"Interviews are a two-way street": Why it is important to challenge the interviewer

By Senior Public Practice Consultant, Gareth Spowart

We all hear the phrase “two-way street” when it comes to interviews but what does this actually mean? A “two-way street” is where the interviewee is not only demonstrating their suitability for the role but assessing how much of a match the role  and company is for them. How do you ensure that as an interviewee you are not just being grilled but are appropriately challenging the interviewer too?  Having the gumption to ask tricky questions isn’t easy but it will benefit you in the long run.  

There are a couple of key reasons why challenging the interviewer is really important. First of all, it is important for you to obtain as much information as possible about the opportunity, the company, the people you will be working for, the culture, the vision, progression prospects etc. A job spec can often be very generic so having a list of questions prepared will really help you get clarity on the opportunity and assist in your decision-making process.  People will often only tell you what you want to hear so it’s important to prepare your list of killer questions to really ascertain how much of a fit the role is for your skills and aspirations. 

The second reason is to show your passion and enthusiasm for the opportunity. There is nothing that screams, “I want this job” more than asking the interviewer a few questions surrounding what you have discovered from your research and preparation. The more you prepare and research the role and the opportunity, the more information you should have to  delve deeper into the organisation and what their current challenges are. From the interviewer’s perspective, this shows that you have prepared thoroughly and extensively and this will help differentiate you from other candidates and also demonstrate  how much value you can add to the organisation.

Below are some of the questions I feel successfully challenge the interviewer (in a positive way), helping with your overall interview performance;

Opportunity – what will the main challenges of the role be and what will I need to do to exceed expectations in the first year?
Company – how do you differentiate from your competitors?
People – what is your background and what made you join this business?
Culture – how would you describe the culture and values of the organisation in 5 words?
Vision – what are the three main objectives of the company in the next year?
Progression Prospects – how do you see this role evolving with the business in the medium term?

These questions allow the interviewer to open up and give you an insight into the areas that are important to you in deciding whether or not this is a role and business that’s worth moving to. Be selective with the questions you ask, make sure that they cover the areas that you want to know more about.  

In a market where the competition is extremely fierce, preparation of a few key questions and taking the “two way approach” can act as a major differentiator between you and other interviewees. During an interview process you can sometimes be up against as many as 5 other candidates and so doing something unique that leaves a lasting impression with the interviewers will give you a much stronger chance of not only landing your dream job but ensuring that it’s the right one for you now, and in the future.

If you would like to discuss interviews in more depth, contact Gareth Spowart who will be able to help and advise on how to prepare. He can be reached on either,  garethspowart@imultiplyresourcing.com or 0131 603 7747. 

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