It’s the part of the interview that many job hunters really hate. They’ve answered why they are the best person for the role, they’ve admitted their worst fault, they’ve talked about their previous boss without actually swearing, and now the interviewer says, “Do you have any questions for me?”
This is where you can go from “almost certain to get the job” to “no, definitely not”, because you will be judged on the questions that you ask.
- “Do I get weekends off?” Look, this is estate agency. This branch is open all day Saturday. You’re already showing that you will be the flaky guy who is always ill when the local football team is playing at home. Nul points.
- “What’s the salary?” Is that really all you care about? And if it was actually stated in the job advert, that’s a double foot in mouth.
- “What kind of car do I get?” If you care that much, you might consider whether you’re better suited to car dealership than estate agency…
Instead, this is where good research gives you the chance to ask a question that shows you understand the business and you care about the long term. Research should already have established the basics; how many branches the agency has, their market positioning, recently opened new branches (or branches that have closed). A trawl through industry publications (or the corporate website, in the case of major corporates) might even find the managing director talking about company culture or long term plans.
Asking about training – what kind of training the agency gives new entrants, whether they have a record of getting people through the industry diplomas – is never a bad idea.
That opens the way to interesting questions. When a branch is relatively new, there’s room for questions about the progress that’s been made, and plans for the future, for instance. Acquisitions might be an interesting area to talk about – for instance if an agency has bought into an online agent, could that limit (or enhance) career opportunities for those working on the high street side of the business? And if a branch manager has declared a desire to become number one in the local area, exactly how they aim to do that is something you might be interested in. Or if the agency has just branched out into new homes as well as the resale market, understanding the reasons for the move and how the new business is being managed could be useful.
Asking about training – what kind of training the agency gives new entrants, whether they have a record of getting people through the industry diplomas – is never a bad idea. It shows a desire to learn and an understanding that the job includes a requirement for structured knowledge, as well as just sales patter. At a higher level, questions about what training the company offers to help senior negotiators make the transition to management, or to assist branch managers in running the business, might be appropriate. If the company has a mentoring scheme, you might ask how that works in-branch, or for an example of where it has helped one of the team.
There are a number of general questions that may also be useful to ask.
- What is the team structure? Who are the key people you’d be working with?
- What are the career opportunities further down the line?
- Where are last year’s graduate scheme entrants working now?
- How long has the job been open? Why did it become available? (Sometimes, a job is next to impossible to fill, and that may be a sign of problems.)
- How would you describe the work culture here? What makes it different from other agencies?
- What is the next stage in the process? When can I expect to hear from you?
Finally, and it takes a confident person to do this, you might ask whether you are the type of person they are looking to employ. Be ready to take a negative answer; but the answer might also deliver useful information that can be worked on before going for another job or another interview. Keep the tone light and even, so that the interviewer will feel ready to talk frankly. Don’t give the impression that you’ll burst into tears if the answer is ‘no’.
Above all, though, have a question or two ready to ask. Recruiter Anthony Hesse says that candidates who ask a good question straight off the bat are always given credit for it – they’ve shown that they are interested, and they’ve shown that they are keen, and those are both qualities that branch managers want in their staff.