Five questions to ask in a job interview (and five to avoid)

Written by: Matt Fraser
Published on: 5 Sep 2022

Penguin Recruitment

Got a job interview coming up? Matt Fraser at Penguin Recruitment shares some questions you could ask your interviewer and a few best not mentioning.

Job interview

A job interview should be just as much about establishing whether the organisation and job appeals to you as whether you’re suitable for them. Try to ask questions that you genuinely want to know whilst also leaving a good impression.

Here are five questions you could have up your sleeve:

1. What is the culture of the organisation like?

There are some things you may only find out once you start working for an organisation but you could ask your interviewer and other team members how they would describe what it’s like to work there. This will also demonstrate your enthusiasm and that you’re keen to get to know them better.

2. How will the success of this role be measured?

This shows you have a strong work ethic, that you mean business and are results-oriented. It will also give you an idea of what you are required to achieve in the role so that if you do take up the position you have an idea of what will be expected of you.

3. Are there any community or charity initiatives the organisation is involved in?

Increasingly, people want to work for organisations that are giving something back to the community. Most organisations are embracing social value and will be glad to tell you about their initiatives.

4. What career development opportunities are available?

Organisations that invest in their people’s career development invest in the business’ future success. By asking about the career development opportunities you will be presenting yourself as someone who wants to learn and succeed. In turn, you get to find out about the development opportunities on offer.

5. Could I have a tour of the workspace?

This allows you to visualise where you will be working (if it’s not a remote-only role) and helps you get a feel for the environment and whether you feel comfortable with it. Do the staff look happy and seem friendly? Is the technology up to your satisfaction? Look out for aspects of a working environment that are important to you to assess if this is somewhere you see yourself working happily.

Some questions you may have on your mind could be answered with a bit of research prior to your interview or otherwise best waiting until you get the job offer.  Here are five questions to avoid asking during the interview:

1. What does the company do?

You’re expected to have done your research into the company and have a good understanding of what they do and indeed why you want to work there. Asking this question in an interview would give the impression that you’re not particularly interested in the company and lack resourcefulness.

2. What will my salary be?

Whilst this is a valid question, in most cases job advertisements show the salary. If not, then there may be a good reason for that, so it would be best waiting until you are offered the job. If you really want the role and are well suited, the salary may be negotiable. However, before applying for a job in the first place you need to decide if you’re willing to invest your time in the application process in the first place if you’re set on a particular salary bracket. Doing your research to benchmark salaries for similar roles in other organisations may help give you an idea of what to expect, although these can vary greatly by organisation size and type.

3. How quickly can I be promoted?

Again, a very valid question many ambitious professionals will have on their mind when applying for roles. However, this is also best waiting until later on in the process. You could flip this to ask what roles other team members have progressed on to.

4. What benefits do you offer?

Of course, you will want to know this but asking this particular question in the first interview is not the time. Some companies list their benefits package on their website, so asking this question could show you haven’t done your research. Focus instead on the duties, responsibilities, clients and projects in the first instance to demonstrate your interest in the company and role.  Salary and benefits information, if not provided upfront, will be provided once you progress through the application process.

5. Who are your competitors?

Whilst this might seem like an intelligent question (and to a degree it is), it would fall in the same category as not doing your research and focusing externally, instead of internally.

The ‘five questions to avoid’ are not bad questions, but you can get some of these answers through doing your prep work and this in turn gives you more time to ask other questions at an interview that you don’t know the answers to.

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