As much of the younger generation and several peers of mine are beginning to pursue their career paths, I find–when they’re seeking advice–they most often ask me for interview tips.
Many times, individuals are not coached on the interview process unless they go out of their way to seek out information and direction. And most, surprisingly, don’t know that a key part of an interview is preparing their own questions to ask the interviewer.
Ask the Right Questions
Asking a combination of questions that address both the interviewer and the position does two things:
- It gets the interviewer talking about themselves. Traditionally, when people think of an interview, they think they’ll be the one doing the bulk of the talking when answering questions. In reality, it should be quite the opposite. Asking direct questions about the person interviewing you–how they got into their position, what they enjoy about the company, strengths, weaknesses, etc.–stops the interview from being one-sided and turns it into more of a conversation. People, like your interviewer, want to feel like you’re genuinely interested in them and enjoy expressing themselves, too. If you’re able to get your interviewer talking or conversing with you, it’s always a big bonus.
- It shows you’re genuinely interested in how to best fulfill the position you’re applying for, and if you ask specific questions tied to the company AND the position, it shows you care and have done your research. Both elements, sadly, are generally going above and beyond in today’s professional world. It’s amazing how much further it will get you to sit down and do a few minutes of research beforehand on the company’s website to bring into the conversation and questions during the interview.
In today’s career world, it seems that although your resume may be what initially gets your foot in the door, once you’re in for an interview, it becomes less about what’s on paper and more about how you present yourself. After an interview if and when (because there will always be rejection, and that’s okay) you don’t get a position, it often has less to do with your lack of experience and qualification and more to do with who was the most prepared and which person left the best overall impression.
Think about it this way: If the company didn’t think you were qualified, they wouldn’t have called you in for an interview in the first place. At that point, you know you have what they’re looking for; you just have to figure out how to present yourself better than everyone else.
Getting the position you want can easily be the difference between…
“What are you looking for in this position?”
“I noticed ____, ____ and ____ are some of [Company’s Name]’s highest priorities and am curious: what aspects of this position would you like highlighted to improve and support these priorities?”
You see what I did there? If not, it’s simple. Go to just about any company’s “about” page, find the top values or services they offer up on that webpage and fill in the blanks. Incorporate specific info about the company and your position into your questions, and you’ll be much harder to forget. It’s so easy, it shows effort, and I guarantee it will put you above the majority interviewees.
Another key tip when presenting questions is to avoid speaking in “ifs” and “maybes” and use intros like “when working with” and “as the next [position title]” to psychologically take doubt out of the equation completely. In other words, stop using phrases that could go either way and start using phrases that make it seem you are the person that will be in this position in the future.
Getting the position you want can also be the difference between…
“If I were on the creative team, what are the biggest trouble-spots you’re hoping the person in this position might help with?”
“When working with you on the creative team, what are the biggest trouble-spots you’re looking for me to help with?”
Notice that the first question is presented in a very wishy, washy and doubtful manner in comparison to the second which puts a very clear, confident picture in the interviewer’s mind and leaves no room for interpretation.
So, what questions should I ask?
This is a tough one because if you’re truly going into an interview with a strong set of questions, your best ones are going to be unique to the company and position you’re applying for.
However, there are some general questions that are always great to include…
- In order to hire the next [position title], what, specifically, are you looking for?
- Where do you see the [position title] in five years? Ten years?
- When taking a look at your competition like [drop a couple competitors’ companies], what sets you apart and what are you looking to improve?
- How did you end up as a part of [Company Name]?
- What do you enjoy most about being [interviewer position title]?
And the question I always end an interview with or ask before I leave is…
6. When can I expect to hear from you next?
This is because: A. It prevents you from ending up in the awkward position of constantly questioning when you’re going to hear back and when it’s okay to follow-up. This way you know, if the interviewer said “within two weeks” and it’s been two weeks, you can confidently email them following up on the position. B. It also forces the interviewer to decide upon a time frame and possibly hold themselves accountable–if they hadn’t already.
Some more great questions to consider, from the managers’ mouths, can be found in this Mashable article: The Questions Managers Want You to Ask During a Job Interview