Six questions to ask the panel – our weekly column from various Irish newspapers

In job interviews, it is good to show interest – and one of the best ways of doing this is to ask questions.

The person who asks questions is making a genuine effort to get to know more. Interview candidates sometimes labour under the illusion that to ask questions is to show weakness or ignorance.

Au contraire. Asking questions – sorry, asking the right questions – is a sign of willingness to learn, a realisation that the person who thinks they know everything is perhaps the most ignorant of all.

So if you’re not sure of something during the interview, ask a question. “Could I ask you what your plans are for the German market?” could be an insightful question. Upon receiving information, you can then elaborate in your answers.

Failure to ask the right questions can result in an interview taking place in a vacuum. Here are six questions you might think about asking next time out.


  • Having looked at my application, and met me today, is there any particular deficit in my skills or experience? (And if one arises, you could perhaps talk in more detail about anything you or they may have overlooked, or your proven ability to bridge similar gaps in the past).
  • Do you have specific goals for me to achieve in the first six months in the job, if you hire me?
  • The other people who held this post in the past – what career paths have they followed subsequently? (It is good to show them you are ambitious, but be careful not to transmit the impression that you will be watching the promotion elevator from the first day you go in there – remember their task right now is to fill the vacancy and you are sitting in front of them in the hope of helping them resolve that immediate problem.)
  • I note the company’s plans to {insert something you are aware of – without breaking a confidence, of course}. How will the holder of this role be expected to contribute to that goal?
  • Are there opportunities for further training in this role? (Make it clear you like to up skill yourself on an on-going basis).


There are thousands of good questions you could ask. Equally there are thousands of bad ones too: my own personal favourite is the story, perhaps apocryphal, of the Galway man whose only question for the panel was “do you close for the races?”

I suspect the company gave him no reason whatsoever to miss the races that year, or any subsequent year.

Tip of the week

If you get a detailed job spec, it is easy to get overwhelmed. The trick is to reduce the requests to bite-sized portions.

Go through the spec and make a list of the eight main attributes or characteristics they are looking for. Write them down on a sheet of paper. Then go through your CV and, on the sheet of paper, match the attributes or characteristics to experiences you’ve had.

That way you should have created the scribbles that will help you to write your cover letter or the Key Achievements, Skills and Characteristics section of your CV. Lengthy job specs can lead you down all sorts of blind alleys if you don’t take decide the key items therein.


Sli Nua Careers ( have offices in Mayo, Limerick, Galway and Dublin. For more details, visit