Interviewing is as much about you as it is about the company that’s hiring. When you go on an interview, you’re asked questions so that the interviewer can assess your skills, work experience, and ability to function under pressure. As the interviewee, you can clarify questions you have about the company and determine if the work culture is a good fit for you. Interviews are a two-way street, and your job is to ask the questions that will help you make the right decision.
Do your homework
One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to research the company as well as the people who will be interviewing you. You should know how profitable the company is at the moment, any challenges they’re facing and the initiatives they have set for the near future. When it comes to the individuals you’ll be meeting with, read their bios on the company website and check out their LinkedIn profiles.
Finding financial information won’t be hard if the company is public, because they’re required to share this information with shareholders and make the call transcripts public. You can also create a Google Alert so that any recent information about the company goes straight to your inbox. Additionally, check out their social media to see what they’re posting about and how they interact with their audience.
As you do your research, jot down any questions that pop up. If you can, find the answers to them on your own, and keep track of the questions you weren’t able to answer. You don’t want to ask a bunch of insignificant questions during your interview, but you can definitely ask a couple if you’re genuinely curious or concerned about something.
Bring a notepad to the interview
The last question of every interview almost always is, “Do you have any questions for us?” If you’ve been paying attention during the interview, there’s probably something you’re wondering about. By saying, “Nope, you answered them all!”, you can come off as uninterested in the company or role or too nervous to speak up, neither of which makes you look like a good candidate for the position. By bringing a notepad into the room, you can have a reminder of the question(s) you came armed with.
It’s also possible that the question you were gearing up to ask is answered during the interview. In that case, asking it will look like you weren’t paying attention. Throughout the interview, jot down notes with questions you want to ask, then choose one or two to ask at the end to show you’re invested in the position. Easy follow-up questions include asking the interviewer to expand on something they’ve brought up or to find out when you can expect to hear from them.
Talk about the job skills that are preferred
It’s common for job descriptions to have a list of job requirements, but many also have a list of preferred skills that they’d like to see but that aren’t required. If you’re interviewing for a marketing role, job requirements will include things like strong writing skills, experience running social media campaigns, and creative newsletter design. If a preferred skill is something you don’t have, like creating YouTube videos, talk to the interviewer about it. Find out how big of a need they have for that skill. Ask if they’ll cover training courses. Or, if the job description was vague, ask for clarification about the role’s daily responsibilities.
You want to make sure you’re not going to be thrown into a job that you’re not qualified for. It wouldn’t be fair to say that a certain skill is not required, yet still expect you to do it at an expert level. This is the time to set realistic expectations, and you can also show your willingness to learn a skill that you don’t possess yet. Plus, asking about the job description details show that you went through the listing thoroughly and you know the job you’re interviewing for.
Find out what’s expected of you
Beyond the actual responsibilities, you’ll carry out, ask the interviewer questions that define the company’s expectations. For example:
- What are the most important qualities a person can have for this job?
- What are your expectations in the first month, quarter, and year?
- What career path do people tend to follow when they’re in this role?
First, asking these questions will show you how much the interviewer actually knows about the role they’re hiring for. Somebody in the HR department may not know details about the actual job you’ll be performing. In that case, do more research on your own before accepting an offer. Second, you can form an idea of how you’ll need to perform, and then decide if you’re up for the challenge (or if it’s challenging enough).
Ask about safety-related issues
Certain jobs have a higher risk than others, like manufacturing and construction, and you want to make sure your safety is a priority when you head into work every day. In the United States, chemical exposure is the eighth leading cause of death, and over 32 million workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals at work. While the rates for worker illnesses, injuries and deaths have gone down, you have to make sure your company is one that prioritizes health and safety. Legal requirements for workplace health and safety include signage that warns of hazards, safety training for all employees and visible OSHA posters. If possible, ask for a tour of where you’ll be working to see for yourself if some of these signs are present.
You’ve likely heard about jobs that exposed workers to asbestos and led to diseases like mesothelioma – a number of industries were impacted, from auto mechanics and firemen to electricians and painters. Many companies that exposed their employees to asbestos never warned the workers or publicized their health studies. While you should ask as many safety-related questions as possible, also take it upon yourself to do research on the side – some companies won’t be as forthcoming as they should.
Go find your dream job
A great interview can mean landing the job you’ve always wanted – so long as you actually want to work for the company after interviewing for them. When people head into an interview, they worry about impressing the interviewer. You have to be impressed too, though. If the interviewer seems bored, rushed or rude, you may decide this isn’t the type of company you want to be part of. Don’t hesitate to ask the questions you need answered to make the best choice possible.
About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who has a particular interest in social justice, politics, education, healthcare, technology, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @ HamiltonJori.
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