What questions should you ask in a graduate job interview?

Find out the questions to ask in an interview and when to ask them, and get to grips with those you should avoid.

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Don’t ask questions you should already know the answers to, for example, information clearly stated on the employer’s website.

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 or video interview. However, this is with reference to a ‘live’ video interview in which you’re talking to an interviewer; 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 in an interview

Interviews are a two-way process, and the questions you ask should demonstrate this – while some might be more focused on one of these aims, combined they can highlight your interest in and suitability for the role (by showing that you’ve done your research and thought about your place within the company/team) and allow you to get a feel for whether the job is right for you. So, what questions could help you to do this?

How can I make a good impression during the first few months of working for you?

This question shows you’re really thinking about how you can benefit the employer and that you are prepared to work hard from the get-go. The answer should also give you an insight into what will be expected of you from the beginning, and so – if you’re successful – it might help you to feel more informed when you start working for the company.

What do other graduates/new starters enjoy when they start working here and what do they find most challenging?

A question like this can demonstrate to recruiters that you are seriously considering accepting an offer, as you are considering how you will find starting out. It also relays the message that you're aware that there will be challenges when you begin your job and, by thinking about them now, you're more likely to be able and willing to work to overcome them.

How have other students/graduates found juggling study with work?

If you are expected to study for a professional qualification or conversion course at the same time as working for the employer, this could be one to ask. Once again, it indicates a genuine consideration of how you might find working for the employer alongside an awareness that there will be parts you will find tough.

Can you tell me a bit more about the team I will be working with?

If you already know some information about the team, you might add ‘such as’ and a couple of more specific points – eg ‘Is the full team in the office most days or are there some who work remotely?’ or ‘How often are team meetings?’ As a quick precursor to this question, you might make it clear that you’re really excited by the prospect of working with the team.

Can you tell me a bit more about the working environment?

Again, you could be more specific here if you already know a bit about this – perhaps you want to know whether you will be working in an open-plan office or how people share ideas (eg meetings, email, MS Teams etc).

Has the pandemic influenced your future plans for the company?

Looking to the future when it comes to Covid-19-based questions might be a strong approach, as it avoids frustrating an employer by making them mention struggles they have faced previously.

You mentioned that the job involved such and such a task. Could you tell me a bit more about what that entails?

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 (as long as knowledge in this area isn't a requirement).

What sort of training will I receive?

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. You might inquire about the balance of classroom or private study and training on the job, for instance.

What do you like about working here?

Questions about the interviewer's experience, such as this or 'What does your job involve?' can help you to find out more about the role/employer and show an interest in the recruiter, which could go down well. It might not work, however, if your interviewer works in HR and you are applying for a totally different sort of role.

Will the trend towards X in this market affect the way you work?

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.

Competitors seem to be doing Y. Is it important for you to do Z?

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.

Should you ask questions based on an interviewer's LinkedIn profile?

If you know who your interviewers will be in advance, they might assume that you have taken a look at their LinkedIn profiles; the chances are, they will have looked you up, too. However, a question based on a recruiter's profile that doesn't seem relevant for the role you are applying to, or that isn't clearly something you're interested in the answer to, can come across as a little intrusive or like you are showing off about your knowledge of the interviewer.

Nonetheless, asking a general question about the recruiter's career can be a good way of building rapport and emphasising your interest in the industry. No matter what you've gathered through your online digging, we would advise that you don't mention this. Instead, ask something like 'Could you tell me a bit about your career so far?'

If you have seen something on the interviewer's LinkedIn profile that is genuinely linked to considerations about your career and/or the employer, on the other hand, a specific question mentioning LinkedIn might be appropriate. Starting this with something like 'I hope you don't mind but I took a quick look at your LinkedIn profile' will come across as polite. An example of a question you might ask is, 'I enjoy volunteering, and can see that you volunteer for RSPCA. How do you find balancing this with your work, and is [the employer] supportive of your volunteering?'

So, in conclusion, only mention LinkedIn if the answer will genuinely help you when making decisions about your career or accepting the role. Also, it's probably best to stick to LinkedIn – the interviewer won't want to know how jealous you were when you saw their Glastonbury 2015 photos on Instagram!

Questions to avoid asking at your interview

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Don’t ask awkward questions about competitors. Although asking about differences in approach or values between the employer and competitors can show your understanding of the market, questions such as ‘Why don’t you do what competitor X does, as that might improve your market share?’ or ‘Do you have any plans for how you’ll deal with the amazing popularity of competitor Y’ can make it seem like you don’t have confidence in the company or indicate arrogance – like you think you could ‘do it better’.

It’s also important to avoid asking questions you should already know the answers to, for example, information clearly stated on the employer’s website or in recruitment literature 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.

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, be taken on a tour round the building or joined by other team members for lunch. If your interview is held virtually, you may be able to connect with a potential future colleague through LinkedIn. This can be a good opportunity to find out more about the employer. Listen to/read what they have to say 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 likely that the recruitment team will seek feedback from everyone who’s communicated with you, so you should take as much care about what you ask and how you come across in more informal situations as you do during the interview itself.

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