Although interviews can be daunting experiences for many, the process offers great opportunities for you to get to know potential employers and make a positive impression. By preparing and asking some strategic questions to ask an interviewer, you will collate the information you need in order to make the decision if this is the right professional move while coming across as keen and committed.
You should carefully craft, refine and revise questions which will inform you about the strength of the institution and its work environment, in addition to inquiries which will consolidate the hiring committee’s confidence that you are a good fit.
Here are my suggested top five questions to ask an interviewer:
What is a standard day like?
This question will provide you with a clear sense of what you will be doing. The response will give you a clear insight into the role applied for and how the institution and/or department operates. Pay particular attention to the interviewer’s mannerisms, language and statements as these will provide you with information on the ethos, business and general work ethic of the institution. Also, responses to this question may vary substantially based on the role applied for. While some employees may have more classroom duties, laboratory or research time, or administrative duties, others may have more flexibility based on personal preferences, priorities, and individual objectives. It is essential that you listen attentively to the responses as this could potentially become your new routine.
What is your institution’s/department’s main prime concern currently?
It is highly recommended that you conduct research on the institution and/or department you are applying to. The HE hiring panel will expect this. By doing this research you will have a clear understanding of the institution’s key priorities. Be sure to highlight and emphasise the current main concern within the institution and/or department. This proves that you have explored the institution’s priority areas and thought about how you can positively contribute. Additionally, asking this question will set you up to provide evidence about how you will address this prime concern and create a solution.
What are the most important things you’d like to see the successful applicant accomplish within the first month?
By asking this question you will be provided with a response which should give you a clear overview of what will be expected from you in the first few weeks. The hiring panel should be impressed by your keenness to discover what key tasks you will be expected to complete initially. Asking this question informs the hiring panel that you are enthusiastic, motivated and ready to hit the ground running. More than likely you will have a varied list of roles and responsibilities, but asking about short-term goals displays a sensible work ethic, good organizational skills and self-determination.
What have you learned about your institution/department during the pandemic?
The pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and has people reflect and evaluate the way we all work. Zoom and Teams meetings as well as online learning, webinars and virtual events has been the bulk of the working day with little face-to-face interaction, and enhanced isolation. Asking this question will allow you to gain a sense of how this particular institution/department has overcome challenges and embedded creative arrangements.
This question will also help you comprehend the overall ethos of your potential employer. In addition, you will gain the opportunity to showcase your skills and capabilities as you have the chance to react cleverly to the panel’s responses.
This is a chance for you to share with the panel what you are capable of, especially if you omitted something important earlier in the interview. For example, if the interviewer reflects on a huge challenge, promptly add what you can do to help address the issue with clarity and conciseness. If the interviewer reflects on a positive matter, such as how effectively the department worked collaboratively with the transition to online teaching and learning, then use that as an opportunity to share your success. This will assist in persuading the panel that you will fit well in the organisation.
Can I provide you with any further information to help you make your decision?
This is a very good final question as it has two goals: first, it shows that you are interested in securing the role and, second, it provides the interviewer with a chance to offer subsequent steps. If the panel would like you to provide further information to help them make their decision, be clear on what is required so you can follow up effectively. If they do not request further information, thank them for their time and let them know you are contactable for any follow up, if required.
Any question that shows your long-term interest in HE is a good final question. Hiring panels in HE are keen to explore if potential employees plan to stay within the institution.
Question why employees stay there so long. Question about the institution and/or department’s strategic plans for the next three to five years. Question opportunities for you to progress and thrive. Inquire about reviewing, developing and refining a curriculum or curricular area, or an innovative project that will take several years to complete which will bring positive attention to the institution/department.
The right mix of questions that address the present, effective change, and future goals, will make an impression during a HE job interview. Be prepared, be specific and be brave in interviewing the interviewer!
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