5 Key Job Interview Questions
These five key job interview questions are NOT the most important questions for you to ask during a job interview, but they are essential to a successful job search because they help you understand your potential employer’s process.
Don’t assume all employers have the same hiring process. They definitely don’t!
While some employers will tell you about their process, many will forget or just not keep you informed.
It’s up to you to gather the information you need about each employer’s hiring process so you can plan your activities, gauge your chances at landing the job, and understand how things are progressing (or not).
Important Job Interview Questions About the “Process”
The answers to these questions can give you an idea not only of how your potential employer’s interview and hiring process works, but also how urgently they want to fill the job. And, quite possibly, how interested they are in hiring you.
Be sure to ask these questions during the job interviews, when on the phone with someone from the employer’s organization, or in your email to them:
1. What is the next step in their process? and How soon do they need to fill the position?
It could be an email, a phone call, a visit to their facility, list of your references, or something else, but you need to know. So, before you leave the interview or end the phone call, ask them these two questions—What is the next step in your process? and How soon do they need to fill the position?
If you can, ask more than one person this question; ask it separately or as a group. Depending on where you are in their typical chronology for hiring, the next step could be interviewing other candidates, another interview for you, checking your references, having you take a test (or tests), or even waiting for them to meet and discuss what happens next.
Every employer is different, but most have a process they follow (formally or informally) when making a hire. To successfully navigate through their process, you need to know the process or, at least, know what the next step is.
Chances are very good that the people whom you speak with won’t think to tell you what happens next. They’ll assume that someone else has told you (or will tell you) or they don’t realize how important that information is to you.
2. When will they be back in touch?
Again, ask this question of each person or group of people you talk with. Assuming that you will be invited to continue in their hiring process, when you know what the next step is, ask them—When can I expect to hear from someone (or you) about this job?
As usual, depending on where you are in their hiring process, you could hear from them today (unlikely, but possible), tomorrow, at the end of the week, the next week, next month, after the holidays, etc.
All the people you ask may not agree on the timing, but you’ll end up with a general idea of their schedule. Expect this answer to be inaccurate or completely wrong, but ask it anyway, because it gives you an idea of the expected time frame for the hiring process and it lays the groundwork for the next questions.
3. Who should be your contact?
At the end of each stage of the job interview process (phone screen, in-person round one, in-person round two, etc.), ask this question—Who should I stay in touch with?
Typically, one person will be designated as the “point person” and that’s the person you usually stay in touch with throughout the process. Ask for the person’s business card.
Additional people may be added during the process, like the hiring manager or an HR manager. Hopefully, you have an internal contact who referred you for the job opportunity (best way to get hired!) and that person may be your best informal source of information.
4. What is the best way to reach your contact?
This is essential information—How should I contact (you, person’s name, or job title)? Hopefully, they will say something like, “Call me at ###-###-####.” Less useful is an email address. It’s best to have both so you can follow up when you don’t receive a response to your email.
If you have the person’s business card, get it out and circle the preferred communications method on the card or add it to the back of the card.
5. When can you get back in touch with them?
This is a very important question! The answer gives you permission to contact them if they miss their own deadline—and, they usually do miss it. Their answer usually gives you both information and permission to stay in touch.
So, ask this question—If I don’t hear from you by (their back-in-touch date, #2 above), when could I call you, just to follow up? Add a day or two to their own back-in-touch date in your question. If they said they’ll contact you next Tuesday, don’t call Tuesday morning! Call Thursday morning.
One of the biggest mistakes job seekers make is following up too often and too aggressively, coming across as someone who would be very annoying to work with. Often, the expected time table for responding is wrong (usually overly optimistic).
They say they will get back to you by Friday, but on the Wednesday after the Friday deadline, you still haven’t heard from them. Then, either they are extremely disorganized, not very well-managed, or not particularly interested in hiring you. Any of those reasons should make you wonder if you really want to work in that organization.
Stay Out of Limbo
Most of the time there seems to be an endless wait between job interview and the next step in the hiring process. Often (but, not always), they are confused because they didn’t ask how the employers’ processes worked, so they get discouraged and give up or, worse, they put their whole job search on hold waiting to hear back from an employer. Don’t make those mistakes!
Understanding about the job, the organization, and the people you would be working with is critical to guide you in accepting—or rejecting—a job opportunity. The answers to these key job interview questions will keep you on track and informed about what is happening on the employer’s side of the situation.
Mark James, CPC is the President of Hire Consulting Services, established in 1999. He is a Certified Personnel Consultant and has been providing executive career transition coaching and executive recruiting services for over 25 years. Mark is also a Certified Partner with Predictive Index® Behavior Assessments focused on talent selection and leadership development.