Five Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

June 4, 2010 at 11:17 am Leave a comment

Not having good questions to ask a hiring manager is one of the big mistakes that job candidates commit in interviews. The recruiter or hiring manager is counting on you to show curiosity and interest in the position through your questions, and not having any — or asking bland, overly general ones that show little thought — will cause you to lose big points. This is especially important when applying for journalism or communications jobs because the manager will likely wonder what kind of journalist or communicator you are if you can’t seem to ask a few simple questions!

Yet the type of questions you ask are key. Through these inquiries, a job candidate should be seeking to gain information about the position, the team and the organization as well as to impress the hiring manager with their interest and to showcase knowledge about the company and the industry. That’s a tall order with a few questions. You also want to avoid missteps through your questions — appearing to know more than you might about the company, or making assumptions that could turn out to be incorrect and step on sensitivities the manager or the company may have.

Though remember, just as when interviewing a source, your questions should be determined not only by your preparation but through active listening to what the interviewer is saying. You’ll want to be prepared through your research, but also flexible in your questioning based on how the conversation proceeds before the point where they ask: “Do you have any questions for me?”

Given all that, here are five lines of questioning to pursue in a job interview setting:

*What are the priorities of the team (or department or organization)? What’s most important to you (and the team) right now? This gets to the mission of the organization — something that you want to determine so that you can see if your interests fit what they’re doing. It also potentially opens up a conversation about where the company and team is headed — again, something that you’ll want to know. Whenever possible, you want to turn an interview into an actual conversation between you and the hiring manager, and this question could do that. It also shows interest in your part in more detail on the organization than the manager likely provided so far.

*How have things changed here in the past year or two? How do you expect them to change in the next year or two? Again, this is a way of sussing out information about the organization and team, and also figuring out how the company is handling challenges. It may also provide you with some insight about the hiring manager and what they think and how they feel about how things have been going. That’s important — if they indicate that it’s been a tough coupla years, you may have some understandable qualms about joining the organization at this time. Also, if they are reluctant to answer this question that could be a red flag about problems with the organization and their desire not to address them.

*How did you come to this company and how has your career evolved here? Most managers like to talk about themselves (at least somewhat) and if they haven’t already discussed their trajectory at the organization, this may be a good way to forge a connection with them. It also can provide you with useful information on career paths at the company and how people are promoted there. But be careful with this inquiry — you likely don’t want to ask it right off and you don’t want to appear to be getting overly personal with an individual who may become your boss.

*How do you think my skills would fit here? What would be the learning curve for me here? With this question, you’re seeking out information that could be useful to you about the organization and also are showing confidence in your candidacy. It’s good to act like you could see yourself in the position because at some point, the hiring manager will have to see you in the position if they intend to hire you for it. But tread carefully here as well: You don’t want to appear overconfident or arrogant, or to be telling the hiring manager that they “ought” to hire you. (No one likes to be told what to do.) Also, if the hiring manager isn’t that interested in you, they could showcase that with their answer or non-answer to this question. Be prepared for that if you ask.

*If you were in my shoes, what else would you want to know about this position or this organization? Just as in all interviews, it’s good to close with an open-ended question that allows the other person to give you information that hadn’t come up yet. You never know what they’re going to say, especially if you ask in an open, curious way.

*Oh, one more (oops, that’s six, but this is an important reminder): At the end of the interview, it’s a good opportunity to ask about their timetable for hiring and when you might expect to hear back from them. Write this down in a notebook that you should carry to interviews — and then ask if you don’t hear from them by that date whether you could be back in touch, and what’s the best way to contact them. This could become very valuable later in terms of following up with the organization.

*And to wrap up this work week, some fresh leads:

*Georgetown University in D.C. is looking for a director of alumni class programs:

Director of Alumni Class Programs – Office of Advancement
Georgetown University – Washington, DC
through programming, communication and volunteer… to each other and to the university via events and communication platforms; manages strategic planning and…
From Georgetown University

*Deloitte has an opening in Arlington for a federal proposal coordinator/editor:
Federal Proposal Coordinator/Editor
Deloitte – Arlington, VA
Description The Coordinator/Editor is accountable for effective communications, document management and… Editor is accountable for effective communications…
From Deloitte

*ARD Inc. has an opening in D.C. for a director of communications for its Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET):
DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, FAMINE EARLY WARNING SYSTEM NETWORK (FEWS NET)
ARD, Inc. – Washington, DC
degree or equivalent training/experience in communications field (communications, journalism, etc.); –Minimum 5 years of USAID experience on communications…
From ARD, Inc.


*AP has an opening in its D.C. bureau for a deputy director of polling:

Deputy Director of Polling
The Associated Press – Washington, DC
programs, analyzes survey data for reporters and editors, and works closely with the multimedia staff in… Director should have training in quantitative social…
From The Associated Press

*The Hillel Foundation in D.C. is looking for an associate director of the Israel on Campus Coalition:

Associate Director – Israel on Campus Coalition
Hillel Foundation – Washington, DC
and maintaining communications with key student… ownership of a variety of resources including training programs, seminars, and conferences; and helping…
From Hillel Foundation

*The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) is looking for a policy analyst in D.C. to conduct research and write analyses on the Social Security program:

Minimum Education and Experience:  Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Sociology, Public Policy, or relevant field (advanced degree preferred) and two years of professional experience in a related position required; strong writing skills are essential; substantive knowledge of Social Security program is required.

Certification, Licensing and Skills:  Knowledge of commonly used concepts, practices, and procedures in the field of research is required.

NCPSSM offers competitive pay, excellent benefits and convenient offices next to Washington DC ’s Union Station.

Please apply by emailing resume, cover and general salary range to HR@NCPSSM.ORG

*The UN Foundation has several current openings in D.C. that might be right for transitioning journalists, several of them with the newly launched Girl Up campaign. They are looking to hire quickly, so get going if interested:
http://www.unfoundation.org/about-unf/employment/

*And last but certainly not least today, BGR Public Relations, a D.C. PR and marketing firm, is looking for a public relations associate:

Job Description:

BGR Public Relations, a fast-growing public relations and marketing firm in D.C., is seeking a first-rate writer and PR specialist. Applicant should have experience in journalism as well as public relations and, if possible, some time on Capitol Hill. The applicant should be able to assimilate information quickly and write a clear, concise news release. In addition, the applicant should be able to pitch stories rapidly and escort clients to interviews with aplomb. BGR, which has major corporate clients, needs an eager, able and poised individual to take the lead on some accounts both large and small. Salary commensurate with experience.

Job requirements:

B.A. college degree. Experience writing news stories for newspapers. Experience writing news releases. Experience pitching stories and finding who to pitch those stories to using standard databases. Experience escorting clients to interviews and arranging elaborate itineraries. Good interpersonal skills with reporters, clients and colleagues. Must be well versed in U.S. politics and government.

Please submit applications (which should include a resume and a cover letter) as soon as possible to: jbirnbaum@bgrpr.com.

Happy hunting, and have a relaxing weekend. I’ll be back with you bright and early Monday morning!

Jodi

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