questions to ask before a job interview

It’s been a bit of a peak period for interview coaching the last few months. One question that I find that I am often being asked at the end of an interview coaching program by a candidate is: “Is there anything I should be asking about before the interview?”. So what are the sorts of questions to ask before a job interview?

There are definitely a number of key questions you should be getting the answers to prior to going into your job interview. For some of these questions, you should seek the answer from the person coordinating the recruitment. They will include the length of the interview, the format of the interview, the names and positions of the interview panel members, and whether you need to prepare anything for the interview. For the rest of these questions, you should be seeking the answers from yourself, and possibly your interview coach if you have one. They will include answers to what is the panel looking for, do you have any weaknesses in relation to the job and do you have the right examples prepared for the panel.

Let’s go over this in a bit more detail. Starting with questions you can ask of the recruiter and then questions you should be answering yourself.

Questions to Ask the Recruiter.

I always recommend if possible that you check in with the person coordinating the recruitment a few days ahead of time. Some recruitment coordinators are very organized in providing you with information about the process. But more often than not you can find out more by being courteous and respectful. Remember also that this person is often also an executive assistant working with the chair of the panel. So it helps to be making a good impression. Because panel chairs often do ask about whether candidates were polite or not.

Confirm the Details of the Interview.

Make sure you confirm the details of your interview. Because times and locations do change and sometimes can be wrong. Especially if the interview is being done across countries and timezones. How early should you arrive? Is there any paperwork that needs to be gone through prior to the interview.

Find Out the Names of the Panel Members.

Quite often interview panels are being pulled together at the last minute. So checking a couple of days beforehand is usually the best time to be able to find out their names. I think this is one of the most important questions to be asking as it is very difficult, if not impossible, to remember the names of interviewers if you are just introduced to them during the interview.

Find out the position of each panel member and do your research on them. What is their role, profession and what are their interests? This will help you to tailor your question responses effectively.

How Long Does the Interview Go For?

Ask about the length of the interview. How many questions will there be in total? This helps you to know how long or short your answers should be.

Is There Anything You Should Prepare for the Interview?

Some interview processes involve getting you to prepare a presentation as the first question or coming in early to review the interview questions. It’s good to know about these things as early as possible.

Is There Anything You Should Bring for the Interview?

The interview is often the time when panels will want to view your credentials and 100 points of identification and other documents like working with children checks. You should also ask if it’s ok to bring things with you to the interview. I always like to bring a portfolio of things to look at and refer to during the interview. Having the job selection criteria to look at can be particularly useful when dealing with strange questions from the panel.

How Many Candidates Are Being Interviewed?

You may think that this is a question where you are unlikely to get a response. But recruiters and interview panels can be surprisingly candid about these sort of questions. And it helps to know your chances going in.

Its also often possible to work this out based on the length of the individual interview and the total time allotted.

If its a position with multiple openings try to also find out how many people the panel is wishing to hire.

If the Interview Is a Video Interview Is It Possible to Do a Test?

Many interviews are conducted these days using video. Usually, you are asked to go to a link on the web using a browser on your computer. It’s a good idea to find out details about the system being used beforehand. And if possible to test it out on your set up as well as trying to connect to another location to ensure that you have the right equipment and appropriate amount of internet bandwidth.

questions to ask before a job interview

Questions to Ask Yourself Prior to the Interview?

Do I Understand What They Are Looking For?

It may seem obvious. But between lodging that application and doing all that preparation you may have forgotten exactly what it is the panel is looking for. Review the selection criteria that came with the job description. Check out the role description and key responsibilities. Make sure you understand what competencies they are looking for so you can talk about how your own competencies demonstrate that you are a good candidate.

Can I Paint A Compelling Picture Of Why I Am the Best Person for the Job?

Most panel interviews start with a question along the lines of “Why have you applied for the job?” or “What makes you a good candidate?.” Make sure you have an answer to this question. What are the 3 key strengths that you bring that not only meet but exceed their expectations? Use examples and storytelling to paint a compelling picture.

Have I Anticipated Any Key Weaknesses?

The panel will not just be interested in any strengths you may bring to the role. They will be interested in any areas of weakness. Overall they will be generally cautious about giving someone who has significant weaknesses the job. Even if that is balanced out by significant strengths.

So it’s important that you have honestly considered whether you are truly weak in any particular area and have a plan for addressing this weakness.

For example, if the role calls for you to conduct research as part of the position. But you haven’t done any real research. Then you need to be prepared to talk about how you have other skills that would translate to this requirement and mean that you would not necessarily be starting from scratch.

Have I Thought About What Questions They Will Ask?

If you have been doing interview practice you probably have been thinking about what questions will be asked. But be careful that you are not just practicing old questions that are based on outdated selection criteria.

If you have not done any preparation at this point you should at least be going through the position description and in particular the selection criteria and coming up with at least one question for each of these.

Have I Talked to Current Incumbents?

A commonly overlooked but easy thing to do in your preparation is to talk to actual people who are doing the actual job that you are going for. These people can give you all sorts of insights into the key challenges of the role and phrases such as:

“Well, when I was talking to one of the current doctors working in the role they mentioned some key things to watch out for in the first month were…”

Will go along way with the panel.

Current incumbents can often also give you vital insights into the selection process.

Do I Know What Sort of Questions I Need to Ask?

Perhaps the final thing to think about is whether you have any questions about the job that need answering. There is normally a period at the end of the interview when the official questions have been asked where you have a chance to ask your own questions.

It’s important that you don’t blow your interview by asking a question which you have already been given the answer to or which doesn’t show that you have put in your research.

On the other hand, asking a really insightful question can finish off the process on a high. Its best to have prepared these questions beforehand rather than just winging it on the day.

Related Questions.

Question. Is There A Good Approach to the Final Interview Question.

Answer. Yes, there is. But it depends on your individual circumstances. In many situations it’s actually OK not to ask a question. Particularly if you don’t have a good one. Here’s a video to help you out.

Question. When Do My Referees Normally Get Interviewed?

Answer. This very much depends on how many candidates are being interviewed and also whether there is some form of automated referee checking system. If there are large numbers of candidates. Then the selection committee will normally wait till after the interview to check referees. They will generally start with referees for preferred candidates. So if your referees are being interviewed at this point its a pretty good sign.


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