The six interview questions every job candidate should ask.
Graduate job interviews are designed to give employers a chance to learn more about you—but they are also a perfect opportunity for you to find out more about the job. Coming prepared with the right questions will make you a stronger candidate, and will help you to better understand the type of work you might be doing.
Here are six questions every job candidate should ask.
1. Is this a new role?
Some jobs will be new positions developed as companies expand, while others will be to replace an outgoing member of the team. Either way, the employer's answer can tell you something about the company.
If they are increasing their number of employees, you can ask them to explain what developments in their business have allowed them to bring on more staff. You will appear interested and keen on learning more about the business.
If the opening comes because an employee is moving on or being promoted, this is also good to know. The company may promote internally—good news for you—or perhaps the employee has left the company altogether.
Watch for attempts to brush past the question or the use of euphemisms such as "we parted ways" of "they sought employment elsewhere." Employers are often reluctant to admit an employee quit or was sacked, as neither reflects well on the company.
2. How will you assess my settling in?
One of the biggest fears for graduates and employers alike is that their employment won't work out, whether for personal or professional reasons.
It is important to understand how your performance will be evaluated in order to avoid this disappointment. Some employers use KPIs (key performance indicators) such as sales targets or marketing engagement, while other employers prefer to evaluate the success of a project or your ability to keep on top of day-to-day tasks. Knowing what's expected before you go in for your first day can help you deliver.
3. What training will I receive?
No new employee is ready to start a new role right off the bat and you can expect to receive some form of training or orientation. Asking this question in interviews shows employers you are eager to learn and prepared to work hard.
Some companies will pay for you to undertake a range of professional qualifications or send you out for training courses, while others want you to learn on the job. Either way, knowing what to expect will help you come prepared.
In responding to this question, the employer may indicate a skill or area of knowledge you will be required to show from the start. Finding out now what you will be taught and what you need to know ahead of time can help you work on any underdeveloped skills before your first day.
4. How will [hot topic] effect the company?
A buzzword among employers at the moment is commercial awareness—companies want graduates who understand the industry and the company's position within that industry. This is your opportunity to show yours.
You should go into the interview ready to discuss recent industry developments (if you're not ready, get reading!) and with at least one intelligent and relevant question. Areas you may want to familiarise yourself with include new technologies, movements by big players in the industry, or even broader political/economic forces like Brexit.
5. What is the standard progression for this role?
It might seem a bit arrogant to be thinking about a career path before you've got your feet under the table, but it's worth asking employers about the opportunities for progression from the position.
Some positions are part of a pipeline of graduates moving through the company—this is particularly true of graduate schemes and programmes. Other companies may have a few managerial opportunities down the line, or the job might be a singular role with limited future progression.
If the company can only offer a limited career path, this is usually due to their small size. Don't be put off—smaller companies can offer other advantages which may benefit you in the long run, such as opportunities to take on more responsibility or develop skills in different areas.
6. What are the biggest challenges facing this position?
Employers will know from experience what new starters find difficult about the job. Asking them to explain a little bit more about the usual areas of struggle can give you the opportunity to prepare yourself for the position.
Some graduates may find the fast pace of the industry challenging, or struggle to navigate the company's internal systems. This question allows you to narrow in on particular areas of difficulty and find out if there is anything employers recommend you do to reduce your period of adjustment.
Interviews are a back and forth between employers and possible new employees. While the employer gets to ask most of the questions, it's also important you get the information you need to make an informed decision should you succeed at getting a job offer.