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The best and worst questions to ask in an interview by Porter Novelli’s, Angela Casey

25th September 2014

“Do you have any questions?” – This is the question guaranteed to put the fear of God into most interviewees. How often have you been asked this at the end of an interview, only to find that you can only respond with “I think we covered everything while talking.”?

Interviews are hard work for both sides. I therefore recommend you think of questions that are unlikely to be covered during the interview, that will not reveal you to be a class A sycophant, and which will demonstrate your interest in the job and, most importantly, your supreme intelligence. So let’s start with the easy bit:                                                

Questions not to ask in an interview

1. What is the salary?

If you want this job this question will not get it for you. I know that we all want to earn good money and that actually the salary is really important, but if you want to get to the next stage and be in a good negotiating position, then this question puts you at the bottom of the list straight off. 

2. What are the qualities of an ideal candidate?

You should have identified this yourself before the interview and ideally, you should have demonstrated all these qualities during the interview. It is not only a lame question, but it is a bit late to be asking this question now the interview is pretty much over.

3. Why should I take this job?

This is actually quite a good question, but it is a bit arrogant and might make the interviewer think you are putting a gun to their head. Far better to ask the question during the interview but phrase it more like: “What benefits to do you offer employees?” and “What training do you do?” Negotiating the big benefits and your salary come at the next stage – if you get that far.

4. Tell me about how you got into PR/your career path?

This question might appear good, but actually sounds like desperation because your list of questions has dried up! You do not really need to know how someone got to this stage and, to be honest, it is not relevant to the job. While you do need to show an interest in the interviewer, you are trying to stroke their ego with this question and in my case it doesn’t work – though I stand to be corrected by others who might like this one!

Good questions to ask in an interview

It is a good idea to have a few questions written down in front of you, so you have a few up your sleeve for when your top three have already been answered. We have always been impressed by candidates who have a written list of questions in front of them. It demonstrates they have prepared for the interview and are serious about it.

1. What is the timescale and when will I hear back from you?

It is a standard question, but this demonstrates your interest and keenness to move things on. A good interviewer should already have told you what the timescales and next steps are by this point, so this question might already have been scored off your list.

2. What are the opportunities for progression?

I want to employ good people who will stay in the company for a reasonably long time, so this question demonstrates longevity and an interest in doing a good job. It also shows that the interviewee is seeing the job as a career move, rather than just a route out of their current role.

3. What training and development do you offer?

Again, this question should have been covered off through a good interview, but it is a great one to ask as it also demonstrates a career focus. It shows that you know the importance of training and that you want to learn, which is important. If it has already been covered, your alternative question could be about where and when training takes place – i.e., through the PRCA, CIPR, internally, or during the job.

4. What are the specifics of the job?

This question could give you a few options. It is a good idea to probe about the team you will be in, what clients you would work on if it is a consultancy interview, or what would be your role within the organisation. This demonstrates a readiness to get on with the job and a desire to integrate. So many interviews are one sided, so this also allows you to find out about the role and decide whether you want it.

Being interviewed is a tough job, but doing interviewing is tough too. If you can make the job easier for the interviewer to choose you, you are halfway there and, as with everything in life, a bit of preplanning and preparation goes a long way.

This week PRmoment and the PRCA have launched a specialised niche jobs board for London based PR professionals - called PR Jobs London.


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