Sonia, a former Adult Education Tutor, shares Interview preparation guidance she gives to family and friends. It has yielded great results!
The Preface Question Strategy
Not only does this strategy ensure that you have a question that has not already been answered earlier in the interview, it allows the candidate to firmly plant the seed in a prospective employer's psyche that they are competent, methodical, efficient, creative, painstaking, progressive and/or more.
Ever Had That Sinking Feeling . . .
. . . when you're invited to ask questions at the end of an interview? Sadly, many of us have been there. The interview has gone pretty smoothly and then comes the part at the end when you realise that all the questions you prepared have already been answered by your Interviewer!
When you're asked "Do you have any questions?" your heart sinks as you try to smile and look convincing when you say "Well yes. I did have some questions but actually you've already answered them all—so I'm good, thanks".
But you can't help but feel somewhat deflated because you don't want the interviewer to think that you just didn't prepare or you simply aren't that interested in the job. You might even go as far as actually taking your list of questions out of your pocket or bag so it looks like you absolutely did prepare, but it can still leave you feeling a tad inadequate.
If you can identify with the above, fret not because the good news is there's a way to devise unique, impressive questions that won't have been dealt with prior to you getting the chance to pose them at the end of your interview.
Questions to Ask
These are some good, but not entirely unique, questions.
- How did this position come about?
- What training is on offer?
- Can you describe a typical day for the post-holder?
- What are the next steps in the Interview/Selection process?
- I read that the firm plans to. Can you tell me more about this?
Whilst the above are absolutely fine queries to pose, most seasoned interviewers will have heard them, or something like them, before. If you want them to remember you in regard to this specific point in the process, what the Writer likes to call her Preface Question Strategy will help you create unique, memorable and impressive questions and have you stand out from the crowd!
Yes. Of Course It Would, and Here's How
- First, go and take another, very detailed, look at that Job Description they sent you and pick out a couple of tasks, skills or attributes to focus on for this exercise.
- Make notes on how you tackle matters with regard to one of the tasks, skills or attributes you selected—carefully reflecting on your approach
- Contemplate when, how and why you do what you do
- Are there some things you do that are innovative or unorthodox but are very useful and beneficial to the process?
- Are there ways in which you go the extra mile?
- (For further clarification on this step, some examples follow below for a variety of employment roles.)
- Now turn your notes into a succinct, comprehensive statement which will be the introduction or basis for a question.
- Finally, formulate a related question for the interviewer to respond to and add this question to the end of the statement you prepared in the previous step.
(Now, don't worry if you need a little extra clarification on the Writer's Preface Question Strategy—the examples below will clarity everything and you'll be glad you came to this page.)
Having completed steps 1–4 above, you have a question for your interviewer preceded by an introduction to your question—loosely something along the lines of
- "With regard to xxxx I believe it is paramount to . . . and . . . and. In my experience, the strategy that works best is to . . . and . . . because this helps with, and, are there any tips you can share with me on xxxx?"
Impressive End of Interview Questions
Thankfully, the principles advocated in this article can be applied to just about any aspect of any job. With that in mind, and for variety as well as clarification, the examples below relate to an Administration vacancy, a Lecturing/Teaching job and a Meeting/Conference Room Assistant role.
Now imagine you are a candidate for an Administrator role and, bearing in mind the Job Description, you have elected to base one of your end of interview questions on multitasking.
So think about how you can impart to the prospective employer how important you believe it is for an Administrator to be able to multitask and to multitask well.
Think it through and note down what you are actually doing when you multitask—how you do it and why, what works well and why and anything unusual you do that really helps you. (for example how you go about prioritising tasks).
Additionally, why not do a search on "How to Multitask" to see if there is anything you want to add to your strategy.
Now's the time for you to use the notes you just made to summarise everything into a few clear, concise sentences which will form the introduction to your question for the interviewer.
Finally, formulate the (related) question for the employer which you'll ask right after that introduction—It could go something like this
- In a busy workplace, I believe it helps to have a structured but flexible plan for multitasking to help prevent feelings of overwhelm or stress when things get super busy. My own strategy includes reviewing and prioritising at set intervals throughout each day and this has enabled me to execute my responsibilities within the deadline and without drama. Do you have any tips for multitasking you can share with me please?"
Not Just "I Can Multitask"
Even if the topic of multitasking has been raised at an earlier stage of the interview, and you have already given them an example of the type of things you have had to juggle in the past, you can still expand on this by talking about your multitasking strategy when they give you the chance to ask questions at the end of the interview.
All things being equal, showing them that you have actually thought this through (rather than just saying "I'm really good at multitasking") could well give you the edge on your competitors and help you to stand out. In other words, as well as giving them an example of how you have multi-tasked in the past, you can explain to them how you actually go about multitasking and say that you know it helps to have a multitasking plan that works for you since it helps you stay flexible and efficient rather than stressed out in a busy workplace.
Help Increase Your Chances of Nailing That Job
With the multitasking question, preceded by the introduction, you'll have demonstrated to the interviewer that you take a methodical analytical approach to multitasking (and by implication to other things too), are open to add to your multitasking repertoire, so to speak and eager to learn from the others.
If the employer wants an Administrator who is phenomenal at multitasking, then the employer gets the impression they need to look no further.
Beware of Going Over the Top
Just don't make the introduction or lead into your question too lengthy—as a guide, 45 seconds for both the preamble and the question should be the maximum. Respect your interviewer's time and don't be too long-winded.
An important takeaway here is that if you are careful and clever not to go overboard, you can use the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview as a way of drawing attention to your accomplishments, attitude, attributes, skills or whatever it is you want to emphasise.
