Janine Marin - communications expert

How NOT to stuff-up a job interview

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Job interviews are about as fun as extracting wisdom teeth – it’s painful but it’s got to be done. What I find to be the worst part of the interview process, though, is not the nerves or thinking ‘what the hell are they going to ask?’

It’s the waiting game… you know, that (dreaded) time between the interview and when you hear from them next, when the cinema in your mind starts screening ‘what if’ and ‘should’ve’ scenes: “What if they don’t like me?” “I should’ve answered that question better.” “What if they saw through my BS?” This type of self-inflicted pain can go on and on.

So, how do you minimise the risk of stuffing up a job interview?

  Like I said earlier, job interviews are painful but you can lessen the pain if you remember one thing: ask them questions.

It was only in the latter half of my 20’s that I mustered the courage to ask my future employer questions in the interview and put them on the spot.

It was actually empowering for me, and ever since then I’ve armed myself with questions. Like I wrote in this blog about the ‘10 questions you must ask your future employer during a job interview’, job interviews are your best opportunity to find out if a company is a good fit for you.

Amy Hoover, president of TalentZoo, says there’s another reason you should always prepare questions. “It’s expected — and if you don’t ask at least two questions, you will appear disinterested, or worse, less intelligent and engaged than a prospective employer would like.”

Dave Kerpen, Founder & CEO, Likeable Local, NY Times Best-Selling Author & Speaker, shares the same view on his blog, saying that if you don’t ask questions you might as well not show up:

“She answered all of my questions well, and seemed like a potential excellent fit for our company. Yet, despite all of this, she didn’t receive another interview, and I absolutely couldn’t seriously consider hiring her. What went wrong? …. By not asking questions, she told me she wasn’t truly interested in learning more, in creating value, and in our company. I couldn’t hire an otherwise very-well-qualified candidate because, in her lack of questions, she displayed a lack of passion for, interest in, and curiosity about our company and the position.”

So, how should you best prepare for when the tables are turned and the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?”  

  • Research what’s worked for others: Google ‘questions to ask during a job interview’ and you’ll have 4 million search results to choose from. You can’t go wrong. Or, you could easily see the top 10 questions I’ve asked in job interviews which have left a great impression time and time again.
  • Choose 5, ask 3: Shortlist your questions to five and ask three in the interview. I recommend asking a question about career progression, company culture and how your role fits into the company’s vision.
  • Take a notebook: In majority of my interviews I’ve taken a notebook with me full of key company information and my questions to ask. Having this allows me to comfortably listen to the interviewer, jot down important points and have my questions handy.  I’ve done this in the past and it’s never done any harm.

Remember, a job interview is a two-way street – it’s as much about you as it is about them. Do your research, shortlist your questions, have your notebook handy, take a deep breath and walk in with your head held high … you got this!

Any questions or advice you can share to help fellow job seekers out? If you’re a manager, any questions you advise interviewees NOT to ask? Share your advice below – would love to hear it.

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