Most interviews are a professional two way exchange led by the interviewer. There is usually an expectation by the person running the interview that the candidate will want to ask questions either throughout the meeting, or perhaps at the end.
In fact, it is usual practice for this to be explained in the introduction to the format of the meeting. It has also become popular to evaluate the candidate on the questions they ask, with this being viewed as an indication of their interest in the role, preparation, and prior company research.
Indeed, the savvy candidate will often go beyond asking about training opportunities and organisational design, to venturing into strategic topics which might be effecting the business, such as Brexit or Trump being elected. The interview questions are no longer there to fill the gaps from the content of the interview, but to allow the candidate to demonstrate their intellect and suitability for the role.
The first thing I advise candidates to do is thoroughly research the company, and this includes looking at their website, press releases, any published financial reports, news sites, and so on. Pay particular attention to any strategic developments such as mergers/acquisitions/venture capitalist investment. Also topical will be any recent or upcoming product or service launches. Note everything of interest down as you do your research, making it easier to formulate questions thereafter.
There will be information that you want to know the answer to that does not get covered in the interview. These questions may not set the world alight, but they are important so that you can make an informed decision if you were to be offered the role.
These are a few common examples:
1) Will there be internal and/or external training opportunities?
2) How is performance management undertaken and how frequently?
3) How is succession planning managed?
4) How would you describe the organisational culture?
5) From a team perspective where does the role I am interviewing for fit in?
6) Is there a progression plan for the role I am interviewing for?
7) How long have people typically stayed in this role previously?
8) Will I have line management responsibility?
9) What are the next stages in the recruitment process?
The former set of questions are fairly generic but the more advanced/strategic questions will be based upon the organisation you are interviewing for. However, to stimulate some ideas, these are some fictitious examples:
1) You recently acquired Company B, but prior to that acquisition, growth was solely organic. Do you think the business will revert back to organic growth now, or continue to explore other acquisition targets?
2) A new CEO came into the business 6 months ago. Has this had any impact on the strategic direction of the business?
3) Last month I read in the press that the sales business made 200 redundancies. Is there an expectation that this rationalisation of staff will continue across other business areas in the coming months?
4) From a facilities management perspective, do you feel that the organisation regards it as a strategic function?
You can see from these examples that they are often close to the organisational strategy and current business activities. This may mean that the interviewer does not feel it is appropriate to answer.
You should of course word questions in a way that you are not seeking trade secrets, but are simply showing interest and looking to foster a discussion. It is a fine balance, but one that can easily be achieved with thought and through preparation.
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