Asking questions

Employers are impressed by a demonstrable commitment to self-development. Asking about development opportunities is therefore a good interview tactic. You will demonstrate your capacity to stretch yourself, learn from your experiences, and enhance your skills. And you will also get a useful idea about the company's attitude towards staff development.

It is essential that you prepare questions in advance of the interview. Think about what you really want to know as it presents a great opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, skills and enthusiasm for the job. Some questions may even come to mind while you're at the interview.

Questions should ideally reflect your knowledge both of the position and the organisation. Do not ask questions if the answer to them can be found on the organisation's website. Do, however, ask more probing questions based on your knowledge of what you have read on the website.

Questions you ask could relate to:

  • the strategic direction of the company
  • the potential for you to be involved in key projects
  • changes occurring in the organisation/industry
  • the team you'll be working with
  • opportunities for development.

Question ideas

The following are some example questions you may consider asking your interviewer. Consider what may be relevant before an interview, and rehearse a number you might wish to ask.

Interviewee information

  • What is your background (both academic and experience)?
  • How did your background lead you to this position?
  • How did you become interested in this type of work and how did you get your present job?
  • How long have you worked in this field?
  • What is the most challenging/rewarding aspect of your work/career?

Job characteristics

  • How would you describe your day-to-day responsibilities?
  • What are the duties/functions/responsibilities of this job role?
  • What is unique about your job as compared with others, which are similar?
  • Approximately what percentage of time is spent on each type of job responsibility?
  • What kinds of problems and challenges do you face this role?
  • What constraints, such as time and funding, make the job more challenging?
  • What kinds of decisions do you make?
  • Describe some of the toughest situations you've faced in this job.
  • To what extent do you interact with customers/clients?
  • With which other departments, functional units, or levels of the hierarchy do you regularly interact?
  • How much flexibility do you have in determining how you perform your job?
  • Can you manage your own workflow, or does the nature of your work dictate the pace?
  • Do you work individually or predominantly in groups or teams?
  • How are work teams or groups organized?
  • What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging? Least satisfying?
  • Is multi-tasking a skill that is required for this job?
  • What projects have you worked on that have been particularly interesting?

Department trends

  • How would describe the overall mission and goals of your organization?
  • What are the challenges facing the department?
  • What are the key strategic initiatives?
  • What priority projects or services have been identified?
  • What are the core activities, and services of this department?
  • How would you describe internal or external clients? What is important to them?
  • Where do you see growth or change occurring in the organization?

Job roles overview

  • What skills and knowledge are most critical in this organization?
  • What personal characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in this department?
  • What are some typical job roles in this department? Entry? Mid-Level? Senior roles?
  • What job roles would utilize skills in (e.g. marketing, presentation, data analysis, negotiating)?
  • What do you see the opportunities for growth and development?

Structure & culture

  • What is the management style in this organization?
  • How are decisions made? Do people feel included in the process?
  • Is there a dress code?
  • What is a typical day like?
  • What are normal work hours?
  • Do people work long hours? Is there flexibility? Do people take vacations?
  • How does your use of time vary? Are there busy and slow times or is the work activity fairly constant?
  • How would you describe the pace and cycle of work in this area?
  • Are the time demands of your job specific to this department, or would anyone in this career be expected to work similar hours?
  • What factors would most improve your capacity to provide quality service to your organization?
  • I've built a target list of organizations in this field to research. Would you be willing to look at my list and give me suggestions you might have?

Success factors

  • What are the characteristics and competencies of people who are successful in this field?
  • What does it take to be successful in this type of career?
  • What does it take, in your view, to succeed in this field, department, division, role?
  • What type of person is best suited to the work in this area?
  • What specific functional or technical knowledge is critical to this work?
  • What sacrifices may be necessary to be successful?

Career path & occupational outlook

  • What are typical job roles available in this profession? Entry? Mid-Career? Late Career?
  • What are typical career paths in this field?
  • What experiences, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?
  • What did you do to make yourself marketable?
  • What opportunities for advancement are there in this field?
  • Is the field growing? If so, in what areas? What are the biggest challenges facing this field?
  • What trends would likely to affect someone just entering this profession? At mid-career?
  • How do you see jobs in this field changing in the future?
  • What changes in demand have you seen in the profession?
  • Where do you see the growth opportunities for the profession?
  • How does this career affect your lifestyle and work/family balance?
  • How can I learn more about the field (e.g., journal, publications, professional associations, workshops, seminars, conferences, etc.)?
  • What special advice would give a person entering this field? At mid-career? Late career?
  • What do you wish you had known about this field or organization before you entered it?