5 Questions You Need To Ask An Interviewer (Especially When You’re Unqualified)

 

Interviewing is like dating.

And just like on a date, it’s very important to make sure your potential future employer is a good fit for you. That’s why it’s pivotal to ask questions at the end of every job interview. Today we are going to be talking about the 5 questions to ask in a job interview.

One of the most critical mistakes that interview candidates make is that they do not ask questions at the end of the interview. This is a huge mistake for a few reasons:

  1. It shows the interviewer you’re not interested in learning more about the position.
  2. You don’t vet the employer to see if they are a good fit for your needs.
  3. It doesn’t allow you to showcase the transferable skills/experiences that were not presented in the interview).

The 3rd point is especially critical if you are applying for a job that you are not fully qualified for. If you are applying for a position that maybe you’ve never technically worked at before, it’s very important to talk about your transferable skills and experience. However, sometimes it doesn’t come up in the interview itself. Interview questions can vary from employer to employer. Some questions may be great if it is led by an experienced hiring manager, but sometimes the questions may not allow you to demonstrate your skills.

Later on, I’m going to talk about the interview questions you need to ask to showcase your transferable skills and the strategy behind how to answer the question. For more details on the methodology of how to use this questions portion of the job interview to position yourself as the ideal candidate – listen to the podcast episode! 

However, before we get started, I wanted to share the inspiration behind this article and podcast episode – my coaching client who has been killing it in the past week with interviews. Every time I opened my phone last week, she has told me about the roles and opportunities she’s getting! This has been especially exciting for her because when she approached her manager a few months ago about getting an opportunity internally, her manager shut her down and told her she didn’t have the experience or capability to work in a higher level role. And now, after working together, we’ve been able to not only market her skills but she is getting responses from all directions. 

So that’s why I wanted to create this episode on the 5 questions to must ask in a job interview – we’ve been doing a lot of interview prep this week! 

However as a career coach, I don’t see accepting any job offer as a marker of success because you have to ensure that this is the right environment for you. 

I would never recommend anyone enter into a toxic relationship and the same goes for a workplace. 

So these are the 5 questions you must ask in a job interview – especially if you are applying for a job where you don’t meet all the qualifications. 

 

1. What does the typical day look in this role?

This question is important to ask for several reasons. Firstly, it shows the employer that you are truly interested in the role. It demonstrates that you want more details and this isn’t just another job that you randomly applied to; it shows genuine interest.

In this answer, you are looking for clues from the employer about the tasks and responsibilities you will be facing each day. As they are answering, ask follow up questions to open up the conversation. People love talking about themselves and if they enjoy their work, they will like talking about it as well.

In this question, you are positioning yourself as a successful candidate in the minds of the employer. You are acting like you already have the job and demonstrating the skills that you would bring to the role.

It also allows you to get a feel of the day to day of the position so you understand the role and if it will be extremely stressful or have a lot of work-life balance. It also allows you to understand how the role fits in with your preferred work experience – are you working mostly independently? With clients? With your team? It allows you to vet the position and requirements.

 

2. What does the structure of the team look like?

The next question you should ask (if it’s not answered) is to further position yourself as the ideal candidate because you are acting like you already have the position. It also demonstrates curiosity to truly learn about the company and the role. As a follow-up, it will allow you to also understand the management style and the structure of the company and team to see if it fits with your needs. Do you like working in a corporate structure where ranks and responsibilities are very clear or do you like laid-back environments like in a start-up where the team is very flexible and you may be wearing different hats throughout the day?

Some great follow-up questions after the employer provide an answer is “Who will I be reporting to? What is the level of responsibility for this position?”

 

3. What are the challenges of this position?

This is the single most important question you must be asking in a job interview if you are breaking into a new role or industry. One of the most important things I teach and coach my clients on is how to position themselves as a problem solver when applying to jobs they are not qualified for. If you lack the experience because you have never worked directly in this role before, make sure you ask the interviewer what the challenges of the position are, and then position yourself as the ideal candidate by providing an example of a time you solved a similar problem. 

