What questions should you ask in a graduate job interview?
You don’t have to wait for your interviewer to say, ‘Do you have any questions for us?’ to ask some of your own. This kind of discussion can develop spontaneously out of a face-to-face interview, which should ideally be a two-way exchange – you should be able to find out more about the employer as well as the employer assessing you. You may also get the chance to ask questions in a Skype interview or telephone interview, though a pre-recorded video interview won’t offer this kind of flexibility.
It’s a good idea to think about questions to ask in advance. You could have in mind three questions to ask about the employer and three questions to ask about the job itself. If you wish, you could note these questions down and take them in with you to help jog your memory, but you should avoid reading them out in a way that suggests you’re determined to ask the questions you’ve prepared word for word, regardless of how the rest of the interview has gone, as you could come across as inflexible and it might seem as if you haven’t really been listening.
Questions to ask about the job
- ‘You mentioned that the job involved such and such a task. Could you tell me a bit more about what that entails?’
Tip: you could relate this to your own experience – for example, highlight a time when you’ve worked on something that called for similar skills, or, alternatively, explain that this is something you’re particularly interested in but have relatively little knowledge of at present.
‘What sort of training will I receive?’
Tip: if you’ve already picked up plenty of information about the training, for example, the qualification you’ll be studying towards, ask for details about how the training will be delivered, for example, the balance of classroom or private study and training on the job.
- ‘When did you join the company? What does your job involve? What do you like about working here?’
Tip: This question might not work if your interviewer works in HR and you are applying for a totally different sort of role.
Questions to ask about the employer and the market
Good topics for questions include issues about the organisation, its competitors and its projects or clients.
- ‘I notice that the organisation has just signed a contract to work with such and such a client. Is this something I would be likely to get involved with?’
Tip: This question draws on your research. Make sure you have a basic understanding of the client’s work, and of the service that your potential employer will be providing.
- ‘Will the trend towards X in this market affect the way you work?’
Tip: Once again, this question draws on your research and your knowledge of current developments in the field you wish to work in. Get into the habit of keeping an eye on the news and any relevant specialist publications, and look out for updates about the employer and the market. It will also help to be aware of any relevant professional organisations; they may have published statements on recent developments or commented on them in the media.
- ‘The competitors seem to be doing Y. Is it important for you to do Z?’
Tip: This question is yet another chance for you to show that you’ve done your research, which will indicate your commitment and enthusiasm for the job. When you are researching an employer and getting to grips with the market they operate in, don’t forget to find out about key competitors.
Questions to avoid asking at your interview
- Don’t ask questions you should already know the answers to, for example, information clearly stated on the employer’s website or in recruitment information that you have been sent, or that has already been covered during the interview. If you do, it will look as if you haven’t done your research or weren’t listening carefully.
- Don’t ask questions that sound arrogant. ‘What is your company able to offer me?’ will give the impression that you would be difficult to work with.
- Don’t ask about your salary, holiday entitlement or whether you can defer entry to the graduate scheme and go off travelling for a year. Save these questions for when you receive your job offer.
If you’ve come along with a list of questions in mind and they are dealt with before you get the chance to ask them, you may be able to find a way to refocus or rephrase them so that you’re asking for additional details. If your interviewer asks, ‘Do you have any questions for us?’ you can acknowledge that some of the subjects you had questions about have been tackled during the course of the interview, and then reframe your questions in a way that approaches the information from a fresh angle.
Other opportunities to ask questions
You may also have the chance to talk to other members of the company outside the formal interview. You might be introduced to a recent graduate recruit to have a chat about his or her job, taken on a tour round the building or joined by other team members for lunch. This can be a good opportunity to find out more about the employer. Listen carefully and ask questions when appropriate, which could include:
- ‘What job do you do?’
- ‘What type of products/projects/cases do you work on?’
- ‘Have you been with the company long?’
- ‘Did you join as a graduate?’
- ‘Is it a friendly place to work? Are there social events?’
It’s very likely that the recruitment team will seek feedback from everyone who’s spoken to you, so you should take as much care about what you ask and how you come across in more informal situations as you do in the interview itself.