Job Interviews and the 'Big Question'

There’s lots of information online about how to answer interview questions but one question that often stumps applicants is: ‘Do you have any questions?’ This usually comes towards the close of an interview. 

‘Do you have any questions?’

So, should you bring up your burning question about salary at this point? And what about a question about the potential for career advancement? 

My advice is to pull back.

Even though these questions may be important to you, this is not the time to bring up salary or promotion prospects. Those topics can be discussed once an offer has been made. At this stage you are still competing with other short-listed candidates and in general, NZ employers are  reticent about discussing salaries while an offer is not yet on the table.

The ‘Do you have any questions’ moment is a compelling one in the interview, and is a chance to add something of value about your understanding of the role.

Instead of asking about salary,
it’s much better to ask specific questions:
Eg: Clarification
  • Ask about what you’re likely to be doing in the first few months and how success is measured. This way any aspects you’re unsure about can be clarified.
  • You might, for example, ask about a particular project you would be working on, or ask the interviewer to expand on something that was mentioned earlier in the interview. It’s best to treat the invitation to ask questions as an opportunity to show open up a discussion.
Eg: Progression
  • The other question people like to ask is about promotion. Again, this is not useful as it may give the impression that you’re viewing this role as a stepping- stone to something ‘higher up’. Remember that in New Zealand you are likely to be employed in a small company, and that promotion may not be a possibility in this particular workplace. So, asking about this may lead the interviewer to jump to the conclusion that you’re only interested in this job until something better comes along.
  • A different way to find out about job progression, is to ask what professional development opportunities there are for this role. You could preface it by saying that you’re keen to keep up to date with new developments in your industry. 

Asking a well-considered open-ended question can open up a great discussion:

Familiarising yourself with the job description is a good place to start when preparing your questions. Are there any tasks or responsibilities mentioned that you’re not sure about? Asking about specifics in the JD also shows that you’ve done your research.

How many questions should you prepare?

I suggest around 3 or 4. Not that you’d necessarily ask that many, but it’s good to have these ready so you can pick the most appropriate ones considering what’s gone before.

It can happen that all the answers you’ve prepared were covered in the interview and you’re left with nothing to ask. In that case you’d still not say ‘No I don’t have any questions’. Instead you could ask for further clarification of an aspect of the role you are particularly interested in.

So, what about the salary question?

When you’re doing your research it’s a good idea to look at salary bands in New Zealand for your kind of work. You may be asked what your salary expectation is, so it’s important to be able to give an answer that’s in line with what this role is worth, rather than base it on your currently salary in your home country. The true salary negotiation usually happens once a job offer is made.

The job interview is an opportunity to show your suitability and enthusiasm for a role, as well as find out whether you can see yourself fitting into their team. Asking questions that demonstrate that you understand the role and the team, rather than what you want to get out of it, will help you to stand out.

So…Any questions?

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Article by:
Jannie Allen (Job Search Coach at NZIC)

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