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Powerful questions to ask at job interviews

It is so important to have a list of questions to ask at job interviews which really enable you to assess what an organisation - and your next boss - is like to work for and most importantly, whether they are a good fit for you.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Who will I learn from and how?

Is the person interviewing you a good role model, someone from whom you can learn and develop your own skills? Do you feel excited about the prospect of working with him or her? What training and development opportunities are there available? Some (often larger) organisations offer a range of training opportunities in areas they are seeking to develop, like management or leadership skills. What's the organisation's approach to mentoring and shared learning between employees? Is reverse mentoring encouraged i.e. senior people learning new skills from younger people, like technology or social media for example?

2. Who are the organisation's heroes - and what for?

We often learn from role models whose behaviour we wish to emulate. Stories are often shared within organisations about heroes. What do those stories tell you about what it's like to work in that place? What's the message behind the story - winning against all odds, but at a cost to the organisation in terms of conflict or a demoralised workforce; or the individual at the expense of the team - you will learn a lot from the answers you're given.

3. How willing are people to help one another?

Recognising that we all have different strengths, interests and gifts, what is the approach to delegating tasks? Is it who's available or who demonstrates the best fit for the task? What flexibility is there for employees to learn, share and collaborate to get the best outcome?

4. How do you resolve conflict here?

This might feel like a tricky question to ask, but it's an important one. Disagreements occur in every work environment. How are they resolved? Does the person with the loudest voice or the most power prevail or is there a desire to achieve consensus? This also gives a cross on the answer to the previous question!

5. How do you celebrate what's working?

It's all too easy to focus on things going wrong, rather than what's going well. You can quickly pick up on which practice is favoured and this impacts on how willing you'll be to take risks and possibly fail. How is good practice shared - at a team, as well as organisational level? Their answer says a lot about the organisation's approach to learning too.

6. What keeps you going when things get stressful?

This helps you understand the person you'll be working for and what motivates them - provided they give you an honest answer of course!

7. How do I get feedback about how I'm doing?  

This will tell you a lot about your future manager's management style and how comfortable s/he is with giving feedback.  If you get the line about the formal performance management system, once a year type exercise, be wary.  It's really helpful to get regular feedback, particularly in the early stages of a job or your career.  No news is not necessarily good news either!

What questions have you asked at interviews which have served you well?


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