Dillon Wackerman, Assistant Editor, INALJ Illinois
4 ways to answer, do you have any questions for us?
In any interview format – phone, video chat or in-person – the interviewers will eventually (or hopefully) ask the interviewee: do you have any questions for us? For the interviewee, asking relevant and pertinent questions can show not only a high level of interest in the position and the job location but also an awareness and knowledge of the profession and the surrounding concepts, the presence of each possibly having an influence on the interview’s outcome. What follows are related points, taken from personal experience, which can be considered and applied before, during and after an initial or follow up interview.
Prior to the first interview, some general research should be performed on the position, the members of the search committee, the job location (if other than where currently living), important and relevant members of the library or institution not on the search committee, the library (wide open: collections, infrastructure, design and layout, etc.) and the overarching institution or university if applicable. Any library or institution has noticeable trends, research interests and unique aspects that could provide material for questions. The relationship between information found and material for questions should begin with the position that is sought, the department in which the position will be active and professional issues and ideas that could be related to both. If the future interviewee does have time, though, the relationship can and should be extended beyond the immediate scope.
Not only should a written list of questions be ready prior to the interview, but the interviewee should also be prepared to write down impromptu questions that come to mind and are asked. This – having a record of prepared and impromptu questions – can be important when considering the second interview. If your first interview took place via a phone call, or even a video chat, it can be impossible or difficult to discern if the questions that you asked are being written down by the interviewers. If, then, that first interview was successful and a second interview, in-person or not, is requested, it would be a good idea to either modify the questions that were asked during the first interview, with modifications being based on what was gathered during that interview, or create completely new ones.
While it is entirely speculative to assume that by asking the same question at different times an interviewee will be presented in a negative light to the interviewers, in whatever manner, it is not a stretch to state that if asking multiple questions during a single interview can show a higher than average level of interest, then asking different and more informed questions in a second interview can show a similar level.
In addition to writing down the questions that were asked during the interview, the interviewee should also write down the interviewers’ responses. The benefit here could be seen in the first interview and also if a follow up interview is granted. It is possible that the list of questions brought to either interview will be exhausted prior to the end, or, informal conversation may take place at a lunch, dinner or tour occurring before or after the interview. The interviewee then needs material, information from which to create new questions or topics for conversation. For this, the research performed prior to the interview could be used, but the interviewee could also use the interviewers’ responses for material. As this information is would be taken during a conversation, in which it would assumedly be prudent for the interviewee not to be continuously looking down and writing, using some keywords taken from the interviewer as mnemonic devices would be helpful.
With an adequate memory, what was said during an interview that just occurred or that is still occurring should be easily accessed with minimal assistance. If, for instance, a response to “What programming languages are used here?” is “We use XML,” then writing down and using “XML” as a mnemonic device could be helpful later in relation to relevant topics that may be brought up.
It is ultimately possible to be over prepared: too many questions to efficiently reference, obtaining and forming a question based on the personal information of an interviewer, and more. A balance could then be achieved, by the interviewee allowing or making necessary impromptu questions and responses. Instances of the latter could, perhaps, even help to relay some of the interviewee’s positive qualities which may have been dormant in more prepared scenarios.