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Questions during the interview: this is important to note

Just as questions from HR are part of a job interview, counter-questions from candidates should also be on the program for a successful job interview. We explain why and have picked out possible questions for you during the interview. We have also put together particularly courageous questions, asked HR experts about critical questions in the interview, and prepared counter-questions that you would answer in the interview none Fall.

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Why should questions be asked in the interview?

It is not enough if you only answer the questions of the recruiter in the interview. You also have to be proactive yourself and demonstrate your interest in the company, in the position, in the team or in any challenges. You can do this with questions and counter-questions that you ask during the job interview. Only then does the interview become a real conversation and your motivation is proven. With good questions you can also testify that you have dealt a lot with the company and the position and that you would like to know more about it.

Of course, that doesn't mean you should ask as many questions as you can. It's about asking good and appropriate questions that are also relevant to your potential new position. So think in advance which questions you could ask. Below is a selection of questions you could ask during an interview.

You can definitely ask these questions in the job interview

Here is our top 10 selection of possible counter-questions in the job interview:

1. What are the first tasks and most important challenges in this position?

The tasks of your possible future position are very important to you. In the interview, you should not only find out what your routine tasks will be, but also which major projects and challenges will be pending for the position. This will help you get a better idea of ​​the open position and find out whether the open position would suit you.

2. What do you personally appreciate about this company?

This question in the interview is a little brave, but if you are lucky, the other person will tell you what makes working at this company so special or what the difficulties are. This enables you to better assess what makes the company tick and whether it meets your expectations.

3. How is the team composed?

With a good team, work is twice as fun. Therefore, it is interesting to find out who you would work with on his team and what the respective positions in the department are. Are there particularly many young employees or is the team very international? During the second job interview, it often happens that the team is briefly introduced to you.

4. What are the company's challenges for the future?

Due to digitization, new trends and the economic situation, etc., no company can rest on its laurels. Therefore, in the interview, the question of which paths the company would like to take in the future is entirely justified. Maybe new products / services are being launched or the digital strategy is being further developed.

5. Are there opportunities for development in the company?

It can also be of interest whether you will have the opportunity to take on more responsibility at work and whether there are career advancement opportunities in the company. However, ask this question in such a way that the interviewer does not get the impression that you would like to be promoted or take over the position of boss; better express that you are ready to take responsibility and are not averse to further development.

6. What benefits are there in the company?

Not only the employees should offer something to the company, but also the other way around. The question of benefits and any fringe benefits also makes sense. This allows you to get an idea of ​​how much this employer cares about the employees and whether the range of benefits appeals to you.

7. Who are the main competitors?

If you want to work in a new area, you should also get to know the market situation of the potential employer. Of course, you should research it before the interview, but you can get more detailed information during the interview. For example, you can introduce the question like this: “I think that X and Y are important competitors of yours. Is that correct or who are other important companies in this branch? ».

8. What is the working atmosphere like in your home?

The working atmosphere and working atmosphere are also an important factor for your future job. With this question you can find out what important values ​​of the company are. Do tolerance and respect play a major role, is the company particularly modern or is it more conservative?

9. Why is the position vacant?

The question of why the position is currently vacant is also entirely legitimate. It makes it clear whether the vacancy has been newly created or whether it will be filled. Maybe this will give you a little more background information on the tasks and challenges.

10. Is there an option for home office and flexible working hours?

Flexible working models, where home office or flexible working hours are offered, are nothing unusual in many industries and for certain professions these days. So find out if you would have the opportunity to do so in this job. The answer reveals how open the company is to new forms of work and whether the company offers future-oriented working conditions.

More examples of questions to be asked by the employer

The questions should fit into the context and be asked when it is appropriate. For example, when the recruiter offers the applicant to ask questions or when your interlocutor explains something and you want to know more about it. Here are a few more examples with possible questions during the job interview.

  • What are the exact tasks?
  • What are the current challenges that the team has to master?
  • What does a working day look like for you?
  • How would you describe your leadership style?

