At the end of a job interview applicants may be asked if they have any questions. There are times when having some intelligent questions to ask is a useful strategy, showing your interest, research, and analysis. Times when such questions are particularly useful are when applying for:
- A promotion
- A job in a different area or organisation
- A job with limited public information, such as in a high-security area
- A newly-created job or one in a newly created unit.
An American book called Starting Your Career as a Social Media Manager by Mark Story includes a section on questions you should ask at an interview. Asking questions is important in this context because jobs in social media are relatively new, may be ill-defined or new, and as social media is “a disruptive medium”, there is “a fair degree of uncertainty surrounding job roles and responsibilities”.
The questions Story recommends to use apply in the contexts listed above, particularly newly created job and units. These jobs may be ill-defined with only a broad outline of what they are about. This could mean that a manager is looking for a person who can take control and develop the role in a way that is aligned with priorities and expectations.
Story’s questions include:
What are the organisational communication objectives? Understanding how social media fits into and can meet objectives is useful knowledge. Understanding how any new role or unit fits into wider goals is essential to know both in preparing an application as well as in pitching at interview.
Who are your target audiences? This information tells you something about how realistic expectations are and what strategies may be needed in the role. In any role, it is essential to know who the key clients and/or stakeholders are, and which are of greatest importance.
Where does the social media function ‘live’ in your organisation? While most public sector job descriptions will tell you this information, it may still be useful to explore this in greater detail. Turf wars are significant in the communication and marketing fields. Story explains this in the context of IT and legal departments, offering further questions in relation to sniffing out turf wars: “When was your first website launched and who was responsible? Who ‘owns’ the website? How would you rate the collaboration among all of the parties who help produce your website and other social media channels? Is social media an ‘add on’ to existing activities, or part-and-parcel to your communications activities?”
Similar questions about turf wars could apply to other corporate roles, such as HR and governance, as well as to unit-specific roles where there are comparable roles at a corporate level, such as a finance person. Knowing who has ultimate decision-making or approval delegations or who thinks they do, is valuable information.
When researching a role, take a look at the organisational chart to see if there are any overlaps and relationships. Read annual reports to learn about inter-sectional relationships.
For government roles, relationships between organisations and jurisdictions can also be a source of turf wars. The more a person has to work in such a context, the more sophisticated their communication and social skills will need to be.
By asking questions you will gain opportunities to further put your case as well as information that may result in a change of mind about your interest in the role. Some people will leap at the opportunity to define a new role, working in a context of ambiguity and uncertainty, while others would prefer a more certain path.