their own values. Incorporating these into your questions will give you ideas of what to ask when the time comes and showcases your ability to listen and comprehend.
Another handy tip is to ask your interviewer smart questions that will allow you to elaborate on your experience. Asking things like, “What kind of skills are you looking for in the ideal candidate?” or “Is there anything on my CV that concerns you?” will get you some useful feedback too. You never know, maybe you can explain what you did in a way that might be exactly what they’re looking for.
“When you’re in an interview, make sure you listen to the question you’re being asked. It’s better to ask for clarification than misunderstand and answer the wrong thing.” — Sarah Emmerson, Operations Manager
Misunderstanding the question was a recurring theme across both our tech and engineering consultants. It’s one that can also be easily overlooked as an interviewing weakness. Be prepared to go back and ask your interviewer to repeat themselves. If the interviewer asks you something that seems a bit odd or that you don’t fully understand, don’t just go ahead and try to answer the question. Ask them to repeat it. It will be less awkward than blasting ahead and giving an answer to something irrelevant. Another way to get an interviewer to repeat themselves is to ask them to elaborate on what they mean. More often than not, the interviewer will need a few seconds to think about how to rephrase the question. This way, they will repeat what they said whilst they’re thinking.
In brief: questions, questions, and questions! There’s no point in leaving an interview unsure. Don’t wonder, “What did they mean by that?” or “Did they like me?”. If you don’t ask, you won’t know!
If you haven’t had the chance to read some of our other articles based on advice from experts in the field, check out how to invest in and educate yourself when you’re not “fully qualified” for a job and how to stand out when applying in a competitive market.