Particularly courageous questions in the job interview

With courageous questions you can stand out from other applicants and show that you are particularly interested in the position. Be particularly careful with these questions. Here are a few examples.

# Why do you like to work for this company?

The chances are high that you will have to answer the HR staff why you are particularly suitable for the position or would like to work in this company. However, if you ask them this question, it will be a surprise, but you will learn more about the company than is written on the homepage and you can get a better picture from the perspective of employees.

# Which personalities is the team made up of?

The interview is not just about the position itself, but also about the team you will be working with. It is therefore perfectly legitimate to ask how many people are on the team and what personalities are there. Are they rather calm types, mostly creative minds or are they “number freaks”? So you can better imagine whether you would fit into this team.

# What would my tasks include in the first working days?

You can use this question to determine whether a specific plan for your position already exists. Are there already exciting tasks that you should tackle immediately or would you have enough time in the first few days to read a wide variety of company documents? The more specific the information, the better for you.

# What can I do differently than my predecessor?

Quite a brave question, but this is a great way to find out how to do the job well. Do you see yourself able to face the tasks of your predecessor or even to do them better? Don't let big challenges scare you off, that's part of a new job.

# Do you see development potential in this position?

It may seem like a criticism, but it is interesting for both you and the HR manager to talk about possible changes or challenges in the position. In doing so, you can not only get a better overview of the tasks, but perhaps use your know-how and possible suggestions (but without appearing as a know-it-all) to show that you are familiar with this area of ​​responsibility

Questions that you should definitely avoid in the interview

Just as there are suitable questions that qualify you as an interesting applicant, there are also a number of questions and answers that have no place in the interview. These indicate that you are not interested enough in the position or that you will not be sufficiently committed.

# When can I take your job?

There is nothing against the fact that you have intentions to advance your career and maybe get promoted after some time in the job. Under no circumstances should you give the impression that you want to take your manager's job away.

# When will the first raise be?

The question of wages is also okay at the end of the interview. Addressing a possible pay rise right away, however, is considered disrespectful and exaggerated. However, it is important that you prepare well for the salary question at the job interview.

# What does your company actually do?

Questions about the company are legitimate, but they shouldn't be asking simple questions about things you can easily find out on the internet. If you ask about the general activity of the company or the number of employees, it shows that you haven't done a lot of research.

# Can I buy a vacation?

The topic of benefits usually comes up at the end of the interview or, in some cases, not until the second job interview. If it's not addressed by the employer, you can ask for it towards the end of the conversation. However, it is not appropriate if you ask too many detailed questions and thus give the impression that you are more interested in benefits than in the position. Topics such as a possible holiday purchase or a sabbatical therefore do not belong in the first job interview.

Inappropriate answers in the job interview

The following answers in the job interview show a disinterest or an unsuitable way of dealing and should therefore be avoided:

  • I do not know myself.
    Even if you don't know something, you should try to answer the question something. Be creative.
  • Because I am the only competent employee.
    It doesn't look good and appears extremely arrogant when you give the impression that you are the only one who can and knows everything.
  • I don't want to talk about that here.
    Even less pleasant questions are part of the job interview. So answer diplomatically.
  • My former superiors were a disaster.
    Avoid speaking too badly about your former employer. This shows a negative attitude and little adaptability.
  • I already told you that.
    Answers like these are extremely unfriendly and disqualify your diplomacy and your team spirit.
  • I don't work overtime, I have to leave at 5:00 p.m.
    Show yourself flexible and motivated when you have questions about longer working hours, difficult challenges or complicated projects.

Questions that HR managers are not allowed to ask

There are also questions that HR managers are not allowed to ask of candidates during job interviews. You can find these in the following article.

Critical counter-questions in the job interview - that's what HR experts say

There are also questions in the interview where it is not so clear whether they should be asked or not. We picked out a few such questions and asked three HR experts for their opinion.

May I ask about a trial day in the interview?

Flavia Arizzoli: Of course! That is valuable for both sides. We often also offer trial opportunities from our side.
Yeshe Sherpa: Yes, this is definitely legitimate and usually profitable for both parties.
Lydia Zollinger: Yes, that even shows particular interest on the part of the candidate.

