Nervous about your upcoming interview? Sharpen your questions FOR the interviewer.
That’s right. No matter what your career level, you’ve probably realized your competition is every bit as qualified, and that employers are being selective. So, here’s a critical idea to take into your next meeting with employers:
The interview questions you ASK are just as just as important as the ones you ANSWER.
Employers are attuned to candidates that are attentive to THEM, and will interview you through a What’s-In-It-For-Me lens, hoping to hear your ideas on what can help them.
Working with Tony Deblauwe of HR4Change, I helped build The Right Questions to Ask in a Job Interview (formerly published on Monster.com) to show that employers are not only gauging your fitness on your ability to field their questions, but also on your ability to throw some good ones back their way.
In fact, as the interview winds down and your interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?”, this is where your real interview performance starts. Your questioning strategy should be prepared as carefully as your interview answers! Hiring decisions are often made in those last few minutes.
By asking the right questions, you’ll show the hiring manager and interview team that you are a solid player – ready to dive in and do a good job. You’ll also gain insight into the job, the company, and people you’ll be working with. You can identify many red flags from answers that seem to show uncertainty, vagueness, or disorganized processes. The interviewer’s responses will allow you step back and ascertain whether the job matches your original vision and its alignment with your personality and career goals.
Generally speaking, your questions should include topics that touch culture, expectations, and timing. Need help formulating queries for your interviewer? Here are 3 key areas you can explore for possible questions—both as interview preparation, and during the interview itself:
Questions on the job duties.
If you’ve been observant or taken down notes during the interview, you’ll be able to reflect back on projects mentioned and challenges discussed. You want to probe deeper into the specifics. Don’t be afraid – asking what a typical day looks like, or the impact of the role to the business unit, shows the interviewer that you are thoughtful about doing a good job and have a sincere interest in the company’s vision of the perfect leadership candidate.
You might have also jotted down names of key people or stakeholders in your notes. This data can help link the accountability and visibility aspects of the job, since most roles have a matrixed aspect requiring multiple relationships and connections to be successful.
Here are some ways to ask about the job:
- How can the person you hire be of most value to the team in light of the project goals you mentioned?
- What types of tasks should your ideal candidate be prepared to face on a day-to-day basis?
- What do you believe will change with this role within the first year?
Your goal: Ensure that the interviewer sees you as a person who wants to fit in quickly, add value, and anticipate business needs.
Questions that cover the boss’s expectations.
The hiring manager has already formed a vision of the ideal candidate, and here’s your chance to find out how you stack up—or decide if you even want to. It’s important to gauge whether the expectations are realistic, given what you know about the company and general assumptions about the role in the industry.
These questions can help you probe your potential new boss for messages about the company’s culture and unwritten rules of conduct (before being subjected to them in the new role):
- How would you recommend employee build relationships in this job?
- What qualities does your team value most in a new executive or team leader?
- What type of leadership team member have you hired in the past that worked out well? What about new hires that didn’t fit in?
Your goal: Portray yourself as a realistic, committed leader who is willing to take on the task of bonding with the team and delivering a strong contribution.
Questions that illuminate the hiring process.
Here are the seemingly most difficult questions to ask, but being prepared with confidence and a demeanor will help you put your best foot forward. Ideally, you want to walk away with a sense of next steps, the level of urgency the company has for filling the role, and the company’s level of organization and commitment to candidates.
Be aware that these types of questions should only be asked AFTER covering queries about the job or performance expectations. In addition, you’ll find that some interviewers may be unable to disclose details, so you’ll want to be ready to move on if needed:
- What timeframe do you anticipate to have a shortlist of final candidates?
- What types of information are crucial for you to decide on the ideal candidate?
- How soon will the new employee be expected to fill this position?
Your goal: Remind the interviewer that you’re eager to fill the role, but that you also have a responsibility to give a reasonable notice to your current employer, and/or to make arrangements for starting the new job. You want the process questions to form a framework of how decisions will be made, not to convey that you are overeager or desperate to fill the role.
One thing is for certain – not asking meaningful questions in the interview process is a recipe for disaster! You want to leave a positive impression with the interview team, leaving them feeling like you are one of them.