Deciding on questions to ask the interviewer can be one of the most stressful parts of the interview process. Often candidates hurry through this part, relieved to have the interview over as quickly as possible. Others ‘go through the motions’ by asking unoriginal questions to fill the time.
Asking intelligent and thoughtful questions reinforces your suitability as a candidate and demonstrates you are serious about the job. It also allows you to gain a better insight into whether the role is really for you.
Here are our top ten questions to ask – although we recommend you don’t ask them all! Two or three questions leading to a real dialogue are best.
Questions about the requirements of the role
1. What are the key priorities in the first few months of the job?
The answer will give you clues to the real day to day challenges and any political / practical constraints. Of course, the panel might ask you what you think the priorities should be – so make sure you have given this some thought.
2. What criteria will be used to assess my performance?
This is asking about the real objectives of the job . Again, make sure you have some ideas of your own about reasonable performance indicators.
3. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the new post holder?
The panel should refer to both internal and external opportunities and constraints.
Questions about career development and progression
4. What have previous post holders gone on to do?
This will give you an idea of typical career routes and how good a training ground the job is for upward progression.
5. What opportunities are there to train / gain experience in (a particular area)?
Make sure you pick something which is relevant to the job – especially something which is growing in importance for the dept. This also demonstrates a commitment to your own learning and progression.
6. What scope is there for me to use my experience/ skill in ... in the role?
You may have a particular qualification, area of expertise or skill (such as a language). This is an opportunity to showcase additional aspects you can bring to a job – but only if this would be of genuine use in the role.
Questions about the strategic direction of the organisation
7. How will the organisation’s plan to (select a key strategic objective) affect this role?
Particularly useful if you have genuine concerns about the impact a particular change may have (such as a drive for future cost efficiencies or increased student numbers).
8. How do you see the department / role developing in the longer term?
A very open question which may flush out any major planned changes, such as a re- organisation. If asked to clarify this further, you can relate this to specific strategic objectives.
Questions about the interviewer’s own experience
9. What do you enjoy most about working here?
You can impress the panel by researching the interviewers’ career histories and asking how they find working here compared to working at a previous institution.
10. How would you describe the organisational culture/ working environment?
As an external candidate you may want to ask about the organisational culture; for an internal role in a different department better to ask about the working environment.
Save any questions about salary / incremental points, working hours and employment benefits until the final stage of selection when you have been offered the job and are able to negotiate from a stronger position.
Don’t forget to make a strong final impression by thanking the panel for their time, restating your suitability for and interest in the post and asking about the next steps in the selection process.