Can I ask if I can see my work colleagues for a moment?

Arizzoli: Nothing speaks against it either. Our candidates almost always get to know the team in the final round.
Sherpa: Yes, but not in the first conversation.
Zollinger: Towards the end of the interview, we will show you how the application process will proceed. It is customary in many places to get to know other people in a second round of talks. So if you are invited to a second interview, you as an applicant can ask whether you can get to know the whole team.

Is it okay to go to the toilet during the interview?

Arizzoli: Sure, when it's urgent - but rarely happens.
Sherpa: No. It's a good idea to do this before the interview.
Zollinger: Such questions rarely come up. If it is not absolutely necessary, as an applicant it is better not to do so - so as not to interrupt the conversation.

Can I ask for a glass of water or a coffee during the interview?

Arizzoli: We always offer water. A coffee shouldn't be asked for - there is no need to have a coffee in an interview.
Sherpa: Not in a normal interview. However, if it is an assessment lasting several hours, this would be fine.
Zollinger: Usually, when you talk to the company, you are offered water or coffee. If not, be sure to ask.

Is it okay to ask if I can take the dog / other pet to work?

Arizzoli: Only if it is clear that the work and the infrastructure allow it. This is not possible with us.
Sherpa: No, as this is a no-go for many companies. But if it is a knockout criterion for the applicant, then he cannot avoid this question.
Zollinger: Yes, of course. As long as you don't take the dog to the job interview right away.

Should I talk about the salary in the first interview?

Arizzoli: There is no general answer to that. We pick up the candidate's salary expectations in the initial interview.
Sherpa: Only when asked about it. Otherwise this point is clarified in a second round of talks.
Zollinger: That is a very important point that can decide whether someone will pursue the application. That is why you ask the interviewee in advance what their ideas are. As a rule, however, HR does not pick up this topic until the end of the conversation. If the salary has not yet been addressed, then it is absolutely fine to bring the point up on your own.

Can I talk about holidays in the first interview?

Arizzoli: If vacations are already firmly booked and fall within the time with the new employer, this should definitely be mentioned. Asking the number of vacations is less appropriate as it can be misinterpreted. Usually you will be informed about this sooner or later.
Sherpa: No, this too should only be addressed in a second interview when mutual interest has already been signaled.
Zollinger: Companies usually only talk about fringe benefits and holidays at the end of the conversation. It is generally advantageous if the applicant does not take too many vacation days during the probationary period.

Can I ask about benefits in the company?

Arizzoli: If the employer doesn't tell you this anyway, go ahead. Ultimately, however, you shouldn't create the impression that you only come to work for the benefits. The motivation should be different.
Sherpa: Again, analogous to the question of salary, one should be cautious here.
Zollinger: If no information came from the company after the first interview, it is absolutely okay if the candidate asks about it in a second interview.

Is it legitimate to talk about promotion options in the first conversation?

Arizzoli: Further development is important and it is legitimate to ask about possibilities and ways. But it depends on whether the question is asked as a demand or out of interest.
Sherpa: It makes sense and is legitimate to find out about development opportunities. But you should always express the motivation for the vacancy that is involved.
Zollinger: Yes. However, it is better to speak of personal development rather than promotion.

Is it appropriate to ask why the person who was previously in the position left the position?

Arizzoli: That is perfectly allowed.
Sherpa: Yes and no. In the first interview, it is generally not advisable to ask critical questions.
Zollinger: The applicant should simply ask himself what he wants to achieve with it. If you want to find out whether the team has a good cohesion, you should better ask directly what the atmosphere is in the team.

Flavia Arizzoli has been working as an HR consultant at Helsana Insurance in Zurich since July 2015.

Yeshe Sherpa is managing partner of the Swiss IT and SAP recruiting agency ONE Agency. With ONE Career, he offers university graduates the opportunity to find a tailor-made career start in the people business.

Lydia Zollinger is Head of HR at ti & m AG in Zurich.