Links I mentioned in this episode:

47. Asking questions in an interview – Transcript

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[00:00:52] Hi, there I’m Bec McFarland the host of the Pop Your Career [00:01:00]Podcast. As a career coach, I’m most passionate about helping my clients to discover their own personal flavour of career fulfillment. In this podcast, we are going to be exploring ways that you too can feel more fulfilled by your work. So strap yourself in, get ready for the ride. The tips around here are fast and in abundance.

[00:01:21] Hello. Hello. It’s Bec McFarland here, helping you do better and be better in your career. Welcome to the Pop Your Career podcast. I’m so thrilled to have you here, but did you know that I decided to start a podcast in about 2016? Maybe? It has been on my mind for a really long time, and at the time I recorded I think two episodes and I popped them up on SoundCloud. I am sure that they are still floating around. They’re somewhere if you want to go [00:02:00]and find them and embarrass me.

[00:02:02] But this topic that we’re talking about today has been on my mind since then because it was one of the podcast episodes that I recorded way back then when I had my first podcast, if you can call it that.

[00:02:19] The topic is asking questions in an interview, and at the time I titled that podcast episode, Don’t Interview Your Interviewer. And all these years later, I still feel the same. There’s nothing like being on an interview panel and going through the interview process and getting to the end of the interview with a candidate and saying to them, do you have any questions for us? And then all hell breaks loose. This is where the nightmares really begin.

[00:02:54] So the first mistake that people make in this section of their [00:03:00]interview is that they ask the questions that everyone asks. And look, if you’re a seasoned interviewer, you will just do yourself a favor and answer these questions in your introduction so that they can’t ask. The questions are always things like, When are you gonna be making a decision? When can I expect to find out the outcome of this process? And the other most common question is like, can you tell me about the culture of the team?

[00:03:32] Now look, that in itself might be an okay-ish question, but there are definitely ways that you can phrase that much better.

[00:03:44] In terms of the answer to the first question, when are you gonna hear back? How long is a piece of string? You’ll hear back when we’re, when we’re done, right? You’ll hear back when the process is finished, stop trying to push it.

[00:03:59] [00:04:00] So the other really big mistake that people make in interviews is that they think that this is their opportunity to interview their interviewer. Now I get it right, it’s a two-way street. The organization is interviewing you to find out if you are the most suitable candidate for the role, and you wanna find out some stuff about the employer to see if they are actually the kind of place that you wanna work. That’s totally fine. But realistically, your opportunity to ask them questions and do your due diligence and go through the checks and balances actually comes later.

[00:04:35] That’s what happens between the offer and the acceptance. At that time, you got questions, you’d go hell for leather. But when you are in that interview, if you start asking all of these long winded, intricate detailed questions. Oh gosh. As a [00:05:00] panel member, it becomes so painful.

[00:05:05] We are already tired. I’ve said this before, interview panel members are always tired because interviewing is not an easy task. You have to be at attention the whole time.

[00:05:20] And you’re often interviewing quite a few people. It can become a long day, and when you get to the end of an interview, it’s like, oh my God, I’m going to be allowed to have a two and a half minute breather where I might be able to stuff some food into my mouth, or maybe even I’ll get to go and do a wee.

[00:05:39] But when the candidate goes and starts asking all of these really long questions, all of a sudden your meal break and your wee break, I’ve gone out the window now. Of course I am taking a really lighthearted approach to this, but what I can say is that I’ve been in multiple situations [00:06:00]where candidates who have absolutely no chance of getting the job are using that time in an interview to ask really specific questions about the way that work is delegated, the way that work is handled, the way that work is done, and realistically, at this stage in the process, like those things are none of your business, they are not at all relevant. If those things are concerning you, then by all means ask them later on once we offer you a role, but at the moment it’s just a little bit too much.

[00:06:39] So does this mean that you shouldn’t ask questions at all? Well, no. I definitely think that it’s a space for asking questions. I think that a lot of people put pressure on themselves to ask a question, and I think that’s often why we end up in these situations where too many of the wrong kinds of questions are being asked because [00:07:00] of the fact that someone’s been given that sage old advice that you have to ask a question, otherwise they’ll think that you’re not interested. And unfortunately, some people have interpreted that to being ask a lot of questions because then they’ll know that you’re really interested.

[00:07:15] I do think that if you’ve got a question and it’s a really genuine, thoughtful question that is going to help you at this stage of the process, then go ahead and ask. No one is ever going to punish you or think poorly of you or anything like that for asking a question. But if you’re asking a question for the sake of asking a question because of the fact that you heard that sage old advice, then I would just say, like don’t bother.

[00:07:44] It comes across as being really fake and really weird and just not cool, and I can guarantee you that a hundred percent of the time your panel members would much prefer a snack and [00:08:00] a wee over answering silly questions that you are not even really interested in the answers to, okay? I hope this helps.

[00:08:10] As I said, I have taken quite a lighthearted approach to this one, but it is definitely, definitely really, really good advice. Don’t interview your interviewer. Ask questions if they are relevant and genuine.

[00:08:25] Have a great week and I will see you in the next episode.

[00:08:29] Thanks so much for listening to the Pop Your Career podcast. I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s tips and that you found value in what I’ve shared with you. If you like your career advice quick and entertaining, I would love for you to subscribe. Also leave me a rating and a review. If you wanna continue the conversation, come and join me over on social media. You can find me everywhere at Pop Your Career. I’ll see you soon.


About the author 


Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.