You have just experienced one of the best interviews you have ever had and are confident that you did your best, or you have not enjoyed the interview experience at all and you just want to leap through the door as soon as you can, or it was something in between – and then you are asked “Do you have any questions?”
This is a standard question, probably asked by every interviewer I have known, and yet it still takes some candidates by surprise. Even if they have expected it, sometimes the mind goes completely blank at that moment.
So how do you deal with it?
Two ways – Prepare and Engage, which lead to Clear Thinking
This is a broad subject in its own right but there are three key components of an interview, You, the Interviewer(s) and the Job Role. You will be far more relaxed at interview if you have prepared well for all these areas and less likely to have a mind freeze.
As far as preparing ‘You’ is concerned, be really clear where your Skills and Behavioural Competencies match the job requirements and where you would need training and development, ensure your CV is Achievement based and gives the reviewer some idea of your character. For instance, if it is a Sales role and the advertisement mentions words like Lively, Enthusiastic, Creative, then they will be looking for some evidence of this to leap off the front page. In this example, the reviewer may consider sales people who come from a structured corporate background may not be as effective in a flatter, smaller company where the culture and challenges will differ – unless they get a sense of it from the CV. Remember, your CV has approximately 6-7 seconds to make an impression. For further tips on creating an effective CV, please view my recent blog post 8 tips for Successful CV Writing. Be aware, at all times, of the impression you are creating and this starts from the initial CV application or telephone call through to the interview and after the interview. Whatever job level you are applying for, prospective employers will be impressed if they see enthusiasm for the role, politeness and a neat appearance. This doesn’t necessarily mean ‘suited and booted’ as many companies are informal so this is worth checking beforehand but whatever the style, you need to look as though you have taken the trouble to dress appropriately for the occasion.
Preparation with regard to the Interviewer(s) focuses primarily on learning beforehand who will be conducting the interview and what format it will take. If you have not been given this information beforehand, it is perfectly in order to make a call to the company to find out. If a recruitment agency has made the arrangements then it should be the minimum information they are likely to provide. Ideally, before you attend an interview you should have gained some idea of the background of the interviewers – Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites make this very straightforward. Visit their company website and see if their role is mentioned. There is no golden rule regarding interview format but you should be prepared for an technical/skills based questions conducted by the line management, human resources are likely to conduct the behavioural competencies and personality elements and these can be one to one, two to one, panel, group selections, assessment centres over one or multiple occasions. So you need to be prepared for any eventuality.
Preparation regarding the Job Role should focus on the advertisement, job description and the company. Whether you have both the advertisement and the job description prior to interview depends on the recruitment process. The benefits of practising typical interview questions cannot be over estimated. You will find some examples in my free eBook Taking the Fear Out of Interviews. One key benefit is that you will establish in your own mind exactly where your experience and behavioural competencies match the role and will respond more fluently to the interviewer’s questions. In addition, research the company in-depth. Be a sponge to absorb as much as you can about the company’s position in its marketplace. Is it a brand leader? Who are the main competitors? What are the main products or services? Are they national, international, global? Are they going through growth or consolidating? Who are the key players or members of the board? What are their backgrounds?
Write down questions prior to attending the interview. It is absolutely fine to take these to the interview with you and refer to them when asked. Your questions should be a good mix across the role/qualities/current challenges/scope for development; the company/products/services/ department/team and the industry/market position/future projections.
Whatever form the interview may take, it is important that some rapport is established. Experienced interviewers will normally try and put you at your ease – within reason – as they know that best results are more likely to come from a conversational style interview and not interrogation. If you have prepared well, then once you enter the interview your mind can focus on what you are being asked. Be a willing participator and answer questions as fully as possible whilst being concise. Be mindful of how your interviewer is reacting and you should be in no doubt if you have taken too long! The need for engagement applies to all aspects of the interview. For instance, if you are in a Group Selection or at an Assessment Day, throw yourself into the spirit of things and you will shine!
“Do you have any questions?”
If you have Prepared and Engaged then you should be ready to say “Yes” and the questions are more likely to come naturally.
For example, you have learnt during the course of the interview that the company has recently restructured the IT team. Your question could be: “You mentioned that the team has recently restructured, can you expand on why this was done and what challenges may face a new person?” This shows that you were listening to the interviewer and that you are interested in gaining more insight to the new role.
Or through your research of the company you are aware that there is talk of a merger with a competitor but it was not covered in much detail, or at all during the interview. A question, in this instance, could be “Your company is in the news regarding a possible merger with a competitor, XYZ, what effect do you think this will this have on the current product line/ culture/ morale ?” A question like this demonstrates to an interviewer that you have done your homework and that you know the key areas that could affect you should you be offered the position.
DON’T say “No” or that all your questions have been addressed during the interview. This could be interpreted as laziness or lack of interest. In the event that your prepared questions have been answered, then other questions should have come to mind during the course of the interview. By all means, take notes during the interview. Most interviewers will say at the outset that you can, but if not, then ask them the question.
DON’T ask questions about salary, benefits, holidays at this point. It is unlikely that you will apply for a position without some idea of what is on offer or not to have been provided some information from the company or agency when asked to attend. The time to negotiate or ask for clarification is when you are offered the position.
It is easy to forget that an interview is a two way process and that it is the best opportunity for you to assess if the company/culture/people/prospects suit you.