‘Do you have any questions you would like to ask me?’
Interviewers are pretty much guaranteed to ask you this question towards the end of every job interview you attend and, depending on how well you have prepared, this question can be a tremendous launchpad to impress.
You can tell your interviewer how qualified you are, how talented you are and what a tremendous asset to the company you would be. But no statement is ever as impactful as a well-timed, well-executed question. In all situations, well thought through questions help us connect and engage with others in meaningful ways.
These questions provide one of your final opportunities to sell yourself to the interviewer, so try to use this opportunity to find out more about the organisational structure, your prospective role in it, the nature of the job, the challenge it offers and its career potential.
Do your research
There are other key points to remember such as asking a question that clearly demonstrates you have done your research and are already imagining yourself in the role. A question relating to a recent change the company has made or the latest set of accounts will look good.
Alternatively, ask a question that tells the interviewer you want to do well and are excited to prove it, such a question relating to the type of employee will excel in the role you are applying for.
Nicholas Kirk, regional managing director, Page Personnel Finance, says: ‘If you want to be a truly outstanding candidate, you need to ask some memorable questions during your interview. Most candidates will be asking top-line questions about the role such as KPIs, so try and come up with some that will really stand out.
‘Some “wow” questions are likely to be ones that are well researched and unique, while also demonstrating your enthusiasm.’
Asking about opportunities to progress within the role and available training will undoubtedly leave a positive impression.
This type of question will demonstrate that you are looking to grow within the company, as well as developing your own skills. For high achieving professionals, the opportunity to develop both personally and professionally is crucial for job satisfaction, especially those that offer accountancy training and time out to study. Therefore, companies who invest into their talent and have a clear pathway for growth and promotion are very attractive to accountancy professionals looking to get ahead in their career.
Asking the interviewer what they would like you to accomplish in the first year in the role is also a very smart question as it shows enthusiasm, positivity and an understanding of the role. It can also show that you have prepared for the interview.
Likewise, a question relating to what past employees have done to succeed in this position is guaranteed to impress. Knowing how the organisation measures achievements will help you understand what the expectations will be and whether you have the skill set to meet them.
But ultimately you are a different person and you may approach things a little differently compared to a predecessor. You may hear a description that highlights the positive and negative attributes of your predecessor. That can be a good indicator of the company’s culture as, typically, what one person has done to be successful is what the organisation tends to do to be successful.
Above and beyond
Showing an eagerness and an interest in going above and beyond your day-to-day work also impresses. For example, ask about a recent seminar the company spoke at as it shows you have done research on the company and that you are up to date with accountancy news.
Kirk adds: ‘You could also ask the interviewer what is their favourite part of working for the company and why that is the case. This question demonstrates your interest in the company’s morale as well as the role. By asking them a question such as this, you are also likely to find out something new about the business.’
With confidence improving and more candidates in the market, it is crucial for applicants to differentiate themselves at the interview stage.
Joss Collins, senior manager, financial services at Venn Group, says: ‘My advice is to be different and take an interest in the interviewer. That way you’ll find out a lot more about an organisation than you would normally. By asking what the most challenging aspect of their job is, or what they like about where they work, shows the interviewer that you not only have an interest in the job, but also the culture of the organisation.
‘It is also worthwhile trying to close the interview by asking questions like “is there anything else you would like to know about me or my application?” This gives the interviewer the chance to cover any other topics they may have wanted you to expand on, clarify any areas that may have been unclear and, most importantly, demonstrate that you are keen on the role.’
Stand out from the crowd
A job interview is a personal challenge for everyone, but it is worth remembering that the person conducting the interview is likely to be meeting a whole shortlist of candidates, so anything you can do to stand out from the crowd is worth considering.
Phil Sheridan, senior managing director, Robert Half, says: ‘To paraphrase JF Kennedy, it means getting into a mindset that asks “not what the company can do for you, but what you can do for that company”. To show you are ready to add value to an employer, consider asking questions about how open the company is to hearing new ideas, or what benchmarks do they consider for success in the role.
‘Showing interest in a company and prior knowledge of its background, financial results, corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy, customers or recent news also demonstrates your engagement with the process and your potential employer.’
If you feel that you will not remember all the things, you may need to write them down and ask if the interviewer minds if you refer to your notes.
In essence good questions prove that you have done your homework and are genuinely interested in the company. They show you are not just concerned about yourself, but that you have given some thought to the future of the company. They also allow you to demonstrate your knowledge without sounding too arrogant – and they greatly improve your chances that the interviewer will like you – and an interviewer will tend to hire trainees that they like.
This article originally appeared in Student Accountant magazine.