Looking for your first job can bring about lots of questions, but you might not always feel equipped to ask them.
Like everything else in life, you won't learn until you ask questions. But if you're a first-time job seeker, then you might feel like there are some questions you just shouldn't ask - either because you feel you should already know the answer or because you feel like you're not qualified enough to ask them in the first place.
Lots of early careers candidates operate on the assumption that the company that they're applying to shouldn't ever be challenged and that lowly job applicants shouldn't press too hard during the interview process for risk of it going against them. But that's not how an interview is supposed to work. Healthy organisations look at any interview as a two-way conversation, not a screening-out process, and encourage deep-thinking questions from every potential new hire.
Here are five questions that you're probably too scared to ask in your first interview, but definitely should:
1. What's the biggest obstacle people have faced in this role, and how could a new hire help to overcome that?
Before taking on any role, it's important that you know what you're getting yourself into. Asking about the job's history and its past challenges will help you understand what you'll have to overcome in order to be considered successful in the role. It can also inform your final decision as to whether you even want to take the job at all.
Once your interviewer is able to give you an overview of these obstacles, you should ask yourself if you truly feel like your skills can help you overcome the specific problems of the job, whether you're going to be able to put in the time, commitment, and energy to pursue the role any further, and whether you'll be happy in the position.
2. When an employee here has a problem, how do they bring up the problem in order to get it solved?
This question is incredibly important, since it lets you know how proactive the company are concerning any issues or challenges you might have as new hire. Everyone wants to feel listened to, so if your organisation's HR department isn't up to scratch, then it's inevitably going to effect your time there.
It'll also let you get familiar with the overall reporting process, that way you're not left unsure of who to contact if you feel like something about the job just isn't working for you. Instead, you'll know exactly who to go to, how to report it, and who will help you solve the problem.
3. How long will I have this job? How far into the future do you see the role continuing — and how might it change or progress in the future?
This question might have you scratching your head. You might be thinking, surely my job will last as long as I'm good at it? But that's not always the case.
In fact, lots of graduate roles come with well-structured career paths which could see your role change rapidly in a short amount of time, so it's important to use this answer to map out your career plan. If you stay in the role for six month, are you going to end up somewhere entirely different than you imagined? Will you still enjoy it? Will you be looking elsewhere? These are all important things to consider.
4. What are the expectations around attendance, taking work home and staying in touch after hours?
Knowing how to structure your work day is going to be something you want to get a handle on early in your career - especially if you find yourself in a flexible or remote role. This will not only help you manage your workload, and help you build a good work/life balance, but it'll also let you know what's expected of you in terms of your commitment to the role.
While it's not often the case, some companies will allow you to work after-hours or stay late to catch up on any work you've missed, while others have stricter rules on taking your work home or checking your emails at the weekend. You'll want to know what side of the fence your employer falls on.
5. What are the biggest challenges the department/company is currently facing?
While asking this question in your first interview can seem a bit intimidating, it's the best way to understand the wider problems and challenges facing the company - and how you'll fit into trying to help solve them. If your interviewer can't answer this question, then it might be an indicator that the organisation doesn't have very well-defined business goals, and it could push you to look elsewhere.
Working with a company that's facing problems isn't an issue, working with a company that doesn't know it's facing problems can be a bit more difficult. By asking this question, you'll come across as a confident and committed candidate who's thinking about the bigger picture and is ready to work together with the rest of the department to solve longstanding problems.