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Interview your job interviewers

I went for a job interview this week. I didn’t need to, because I’m currently working (contracting) and reasonably happy with where I’m at (insofar as it pays good money), so I took the opportunity to interview the interviewers about this new role.

I know I’ve been talking recently about building online sources of income that will allow me to give up the day job and have the freedom to travel, but until I make that happen, I still need the day job. I think that’s going to be an ongoing concern for a while yet.

So anyway, this opportunity was a 12 month contract for a senior role, with a couple of 12-month extensions. That’s a very nice opportunity, but there’s always the risk that you’ll end up working for people you don’t like, in a job that won’t interest or challenge you.

The basic position description seemed interesting enough, but I needed to know more. So I went into the interview with the intention of having them tell me why I should work for them.

Most people go into an interview with the intention of selling themselves, to help ensure they get the job. Most people looking for work in Australia (probably anywhere, really) believe they don’t have the luxury of choice, that if they’re looking for a job then they need to take whatever they can get. The common attitude is that if you don’t like it, you can always look for another one once you’ve been in the job for a while.

But how often does that work out? Many people say they’ll look for another job if they don’t like their current job, but how many of them never do? As a result, they’ll work for years in a job they hate, because they never get around to looking for a better job.

If I’m going to work for these people for 12 months or more, they need to be relaxed, easy going, and willing to have a good time. So I asked questions that would help me make a decision as to whether or not I would be interested in working for them.

* What was it about my CV and selection criteria that made you want to talk with me?

This is probably the most important question you can ask. Their answer to this gives you an understanding of what skills or experience you have that’s important to them. You can use this to frame some of your discussion with them about how you can help them.

* Apart from the skills and experience outlined in my CV, what other qualities are you looking for in whoever you decide to accept for this role?

This is another important question. They’ve got in mind a particular person that they’re looking for, someone who can handle the sorts of challenges involved in the role. Their answers will tell you if you will fit what they’re looking for, or not.

* What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had with this project, and what did you do to resolve them?

This tells you more about what YOU might be challenged with, and not only does it tell you how your employers might respond in the workplace, but it can tell you how they would like you to respond when you’re confronted by similar challenges.

* What are you expecting from me as a new starter in the first 1-3 months?

This is a very important question because it allows you to understand what will be expected of you. Apparently most people don’t ask this during the interview, and then they’re often surprised by expectations placed upon them after they’ve been in the job for a few weeks. If you know what their expectations are, you can work out if that’s reasonable for you, or unreasonable.

* What do you enjoy about working on this project / for this company?

If they struggle to find something to answer you with, there might not be anything they enjoy. Their answers may provide you with insights about how things would be if you were working there.

* How many people in the team, and what are they like to work with?

When you put people on the spot with ‘tell me more’ questions, if they stumble with their words a lot, they’re probably trying to come up with something that sounds good. But if they can quickly tell you a few stories and there’s laughter involved, then you can probably guess the team is good to work with.


During your interview, you need to treat it as you interviewing them as well. They need to sell the job to you, less so than you need to sell yourself to them.

Your CV and selection criteria (if there are any) have already sold you to the point that they want to find out a bit more about you. This is now your opportunity to turn it around and make sure you’re going to enjoy working with them, and in this particular job they’re wanting you for.

It’s your life. You’ve got to make sure you’re going to enjoy what you get yourself into.

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