Grasping this notion will allow you to pose appropriate questions at appropriate moments that will both provide you with as much pertinent information as is needed to make a career decision and help you further engage with your interviewers and assessors.
Why is asking questions important?
Astute questioning not only conveys a keen interest and mental curiosity but also demonstrates, however seemingly unnoticeable, an ability to understand how to interact with your interviewer. Some may clock onto this and some may not, but to elucidate, think about what you as a graduate might be tasked to do or even think about what consultants generally do.
They interact with clients and often have to gather information and requirements from various stakeholders each with their own issues, styles and agendas. It is therefore paramount that the right kind of questions are posed and in the right manner depending on who is being interviewed; you wouldn’t ask a techie person about finance stuff and you wouldn’t ask a finance person about techie stuff, at least not in the same way.
Therefore, think about what kind of impression you create by asking irrelevant or imprecise questions; a Partner will not be impressed by a question about holidays or how expenses works. Sure you won’t be rejected just because of this and some may not even bat an eyelid, but it makes sense to bear this in mind as there is an opportunity here to add to an overall great impression by asking good questions, which is simply too easy to pass up.
So what is HR interested in?
HR is usually somewhat divorced from the business. I apologise to those HR functions, resource managers etc. who are very much embedded in their businesses, but typically, questions about culture, day-to-day work activities, working styles, business strategy etc. should be saved for a consultant. HR is likely to regurgitate the info on the website.
Instead, questions around how graduates and consultants get resourced onto projects, salaries, expenses, benefits, logistics and practical matters are far more relevant. Also feel free to probe into the recruitment process: how many positions they have, how many have they filled, do they have a lot of people in process.
-An interesting curve ball is to ask also about why people leave the organisation [HR often conduct exit interviews]-
And the Business?
Funnily enough, this is your opportunity to ask anything relating to the business: working culture/ style; long-term vision; market position; recent projects and client work; why they joined the company; what keeps them there; where they see themselves in 3/5/10 years time; what they don’t like about the company etc.
-don’t be afraid to turn some of the questions posed to you, back on to the interviewer-
Any final questions?
Sometimes, before moving on to broader questioning, it is worth asking if the interviewer now has enough information to make a decision or if there were any areas or competencies they would find it helpful to revisit. Phrased differently, you can ask if they have any concerns about your performance at this stage that you might be able to address. A further spin might be, whether the interviewer has any concerns about your ability to do well at this company.
You might get prompted to provide more evidence or dispel an impression, but sometimes you may just get the ‘that’s fine, I’ve got all the info I need to process and evaluate’ stock answer.
- Consider who the interviewer is and what their domain is, ie. know your audience
- Ask relevant and interesting questions
- The quality of the question will determine the quality of the answer and therefore the impression you create
- Be precise and confident, not flimsy and lackadaisical in your questioning
- A good question is an opportunity to be memorable and outshine the competition