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IT pros: Don't be afraid to ask questions during job interviews

February 11, 2014

For those applying for IT jobs, few aspects can be more nerve-wracking than the interview. After all, this is an extremely important component of the application process, and one which is impossible to completely prepare for. Inevitably, questions will be asked that you may not have seen coming, and if you struggle to come up with reasonable answers, your chances of landing the position will plummet.

Fortunately, there are a number of strategies that you can embrace in order to improve your chances of making a positive impression. One somewhat counterintuitive tactic, recently highlighted by Mashable, is asking questions of the interviewer. This not only adds a slight conversational component to the interview, but can also demonstrate your serious interest in the company and position.

Just as importantly, asking questions can help you to determine whether this is actually a job where you'd be happy, or whether you should continue your job search. As numerous reports have demonstrated, IT professionals are in high demand, and so you can afford to be somewhat picky when evaluating your career opportunities in IT.

With that in mind, here are a few of the most valuable questions that IT jobs applicants can ask during the interview.

1. What is the company culture like?
Company culture can be somewhat difficult to define, as it often involves a mixture of discernible factors and intangibles. Regardless, it is worthwhile for job applicants to ask their interviewers about the culture where they hope to work, according to Michelle Tenzyk, president of a strategic leadership advisory and executive coaching firm.

Specifically, Tenzyk told Mashable that applicants should ask about the communication channels at the company, as this can have a significant impact on how well you ultimately would or would not fit into this work environment.

"If you're a really outgoing and chatty person, you want to find out what the meetings are like," said Tenzyk, the news source reported. "Are they speak-when-asked-to or are they interactive?"

She went on to explain that a worker who is eager to contribute ideas to the company may not feel comfortable at a firm that has a very hierarchical structure. By that same token, shy, reticent professionals may prefer such an environment and avoid places where they'll be expected to engage with coworkers constantly.

The corporate culture will have a major impact on an IT professional's job satisfaction, and cannot be discovered except by speaking with those who have worked or do work at the company. The job interview is therefore the ideal time for such probing.

Additionally, by asking the interviewer about the corporate culture, you can demonstrate that you're really giving the position serious thought and are eager to learn more about what your life will be like at that firm.

2. What do employees most love about this company?
This is a related, but distinct and worthwhile question to pose during your interview. By asking what employees most love about the organization, you can gain a much better sense of not only what life is like at this company, but also what the firm's leadership values. An interviewer that points to the amount of paid time off paints a very different picture of her company than an interviewer who highlights the opportunities for advancement as employees' favorite aspect. If your values do not match up with those of other employees, you may want to reconsider working for this firm.

3. How do you measure success?
Tenzyk also told Mashable that job applicants should consider asking their interviewers how success is defined at the company. This type of question can highlight your initiative and the fact that you are eager to thrive at the organization.

Additionally, Tenzyk noted that these answers will further help you to determine whether you feel like you are a good fit for this job and the responsibilities it entails.

"Within context, there's no presumption in asking questions like, 'If today is my 90th day on the job, what criteria are you looking at to determine if I've been successful?'" said Tenzyk, according to the news source. "This information gives you the ability ahead of time to ask yourself if you're capable of accomplishing the company's goals for your position."

4. Are there any shortcomings on my resume?
This undoubtedly seems like a reckless and self-damaging question to ask during a job interview. But as Joanie Courtney, senior vice president at Monster, told Mashable, there is a very tangible benefit to taking this risk. Essentially, it allows you to respond to potential criticism that your interviewer has in mind but would not otherwise vocalize.

"You need to think of yourself as a salesperson and set yourself up to close," she told the news source.

Additionally, this creates an opportunity for you to acknowledge a potential shortcoming, an action which many interviewers highly value but rarely see.

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