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'Never query the salary': How to nail a job interview by asking all the right questions

We spoke to career experts to find out how to be the best job candidate possible.

SO, WE’RE ONE month into the new year. You may have bitten the bullet and decided to make a career change or even just a job change. If so, you’ll be facing the next challenge: the interview.

From picking the right outfit to wear and being confident in your body language to researching the company’s core information, most people have the basic musts for interviews under their belt.

However, there’s one vital element that candidates forget to prep – the questions you ask at the end. It can be an ultimate make or break, according to a number of career experts.

Group HR manager of Enterprise Rent-A-Car Ireland, Leslee O’Loughlin, told that all too often interviewees ask the interviewer about information on the company that is already readily available online, making them look unprepared and uninformed.

“If your questions have answers that could have been quickly found online, then that’s a concern for me,” O’Loughlin said.

Marie McManamon of Clearcut Career Guidance explained why people don’t often prepare end-of-interview questions, and what you must steer clear of asking.

“Just don’t ask anything about ‘What’s in this for me?’. That’s the most important thing. Sometimes people get stuck at the end of an interview, they get nervous, they’re glad it’s over and they’ll start talking about human resource stuff – when they’re going to know if they got the position, what the salary is,” McManamon said.

“You can’t be focusing on that. ‘What’s in this for me?’ doesn’t belong in the conversation until you’ve been given the job offer. If you get into any of that, it’s seen as not positive.”

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The perfect profile

Now, you’re probably wondering what questions you should ask in an interview to make yourself the best candidate in the process. spoke to a number of career advisors and HR managers to find out what those all important questions are – but they also offered advice on all aspects of the interview process.

So, let’s take a step back for a moment to how to present yourself in the best way possible, because, without a solid resumé, it’s near impossible to secure the interviews you want.

You’ll want to polish any professional online profiles, such as LinkedIn or your personal bio if you are using an online recruitment portal. For jobs where you have to send in a CV, ”you have to strictly make sure that you tailor your CV for every job,” Caroline Kennedy, Careers and Opportunities Officer at the National College of Ireland said.

“Your primary real estate is the first one-third of it. Make it into a profile, and make sure that it matches exactly what the employer wants in terms of your skills,” she said.

The next step, says career consultant Paul Mullan, is to use online resources to find out as much information about your potential employer as possible.

LinkedIn, for example, often allows job seekers to study who they’re meeting, their background and their career progression. Mullan said it’s a smart idea to find out if yourself and the interviewer have any shared interests.

“If we can find common ground it’s great because people like people like themselves,” Mullen said.

As much as employers are impressed when candidates know facts and figures on a company, they’re also just as eager for candidates to prove their own value to a company, by telling stories about themselves that are relevant to the job specifications.

Kennedy suggested having seven “STAR” stories (situation, task, action, result) ready to go in every interview. The STAR model is a way of answering questions that start like “Give me an example…” with a short story.

“The STAR framework is really handy because it keeps you on track. You probably only have two to three minutes to get their attention. After that, you’ve lost their interest,” Kennedy said.

Basically, using the STAR model will ensure that anyone being interviewed can present themselves as the best candidate possible.

“Sell what you have. Don’t focus on the other candidates, focus on selling your achievements and your relevant successes for that particular role that you’re going for,” Mullen said.

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The most important questions to ask in an interview 

And, finally, once you’ve reached the end of the interview, most of the time the interviewer will offer you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the position.

As mentioned above, these are far more important that one might think, and asking the wrong questions could be detrimental to what may have been a perfect interview.

According to both Leslee McLoughlin and Marie McManamon, it’s all about asking questions about what day-to-day proceedings are like in a job, ones that make it look like you’re already imagining yourself in the position. Oftentimes, they may seem like risky questions, but the risk is almost always worth the positive outcome. asked readers what questions they’ve asked in interviews that the employer really liked, questions they believe helped to secure their position. Here are some of the answers that came back:

Where does the company see themselves in X amount of time? – It’s great to see if there’s any vision in the place and the likelihood of being kept on.
If you believe I have the experience and the skills, what is the biggest risk you see in employing me?
What, in the past, has made someone in this role really stand out for you?
Is there anything in your head at this very moment that is standing in the way of giving me the job?
What’s a typical day like in the job?

O’Loughlin explained which questions she really loves being asked, and why they prove so resourceful for her as an interviewer.

“Anytime anyone has a question about things like what does performance look like at Enterprise, how can I excel, how did you get to where you are… These are things that show they’re really interested in career progression and the company values,” she said.

“Those types of things are important because, for long-term success, it’s important that candidates can align themselves with our values.”

Kennedy also offered some words of advice on end-of-interview questions.

“A question I loved being asked is ‘What do you want this person to have achieved in six months for you to feel you took on the right person?’. From that question, then you know what’s expected of you and you have clear ideas. You can answer back then and say well, I could do all of that, or you might realise this job isn’t for me at all,” Kennedy said.

And, of course, sometimes even the most perfect interview might not land you a job, the company could choose to hire internally, or not hire at all, but don’t let this get you down. Use it to your advantage and ask for some feedback.

“You must always ask for feedback. Sometimes you won’t always get it, so you can’t be too pushy, but yes, ask for feedback and thank them for their time.”

So, before heading into your next interview, just remember to do that extra bit of preparation and have some of the above questions ready to go at the end of the conversation, it might just bag you a new job.

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