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8 Impressive Questions to Ask During an Interview

8 Impressive Questions to Ask During an Interview
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I. Love. Job Interviews.

Call me crazy. Some people get super freaked out about job interviews. I love them, because not only are they a great way to convince companies to hire you, but they are also a great way for you to learn about them. This requires preparing for all sorts of interview questions.

In my professional career, I believe I have attended more than 75 interviews as a candidate. This includes in-person interviews at a placement exchange or on campus. I’m not counting phone interviews. But if you count those, I’m easily over 100.

Having worked in 9 different jobs in 7 different states in the past 25 years, I’ve learned a few things about the questions I need to ask in order to determine if the organization is a good fit for me. Ultimately, there is one little thing is more important than title, salary, or benefits.

It’s not whether YOU are a good fit for them…it’s if the EMPLOYER is a good fit for you. They’ve already done their initial research, and they already believe you qualify. If you are approaching the interview from a research standpoint, you now need to determine if this place of employment is one where you will thrive, grow, and make a difference.

What I’ve learned over the years is that employees come to a job interview with different needs in mind. I will always be concerned about work/life balance and opportunities for professional development. However, you might be more interested in supervision, your team, the history of the company, office culture, or the job selection process itself.

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With that in mind, here are 8 questions you can ask that cover all the bases.

1. What are the biggest challenges that someone in this position would face?

This question is on the job itself. It really helps pull from the interviewer what they are looking for in the new hire.

“Challenges” winds up being a trigger word for “wish list,”  so when you ask the interviewer about challenges in the position, you are asking them to specify the type of employee they are seeking; but you are showing the interviewer that you are up to the task and want to push yourself to raise the bar on your performance.

2. What training programs are available to your employees?

This is a basic, simple question that could be expanded depending on the answer. Personally, this is my favorite question about training and professional development.

Whatever specific training is offered or included from the get-go will be illustrated in an answer, but the interviewer may also provide you with details on professional associations, annual conferences, or other training/development that happens in the organization.

If you have room for a follow up question, ask what conferences or seminars other professionals in this position have been able to attend.

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3. What will you expect from me during the first day, first week, and first month of employment?

I’ve always loved asking this question as a recruiter, but it will also get to the heart of what your supervisor or team leader is looking for in the early days of your tenure.

General expectations should be unveiled, as well as the spirit and attitude expected as you get to know your team and your department. Pay close attention to these expectations, especially if you are being interviewed by the person who will be your immediate supervisor.

4. What gets you most excited about this company’s future?

Here’s where you’ll get a sense of the organization’s vision, especially if you are attending a panel interview and have the benefit of several people answering this question.

This is one of my favorite questions to ask since it will give you a sense of what makes the employees happy in their work. You’ll also get a possible inside scoop on who might be somewhat unhappy at the moment as there will be a short pause before that person answers the question.

5. What are my direct report’s strengths and the team’s biggest challenges?

If you are going for a management position where you’ll be supervising a team, this is a great place to get started learning about them.

If the hiring manager is unable to share this information with you, tweak the question slightly by asking about the hiring requirements for those folks who will be part of your team. At the very least, you can get a sense of what is required for those employees who will report to you.

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6. Can you tell me about the last team (or office) event you did together?

This question will help you determine if you are going to work for a fun, progressive organization or a more conservative, traditional one.

If their last event was a store-bought cake for all the February birthdays, then you know already that there isn’t much socialization outside of the workplace….or that much creativity, for that matter.

However, if the most recent event was a team building retreat and ropes course out in the woods, then get ready for a very team-driven and close knit community at work.

7. What are the next steps in the selection process?

This may seem obvious, but not all employers have this information together during the interview, or the hiring manager may not know it.

If you are interviewing with a traditional selection committee, they should be able to outline exactly what’s going to happen next: a second level interview, checking references, and so forth. They may even let you know how soon you’ll know any updates.

But be prepared to leave the interview without this information and know that you’ll need to follow up. At least by asking it, the potential employer will know that you are still interested and want to be kept up to date.

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8. What do each of you enjoy the most about working here; and what is one thing you would change if you could?

This is my very favorite question to ask at the end of the interview. It is best utilized if you have a full panel interviewing you. This was one of the questions that really made me shine at my most recent interview, which was for the position I have now and have had for the past 6 years.

In my years of job searching and interviewing, I have found that this one question lets me know a good cross-section of the things that make employees happy, as well as the things that bother them. If I hear the same thing more than once, I mark that down.

Final Thoughts

As a candidate, you may only have the luxury of asking one question; but have these questions on hand and review them often before the interview.

Remember, the interviewing team or manager is not the only one making a decision here. You should be armed with as much data-gathering material as possible, so when you get the chance to ask, you are ready. If not, use these questions as a follow up call or email for the hiring manager.

Best of luck on your interview — you’ve got this!

More Tips for Nailing an Interview

Featured photo credit: You X Ventures via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Kris McPeak

Educator, Author, Career Change and Work/Life Balance Guru

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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