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Top 10 Questions to Ask in an Interview
By: Escape Stories

Go to your interview well-prepared. It’s as much your interview of them as it is the other way around – show them that you have done your research and that you are really interested in the job and the organisation, but that you still have a few questions that you would like answers to as well (to ensure that it’s the right job for you, etc.) If you don’t have questions, it could be interpreted as you not really caring about the role, which could make your interviewers have questions about your overall motivation for the job itself – and you don’t want that! General rule of thumb: if the answer to your question is easily accessible online, don’t show your lack of research. But if you want a clarification on something you have read about, it’s good to state that:”…you read on the website that X, and were wondering Y.”

1. Why has the post become available? How has the role arisen: Is it a new role? Has somebody left? Why have they left? If it’s a new role, you would want to know what’s been the need that has brought them to develop it – how were the issues dealt with previously? What has happened for a new role to be required? If it’s an existing role that they are attempting to fill, it’s good to have an idea why the previous employee has left it (was it for internal promotion – great news for internal career development - or have they left for somewhere else or personal reasons, etc.) to give you a better sense of what you might be getting into.

2. What are the main priorities for the first 90 days? The job description might sound amazing, but it might not reflect the reality of what you would need to do in the first 90 days on the job. Many people ask what a typical day looks like, but for most roles, this is an impossible question to really get a comprehensive answer for. By finding out the main priorities you’ll get a better sense of what you’re most likely going to be spending your time on. This will help you make a better assessment of the job and if it’s something you’d really like to spend your time on. Another good question to ask around this issue, especially in the not-for-profit sector, is: What types of resources will I have at my disposal? This will give you a better feel for the real amount of work that’ll be required of you.

3. What’s the line management style? Best answered by the interviewer who is most likely going to be your line manager. Have an idea of what type of management style you work best under. If you prefer autonomy in your work, you might want to watch out for a line manager whose style includes loads of conferring and internal meetings, etc. If on the other hand you like a lot of collaboration, you’ll not want a manager who has a hands-off style and just wants you to get on with it. Know what you like, so you can properly assess if the management style is one that is likely to appeal to you.

4. The industry overall seems to be going towards X, where do you see the organisation in 3/5 years time? A chance to show that you have a grasp of the industry (that you know your stuff and that you’ve done your research), but that you want to know how the organisation has thought about where it’s going – does it have a strategy in place, what is it like, is it one you are likely to buy into. This also gives you a good idea of how proactive or reactive the organisation actually is.

5. What’s the work culture like? Think about what type of work culture you would most like to be in. Is it one where there is socialising outside of office hours, with a lot of team days and organisational events? Is it one where the turnover is low/high (and what does that tell you about the working environment)? What experiences have the interviewers themselves had about working in the company?

6. Who will I be working with? Who are your closest colleagues going to be, what are they like, how long have they been there, what do they do and how would you be working with them, etc. The question to think about before hand and compare the answer to is: what types of people do I like working with, and how do I prefer to work with my colleagues?

7. What’s the reporting and organisational structure? Who do you report to and where does the department fit into with regards to the overall structure of the organisation? What type of organisation is it? How does it work? What’s the overall structure and how do decisions get made? How is your potential role/department involved in the decision making of the organisation as a whole? Again, know what your preference is – do you prefer centralised or more autonomous style of working?

8. What challenges are there in the role, department and/or organisation? Reality check on what you are potentially walking into. Is the team in a crisis? Has the department been struggling? What challenges will you most likely need to get involved in from the start? What’s going to be asked of you?

9. Any clarifications on the role itself What’s not clear to you about the role? What do you still want/need to know about the job itself?

10. What are the next steps in the interview process? Make sure you leave with a clear sense of what happens next and what their estimated timeline is for the process. Things to know: what happens next, what’s the overall process, what timeline are you looking at, how will they notify you, how many other candidates are they interviewing, how many will be chosen to the next round, etc

Satu Kreula, professional coach, publishes Escape Stories, a monthly newsletter with loads of tips like the one above, and real-life stories of people who've made the leap to happy working lives. Sign up now at!

(c)2004 Satu Kreula

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