What You Can Get out of a Job Interview (Besides a Job Offer)

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Job Interview Handshake

In my last blog post, I wrote about the most difficult job interview questions and how to handle them. In this post, I’ll also be dealing with interview questions, but these are the questions that you get to ask the interviewer. Towards the end of most interviews you will be asked if you have any questions. This is a critical point because the worst thing that you can say is “No, I don’t have any questions.” That will be viewed as a lack of engagement, preparation, and intellectual curiosity and will have as much negative impact on the outcome as showing up late for the interview.

Leaving a Good Last Impression

In my last post, I said the “tell me about yourself” question is critical because it’s usually the first question and sets the tone for the all-important first impression. No less important is the last impression, and that’s what hangs in the balance with your inquiries. You should make the most of this opportunity to determine whether this position is a good fit for you. Have at least three or four questions ready to be asked, such as:

  • What are the ongoing or new departmental projects that I would be involved in?
  • Are all the projects team based? Does the team stay together or is it put together according to the project?
  • Walk me through a typical day?
  • What is it like to work here? What is the culture of the organization?
  • If I’m selected, what would be my top priority over the next few months?
  • If I’m selected, what more could I do to prepare before starting the job?
  • What is your timetable for making a decision? When might I expect to hear from you again?

Do not ask about salary or benefits, as those are issues that will be negotiated should you receive a job offer. Also avoid asking for what type of candidate they are looking for or for feedback on your performance.

The Benefits of Job Interviews

Even if you don’t get a job offer, you will have gained something valuable by going through the interview process: the more interviews you do, the better you get at them. You become known to the organization. You might apply there again, or perhaps the person they selected won’t work out. Whatever the outcome, don’t get down on yourself. You should evaluate your performance and try to learn what you can do better next time. But remember you can have a great interview and still not get the job—maybe there is an inside candidate or maybe they really liked you but there was another candidate that they liked just a little bit better.

If the job interview is on the employers’ premises it’s a great opportunity for you to observe the environment. Does the atmosphere seem to be high paced and high energy or relaxed or even comatose? What is the physical layout? Are people in offices, cubicles of some form of shared public space? Do the employees appear to be happy and friendly? How are people dressed? Does it seem like a diverse staff? Do they appear to be LGBTQ friendly? Also consider how the interview was handled. Did it start on time and were they well prepared? Did they ask any illegal questions? That in itself may be a red flag.

Up until now, I’ve been talking mainly about face-to-face interviews. In my next post, I’ll be writing about different interview formats such as phone interviews, webcam interviews, and the pre-recorded video interview and how to prepare for each of these.