A good question could be just the answer

Your Career, Your Choices - A weekly column for job-seekers By Liam Horan, Sli Nua Careers

Q: I have been told I should ask questions during the interview. I thought that was their job, not mine? Is it not my role to answer the questions they pose, rather than the other way around? And if I were to ask questions, what might they be about?

A: I think it can be very powerful to ask questions in an interview, for the following reasons:

Not alone must you be curious about the job/organisation, you must show that curiosity in the interview. If you don’t show it, they mightn’t realise it. Questions are an excellent way of displaying your interest. It’s true of ordinary day-to-day conversation, and it is true of interviews as well, even if you might go about it in a different way. Generally speaking, you should not wait until the end of the interview to ask your first question. You could ask a number of questions by way of clarifying questions they had asked, and also to gain information that allows you to frame your answers. Done properly, it would bring the interview to the realms of a knowledgeable conversation, and that is a good thing. 

Through questions, you can show your knowledge. The right question will impress them. What is the right question? It is a question that seeks to build on existing knowledge you possess – if, for example, in your research you discovered that the company was planning a major diversification, your question might ask them about the inspiration, motivation or justification for doing so. The question should illustrate that you have thought about the business and how it is evolving.

In many instances, employers and interviewers enjoy talking about their own organisation. They tend to be proud of what they have built, and appreciate the fact that you are taking the time to get to know more about it. You should never take for granted the efforts and innovation of those who have brought the enterprise to its current point. 

If they do some of the talking, it takes the pressure off you. And if your questions are intelligent and insightful, they will have a good feeling about the interview – even if they have done more talking than they realise. Conducting interviews can be an extremely draining process and interview panels are grateful for candidates who engage fully. 

You might be the only candidate who takes the time to ask a good question. It might be remembered when the time of reckoning comes. 

The following is a list, though far from exhaustive, of questions you might ask:

For someone holding down my role, what might constitute a typical day?

Where do you see the company’s greatest growth opportunities in the future?

How would my performance be measured? Or what would constitute success in this position?

What do you feel are the main attributes of someone who would be the “ideal candidate” for this position?

Of course, if you didn’t want to get the position, you could use the questions to make sure. Do you close for the races? Half-day Friday, I presume? Any way I’d be able to get a bit of leeway in the summer when I need to get the turf and hay done – you never know when the weather might turn bad? 

You might have more time for the turf than you ever expected. 

Sli Nua Careers (www.SliNuaCareers.com ) have offices in Galway (Patricia Maloney, 091 528883 ), Mayo (Ballinrobe, Claremorris ), Dublin, Sligo, Limerick and Athlone. Their services include CV preparation, interview training, job-searching strategies and career direction. For more details, visit www.slinuacareers.com/galway

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