In this example, on purpose, a seemingly routine task for a Conference/Meeting Room Assistant has been chosen because if you can show that you understand the importance of a task and that you are thoughtful and diligent, you have the chance to tower over your competitors.
The task chosen here is—Setting Up Meeting Rooms. Having thought it through as outlined above, for an impressive and unique question at the end of the interview which is highly unlikely to have been answered by your interviewer in the preceding part of the interview, you might say something like
- When setting up a meeting room, it's important to get things just right because with the correct atmosphere those attending can concentrate on the tasks in hand—rather than be distracted by how the room is so hot, cold, messy, etc. Also, they might not feel very creative if they are hungry or thirsty without a variety of refreshments to hand. So my question to you is—what's the worst, or best, meeting room you've ever been in and why?
Again, this should ensure you have a valid question that they have not answered earlier in the interview and at the same time as asking the question you are showing them that you have spent time thinking about tasks listed on the job description.
Further, when they answer your question you may well learn of something additional to take into consideration when you next set up a meeting or conference room.
Do please be conscious not to ask them what's the best or worse meeting room they've ever been in just out of the blue. It's important to lead into a question as in these examples so that the interviewer sees your question as clearly relevant, rather than odd or random.
You may find that after answering your question, an interviewer may have a follow up question for you. For instance, in this scenario, if they were to ask you what you do when setting up a meeting room you might say that you would include choosing a room of the right size for the number of attendees, making sure there are enough chairs, adjust the heating or air conditioning, making sure things are cleared away from any previous meetings, set out notepads, pens, pencils as necessary, and of course make sure it is orderly and tidy, with fresh refreshments to hand.
An interesting question from you can engage your interviewer and if they want to know more about you at this stage, that's probably a very good sign!
You've been invited to pose a question, not make a speech or give a lecture! Your preparation should include timing yourself saying the preface and the question—45 seconds absolute max.
For this final example, let's say you're a Lecturer who has chosen to focus on the part of the job description which concerns consolidating student learning.
You would need to think about how you normally go about reinforcing prior learning, when and why and how you go the extra mile. For example, you may verbally summarise subject matter at the end of a session, and/or at the start of the next session as well as varying the method of consolidation to take into account a variety of learning styles amongst the students.
As with the previous examples, you can do an internet search to help you with pinning down your strategy. A Lecture/teacher being interviewed might say something like
- "In my current employment, I've raised student attainment by consolidating past learning at . . . intervals, and have employed and rotated visual, aural, verbal and physical teaching and consolidation methods to cater to the variety of student learning styles in my classes. I'm wondering if this institution has any particular preferences for consolidating prior learning."
Two for the Price of One
With this Query Introduction Strategy, the Teacher/Lecturer is utilising the invitation to ask a question to demonstrate to the intended employer their inclusive, varied approach to elevating student achievement.
How's that for killing two birds with one stone, so to speak?
Your Unique Selling Point: An Opportunity
When invited to ask questions, why not also use the moment to bring your own unique selling point to the table if it has not been raised earlier, or if you want to say something further about it.
Along the lines above, prepare by carefully thinking through how you can make your USP the preamble of a relevant question to the interviewer.
Crucial Provisos to Bear in Mind
- Do note that if you want to ask say three or four questions at the end of your interview, not all of them should be in the Preface Question format outlined above. One or two in this format is great coupled with, for example, a question or two evolving from your research on the organisation or about next steps in the process or indeed anything else you want or need to know before you thank them for seeing you, smile, shake hands and depart. The point here is that you should not overdo this introduction and related question format. You can indeed have too much of a good thing so think about restricting yourself to a maximum of two such questions in any one interview, lest your interviewer feel you are verging on taking over the process!
- Now, this second proviso should go without saying but here goes. Of itself, being prepared with killer questions to ask at the end of an interview isn't going to land you the job. The advice here is to supplement, not replace, the preparation you should ordinarily do. In short, make double sure you prepare thoroughly for your entire encounter with the interviewer.
- The book "15 Minutes to a Better Interview" is an excellent read with impressive reviews which the Writer of this page considers to be a fantastic find overall for anyone wanting something concise and on point to help them ace their interview preparation and know-how. The book's author is an experienced interviewer and from reading it, it's obvious he really knows his stuff.
It's universally agreed that first impressions count for a lot, but it's as well to bear in mind that parting impressions can likewise leave their mark.
With that in mind, and knowing that the end of the interview is normally the part where you get to pose questions and effectively steer/control proceedings for a little while, it makes sense to make the most of this opportunity to sell yourself and create a great final impression to rank alongside your prospective employer's first impression of you.
So go ahead and give this Preface Question Strategy a try at the end of your next interview - it' got to be better than posing purely mundane questions that your interviewer has heard umpteen times before or worse having to admit that they've already answered all the questions you had lined up.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Sonia Sylart
Comments Are Welcome: Share Your Thoughts on the Preface Question Strategy and/or Asking Questions at the End of An Interview
Sonia Sylart (author) from UK on May 08, 2018:
Many thanks for sharing some of your experiences plus your unique twist on this issue.
Evelyn Johnson on May 08, 2018:
I've asked interviewers how they came to be at the company or how they got to be in that role or what they liked best about their jobs. Here's a kicker... Where did they see themselves in 5 years.. Some are happy to talk about themselves and some find it intrusive. But if your gonna sit across the table from me and ask me those same questions turnabout is fair play!
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on July 30, 2017:
Keep up the good work! You have a fan!
Sonia Sylart (author) from UK on July 30, 2017:
You're welcome Tim - I plan to do a bit more on this subject soon.
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on July 29, 2017:
Very good article. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.