Interviews are inherently nerve racking. Sometimes the interviewers make it that way intentionally (bad ones anyway). But we always feel that odd mixture of anxiety and excitement. Especially when we interview for a job we really want.
It's been over 5 years since I graduated with my undergraduate degrees. Since then, I've gone to many interviews. I haven't always gotten an offer at the end, but I've gotten more offers than rejections.
Especially as I've gotten more experience with being interviewed. I want to share my experience with you so that you can position yourself to get an offer for a job you'll love.
You can't prepare for everything
Two months after graduating from The University of Texas at Tyler, I had an interview with a well-known and very successful insurance agency. I first met with the CFO and she and I got along really well, so I was invited back for a second interview.
During the second interview, I met with the CFO and the agency owner. It was going well until they asked me where I saw myself in 5 years.
I told them that I saw myself being very active in a church doing ministry (FYI, my calling is to be a pastor in some capacity). Now I didn't say I was going to be paid and be on a church staff full-time, but that probably came across through the enthusiasm of my answer.
After that, the interview went downhill from there and I ended up getting an email saying they were looking for someone to make insurance a "lifetime career".
I honestly don't think anyone has grown up thinking, "I want to be an insurance agent for my whole life!" Also, if you can answer where you'll be and what you'll be doing in 5 years with any accuracy, you should quit your job and make a living telling fortunes. I've interviewed several hundred people and never saw the value in a question like that.
After several more interviews, I realized that the questions they asked could come from anywhere. While I am a strong advocate of researching the company, their values, philosophies, and other things that make them tick, I know now that I won't always have a well prepared answer to every question that's thrown at me and neither will you.
There are questions, however, that you are in control of... yours!
Get the information YOU need
Interviewers use questions to assess if you have the talent, skills, and sometimes personality to do the job for which they are hiring. This is essential to discover if you are a "fit" for them. But what is so often forgotten during interviews is that you need to know if they are a fit for you!
To do this, you'll need to have your own questions to decide if they're fit for you.
Also, asking questions is a great way to show that you're interested, intelligent, and a critical thinker. So, I have found 5 types of questions that will help you get the job you'll love. I'll also include example questions that you can use verbatim or change during your next interview.
- Culture. Finding out what the culture of the organization may be one of the most important questions you could ever ask. Are they structured? Do they have fun? Are they no-nonsense? There isn't a "right answer", but you need to know if who you are and your personality will naturally fit in with them.
Example question: Tell me about the culture here at (insert company name here).
- Day in the life. This will tell you what you could expect to do day in and day out if you get the position. You need to know if the daily functions will bore you to death, be exciting, or if you'd rather sit in a tub full of scissors. You will rarely like 100% of your job, but you should definitely like way more of it than you dislike.
Example question: Describe what a day in the life of a (insert position title here) looks like.
- Who. As in who will you be working with or around most often. This will let you know if you'll be mostly working with people internally or externally. Also, you should know who you'll directly report to (it may not be your interviewer). At which point you'll ask questions about that person. The people around you can make your job a joy or hell on earth. So, find out who they are!
Example question: Who will I be working most closely with and to whom will I report?
- Training. You need to know if your potential employer will be setting you up for success. Too often employers are hiring and expecting employees to learn the job through osmosis or some other BS that equates to their laziness.
If you find a place that has a structured training program or a mentor program that pairs you with an experienced employee, then you've probably found a winner. (Do make sure that you judge the answer by the size and resources of the company)
Example question: What type of training will I receive for this position?
- Fit. This is the closer. You're asking for the sale (so to speak). You've been engaged in a back and forth Q&A for at least 30 minutes by now. It's time to know where you stand. This is the most important question of the five and while you can change the wording, I would recommend staying close to the script on this one.
Example question: Well, I have one last question. Based on my resume, our discussion today, and what you're looking for (you could mention the job description), do you believe I am a fit for this position (can also add "and this organization)?
The point of these questions is for you to know if it is a place you really want to work or if it will be just another J-O-B. We all want work that is fulfilling. In order to find that work, we need to get this type of information about potential job/career opportunities.
It may feel awkward asking all of these questions, but you need to remember that you are also interviewing them. The best interviews are two-way streets.
What questions do you ask during an interview to find out if it's a fit?