For more details on how to answer this question – be sure to listen to the podcast episode where I share the methodology and negotiating techniques behind how to answer this type of question.

 

4. What makes someone very successful in this position?

During an interview, the employer is looking for key skills, attributes and qualities in the candidates. However, sometimes it’s really hard to decipher what they are actually asking. For example, a very common question in an interview is what is your greatest strength? And while you have already answered the questions with what you think your greatest strength is, it might have not been what they are looking for. This is the time in the interview where you can really turn the tables on them by using the same technique discussed in Question 3 (listen to the podcast episode for the full detail), and ask them what the key skill/quality they are looking for in a candidate. And then after the answer, you demonstrated a time that you have demonstrated that skill/quality. 

This is a perfect time to pull out your transferable skills/experience that you might not have been able to go into detail during the initial interview. 

 

5. Why is this position available? What happened to the person previously in this position?

This question may seem bold at first because it can be quite direct, but it is a very important question to ask. You want to know why the last person left or if this is a new position that has just been created.

If this is a permanent position in the company, you will know there is a lot of security and you can inquire about the previous employee. If the employer says they were promoted then you know that there is growth within the company. If the employer says they left abruptly, went to a competitor, or if they are extremely vague and shy away from answering it then you know there was something that caused the last employee to leave that the employer does not want to share. This is when you need to start looking for red flags because the path of the previous employee is probably the path that you are on as well in this company. I’ve seen so many hard-working people stay in dead-end jobs because there is no room for growth after working year for a company or stay in toxic environments because they accepted a job that they now need to rely on financially. 

On the contrary, if the employer says that this is a new position – it has just been created, it will come with its pros and cons. On the pro side, this could be an opportunity for you to take initiative and develop the role and team. However, in my experience, companies that create new positions a lot of time don’t have a lot of support because no one has worked in it before. So if you are a person that desires direction, clear goals, and a mentor-style relationship with your manager, this might not be the correct position for you. 

Make sure this is a good fit for both of you. 

 

Bonus: What is the timeline you looking to have a decision made? What are the next steps and start time?

Now those are the 5 questions you need to ask in a job interview , but there is 1 last bonus question! If the employer doesn’t take the lead by explaining the next steps of this position, you need to ask what the timeline for the competition and start time looks like. Not only is it good for your mental well being (so you don’t stress if you don’t hear back right away), but it gives you a timeline of when to follow up. If the interviewer says they will let you know in 2 weeks and the 2 weeks past, then you know it’s an appropriate time to follow up because that was the timeline they gave you. 

It’s also important to be clear about the start date for this position because if you are looking to accept the position, you will need to wrap up the projects and work at your current role. I fully and whole-heartedly believe in quitting jobs without burning bridges. So if you need some help, make sure you read this article on the 10 Steps To Quit Your Job On Good Terms.  

 

 

So those are the 5 questions to ask in a job interview and these questions were listed in this order for a reason. When you first start asking questions, it’s important to let the employer speak and open up the dialogue. You have been doing most of the talking during the interview, allow it to be a conversation for Questions 1 and 2. Then in Questions 3 and 4, you start speaking more as well and answering your own questions by positioning yourself as a problem solver and the ideal candidate. Then you close off the interview by talking about the past employee and ask the next steps. 

I hope you have found this helpful and if you would like to work with me 1:1, make sure to let me know! My coaching services will not be public until November because I’ve been extremely careful to only work with a small number of clients because of the time and energy I dedicate to each person. If you’re interested in being the first to be notified, fill out this form here

Talk to you soon! 

Author: Kimberly

Hi there! My name is Kimberly and I created MLA as a personal development, career, and finance resource for millennials. MLA focuses on helping career-driven millennials create the personal development habits to achieve work-life balance and manage their money. Throughout this blog, you’ll find articles that give specific and detailed advice because I’m not into the fluffy advice. There’s plenty of that on the internet. Here you will find tangible advice on how to find a rewarding career (that you love!), where you can help others, and learn how to save and invest your money for the future. I hope you’ll follow along!

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