Saturday, January 2, 2010

What can I ask in an interview?

“So, do you have any questions for us?”



Are these the words you most dread when you appear for an interview? Is this when you stutter and stammer and your mind completely refuses to function? Do you think of this question like the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over your head, threatening to drop any moment?


If the answer to any or all of these questions is ‘Yes,’ then it is time to act and seize initiative. The aforementioned question is typically one’s strongest chance to bag that offer. Miss out on this opportunity, and you may find yourself back on the drawing board, strategising for the next interview.


Depending on how you play your cards, a good question could demonstrate your zeal for the position, your levels of competence necessary, your confidence, or simply your charisma or appeal. There are certain rules that ought to be kept in mind while framing these questions:

1. Ask an open-ended question. A closed-ended question can act as a complete conversation stopper.

2. KISS!! (Not the interviewer, silly!) Keep it short and simple. It works. Believe us.

3. Think before you ask. Don’t be in such a hurry to steal your 15 seconds of fame that you botch the question. It’s ok to take a few seconds before you ask anything.

4. Don’t ask overly complicated questions. For example, an interviewer may not be clear on what the company’s strategy to deal with underwater stock options issued to employees during the recession in the market is.

5. Ask questions that are non-obvious. For example, asking for the locations or key businesses is a waste, because that is information, which you should have researched well in the first place.


Of course, there is no restriction to the type or number of questions that you can ask. But, it is suggested that you steer clear of questions that seek details of compensation, relocation policies, or convey any of your constraints or limitations. Remember, the question is provided to you to be able to convey your position of strength, not to expose weaknesses.


In addition, the research that you should have done before walking into the room ought to include:

a) Full name of company and the history behind it

b) Where is it headquartered? What are its various locations?

c) Core business or businesses (for a group)

d) Revenue/sales figures (You don’t have to act nerdy and mug up stuff. Just knowing the basics helps.)

e) Global rank and number of employees

f) Name of the CEO

g) Chief products and their respective competitors

h) Recent challenges faced by the company


Based on that, some questions that we suggest you could ask are:

1. I’d like to know what a typical work day for you at XYZ is like. (The question conveys your interest in the position, is comfortable for the interviewer to answer, is something that you would not find by googling, and puts the interviewer on comfortable ground. People love talking about themselves.)

2. What convinced you to work for this company? (This question can help you in selling the company to yourself, depending on the response you get. In addition, if you have read up on the culture and values of the organization, and spoken about your value system earlier in the interview, it leads the interviewer’s subconscious mind to make the connect.)

3. What was the rationale behind the company’s decision to diversify into a particular business or location? (This shows that you read up about the company, and that you are genuinely interested.)

4. What does the company do to keep abreast of changes in knowledge management? (This question could be domain-specific i.e. Marketing/Finance/HR/Operations etc. It also conveys your interest in the role.)

5. Could you please explain the career path for me in the organization? (This question should only be asked if the information has not been made available to you earlier. It shows your ambition and drive to excel, apart from helping you find out if the organization actually has anything good to offer you.)


In case you need some specific questions for specific situations in your interview, do leave a comment or email us.


Till then, good luck with those interviews!

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