The questions you ask in an interview can help you OR knock you out of the running.
Joseph had an hour-long interview at 8:00 A.M. with the hiring manager, Susan, for a position he really wanted. He did some research on the company, reread the job description, and brushed up on his top strengths and weaknesses. He was on time and did well during the interview. Until the last 15 minutes. When Susan asked, “Well, Joseph, what questions do you have for me?”
Joseph displayed “crap” in the form of mistakes that sabotaged his odds of winning this job.
Scenario #1: He didn’t have any questions prepared. Mistake!
Solution #1: Prepare your questions, write them down, and bring the piece of paper in with you to the interview.
Scenario #2: Joseph asked, “What is the starting salary?” Mistake!
Solution #2: Never ever, ever, ever talk salary, even in ranges. Your mission is to get an offer in hand. Once you do, you can ask questions and possibly negotiate. Not before. Not to the human resources (HR) person, a recruiter, or to any interviewer.
Scenario #3: Joseph asked, “Is there a training program or structured on-boarding process?” Mistake!
Solution #3: Think about the story or perception the interviewer is creating with your questions. Put yourself in their shoes. In this case, they may be thinking, “Wow, he needs hand-holding and may be too high-maintenance for me. I need someone who knows how to do this.” If a training program is mentioned in the job description or on the company website, then it is appropriate to ask for more insights about the structure, length, etc.
Scenario #4: Joseph asked, “What does your division or company do?” Really big mistake!
Solution #4: It is still shocking how many job seekers ask this question. With the web, calling people you know, social media, and many other resources, there is no excuse like, “I didn’t have time.” By the way, in the U.S., one of my favorite resources (one that I have referred hundreds of job seekers to) is your local city’s Business Journal, both their online resources and the printed publication. Look up American City Business Journals online.
The keys to devising great questions from you to the interviewer are:
- How can I show a strength through the question?
- How can I convey something to the interviewer that we haven’t already covered but it’s important for them to know about me?
- How can I avoid inadvertently showing softness in a skill they need strength in?
- Is my question relevant to the interview? You are there for a purpose. Your questions should focus on helping you understand the job or the team you will be joining. For example: Don’t ask, “What are Boeing’s top challenges as a company?” if you are interviewing for an accounting job where the hiring manager is looking for a very specific set of skills. You’re burning up valuable time, you can read those online or in the papers, and the question is not relevant to the job unless you are interviewing for the CEO or CFO position.
Here are my favorite questions to ask in an interview:
- I’m very self-motivated. How will you measure my success in this position after one full year?
- The first 30 days are very important for me to meet as many team members as possible. How will you recommend I do that?
- What are the top 3 skills or experiences you are looking for that may not be mentioned in the job description?
- Of all of the people who have worked for you, what are the characteristics of those who have stood out as great performers?
- I have to admit I’m a perfectionist in some areas. What are the aspects of this position that absolutely require precision and attention to detail?
- Of all of the criteria you have outlined for this position, what are the top 3 in stack rank order?
- The position we are discussing is something I am very excited about. Can you give me feedback on how I am meeting your qualifications and if I will proceed to the next level of the hiring process? (This is called “going for the close” or “asking for the order” in sales.)
As an experienced hiring manager and interviewer, I am impressed when a candidate brings out a piece of paper with their questions written out. Obviously, they are prepared, thoughtful and thorough. It’s even better when they write down the answers under each question! Now that’s the type of employee I need on my team. What a great example showing how that person will prepare for an important meeting.
What are your challenges or tricks around the “Do you have any questions?” section of an interview? Write them in the comments section below. We want to hear from you!