An interview is nothing more than an information exchange between you and a potential employer. So to get the most out of it, you need to be prepared to answer questions, as well as ask some of your own. But what do you ask to get the information you need?
Before you go into an interview, do your research on the company and the position so you know what questions you need to ask to fill in any information gaps. Include some company-specific questions on your list to show that you’ve done your homework, and that you’re interested in the company’s culture. (Quarterly earnings statements, press releases, and blog posts are all good inspiration.) In addition to your company-specific questions, the following are some great questions for admins to ask during an interview.
- How long have you worked here? What do you enjoy and value most about the company?
- How many assistants have supported you during your career? Who was the best? Worst? Why?
- Why is this position open? How often has it been filled in the past five years? How has it evolved in that time? Note: If the position has had a lot of turnover, ask why they think this has been the case.
- What are the department’s strengths and weaknesses? Where do you see this position adding the most value?
- What was it about my resume that caught your eye and made you call me for an interview?
- How do you determine or evaluate success for the person in this position? What are the key things this position needs to accomplish in the first three to six month of employment? (If you really want to impress them, walk into the interview with your own 30-60-90 day plan of what you plan to do to get up to speed and fully integrated into the team and company culture.)
- Who or what will be my biggest challenge in this position? Why? (If there is more than one person in the interview, watch their exchange of glances or facial expressions when you ask this. You’ll be able to tell if there are underlying issues lurking.)
- How do you view the administrative support role in the overall functioning of this office? (If they view the role as the person who makes the coffee, sorts the mail, and is mostly clerical then it might not be the best career move. If the role is viewed as the hub of the wheel that keeps things running smoothly, facilitates project and communication flow, and is a vital role to the team’s success, then it might be a good fit.)
- What is the typical workweek like for this position? Is overtime expected? How often?
- How many executives in this company commute from another state on a weekly basis? (I’ve learned this may indicate they don’t have families to go home to in the evenings and are more likely to spend longer hours at the office each day. This impacts the hours required of their assistant at the office as a result.)
- What makes a great first impression? How do you make a good first impression? (You can learn a lot about how the person views things with this one. It can also help you learn about their future expectations of you.)
- What are the connectivity expectations for this position? Does this position need to be connected to email and the office 24/7? (This can be an important piece of information to have before you begin negotiating salary and benefits if the position is offered to you.)
- What do you think is the greatest opportunity facing the organization (or department) in the near future? Biggest threat?
- What are the projects this position will be working on as soon as they start? And what will they need to do to get up to speed on them as soon as possible?
- Do you have any hesitation about my qualifications for this position? (If you think you’d like the job and working for the company, you need to find out what else you can do to seal the deal. If they have hesitations, be prepared to discuss them. Going into the interview with your professional portfolio in hand can help you fill in any gaps and answer this question with real work samples and proof on paper that you can do what you say you can do.)
Each interview is a unique experience. Some interviewers will volunteer details about the company, the position, and the culture that give you the insight you need without having to ask. Other situations will require you ask. It’s important to prioritize your questions so you get the vital information you need to make a good decision. It’s also important to assess each interview environment and determine how engaged the interviewer is in the conversation so you know when to bring things to a close. If you’re called back for another interview, you may have additional opportunities to ask more questions then.
The goal of an interview is for both parties to get all the information needed to make a decision about whether you’re a good fit for the job and company. So go into your next one armed with the questions you need to decide whether the company and position is the right move for your admin career.
© 2017 Julie Perrine International, LLC
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.