When it comes to interviews lots of organisations are lazy. Lots of people doing the interviews are lazy too.
I don’t understand why, because it’s a flipping important event. It’s a short window of opportunity to understand whether there is a compatible match for the candidate and the organisation. It’s an hour to make a potentially life or organisation changing decision.
The biggest issue is that it’s seen as a one way event. It’s up to the candidate to prove their worth to the organisation. It’s up to the candidate to prepare and research the organisation. To present themselves in the best way possible.
Now imagine this was taking place in the first dates restaurant. If only one person showed up looking fresh and ready for action (not literally – it’s only the first date after all) then it’s not going to get off to a good start.
The person on each side of the table should have put time and effort in to make it work. They should both be willing to listen as much as they talk. They should both be open and as least ‘judgy’ as possible. They should both be honest and truthful and be trying to ensure it’s a win:win (or no deal).
You should never come out of an interview again with a dry mouth, sweaty palms and a furrowed brow thinking ‘I wish I’d asked about x’, or ‘that was pretty boring’.
Its time to change status quo and to expect demand interviewers to up their game. To be more prepared. To be trying to sell the role and the company to you as much as you are trying to sell yourself to them.
As a candidate you need to have clear expectations before you walk in the room. You need to understand your own intentions and motivations to prepare the questions that you’re going to put to the interviewers. You need to establish what information you want to get out of them in the short space of time that you have together and you need to ask about what’s important to you.
This comes down to expecting useful information from the other people in the room. To put them to the test, to find out if they are the right match for you.
Interviews should not be one way, but two way. They should be conversational.
With that in mind here’s my top ten interview questions, not to ask candidates, but to ask the interviewers…
How do you promote work / life balance?
Note the nuance here, not ‘do you’, but ‘how do you’. I expect today’s workplaces to be mature enough to encourage breaks, exercise and their employees well being. To be social. To allow working from home occasionally and flexibility around working hours when needed. If they can’t give you any examples of this, steer clear.
2. What are staff retention rates like?
This can give you an insight into what’s it really like to work there. Do people stick around? If not then take it as a warning sign. Check out the body language and non-visual cues too when they answer this one to make sure they aren’t trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
3. What excites you about working in this team?
A perfect test of the energy and enthusiasm of the people you’re going to be working with and of the work that is being done. If the interviewer stares at you with a blank expression, or even worse grimaces, that tells you all you need to know.
4. What’s the biggest challenge you face in your job?
A great way to find out if you’ll be able to fulfil the demands on the team. If they have a challenge that you’ve not experienced before, or that just sounds awful to have to deal with then this will help inform your decision.
5. What’s the first thing you’d ask the successful candidate to do?
This will help to frame the role and the expectations that they have, beyond the boring snoring job spec you’ve seen. It will also tell you if they’re prepared, and ready to induct someone with a clear structure, or whether they will try and wing it and leave you stranded reading old documents from the off.
6. How many different projects do you expect to split the successful candidate across?
This gives a good opportunity to understand how familiar they are with context switching and to have an interesting conversation about it.
7. What’s the business / customer value that the successful candidate would be helping to achieve?
Bottom line. If they can’t answer this question, run. Every role, every team, every department should be focussed on delivering value and have a crystal clear view on what it is.
8. How do you celebrate your team achievements / successes?
A good insight into whether they celebrate or not, and if they do, to what degree. Nothing = avoid. Pat on the back via email = bad. Something else = better.
9. When was the last time the team did something social together?
If they don’t like each other they won’t spend any time together. Simple.
10. What do you know about me?
We live in a digital world. Information is everywhere. LinkedIn should offer something more informative than what’s on your cv. You’re expected to dig into the company info, check the share price etc, the least interviewers could do is spend a couple of minutes looking at your profile to find out more and show an interest in who they’re going to talk to.
Not all these questions would be used in the same interview. This is my go to list, but what’s yours? What’s important for you to find out in an interview? What’s your top 10?