Grilling Your Interviewer

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The gradsingapore Team
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Interviewees aren’t burned at the stake for asking interesting, smart questions. Quite the reverse, in fact! Making your interviewers think "Wow, you’re intelligent!" will make them warm to you in the best possible way.

You don’t need to wait for the interviewer’s favourite question: "Do you have any questions for us?" to ask some of your own. While you’re in the interview hot seat, it’s a no-brainer to ask good, sensible, no-risk questions at decent intervals throughout the proceedings.

In fact, asking questions actually makes the interview more fun for both parties at the end of the day.

What to ask...

Sensible questions

Since you've got the company's foremost experts on staffing matters all in one room, why not take the chance to clarify important details that your personal company research couldn't cover?

Some examples:

  • You mentioned that the job involved such and such a task. Could you tell me a bit more about what this entails?
  • What sort of training can I expect to receive?
  • How do new starters who join the organisation in this position generally progress? What would be a typical timescale?

Thoughtful questions

Try to ask bigger-picture questions that will help you discover new, useful information and demonstrate your intelligence and positive attitude. While it’s OK to bring along a mental list of questions, you may also want to pick up on things that have been mentioned in the interview.

Good topics to discuss include issues about the organisation, its competitors and its projects or clients.

Some examples:

  • I read in the papers recently that your organisation has just signed an agreement to work with such and such a client. Is this something that I would be likely to get involved with if I do get this position?
  • Will the trend towards X in this market affect the way you work? What are some of the things you're doing to ride the wave/wait it out?
  • Your competitors seem to be doing Y. Is it important for your company to be doing Z? How does this set you apart from them?

Questions to avoid

In a nutshell, avoid asking questions that you should already know the answer to as a pleasant, well-read, and well-researched interviewee.

Don’t ask for information that is clearly stated on the organisation’s website – this makes it seem like you haven't actually done your research.

Likewise, don't ask about something that you’ve just been told in the interview, simply for the sake of something to say – it will look as if you weren’t listening carefully during the interview.

Also, steer clear of questions that make you sound arrogant. "What is your company able to offer me?" will give the impression that you would be difficult to work with.

The same goes for good questions that are not tactfully worded – for instance: "What makes you so different from Company Y? Aren't they doing the same thing as you?"

Lastly, steer clear of any talk concerning salaries or remuneration. It's bad form to discuss how much you expect the company to give you, when your interviewers haven't yet decided if they really want to extend you a job offer!

Other opportunities to ask questions

You may also have the opportunity to talk to other members of the company outside the formal interview. You might be introduced to a recent recruit to have a chat about his or her job, taken on a tour round the building, or joined by other team members for an informal lunch with your recruiters.

Make the most of these opportunities to ask polite questions when appropriate, and listen carefully to the answers. Good questions could include the following:  

  • What job do you do?
  • What type of products/projects/cases do you tend to work on?
  • How long have you been with the company? Did you join as a graduate?
  • Do you find the company a friendly place to work in?
  • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • What are some of the hardest bits of your job?

Keep in mind when talking that it’s very likely that the recruitment team will be taking feedback from everyone who’s spoken to you. So take as much care about what you ask and how you come across in less formal activities as you do in the interview itself.

Above all, great questions to ask at the interview often require you to do a bit of research in advance. It’s a big factor in being a hireable candidate.