Most interviewers follow a basic model these days called “Behavioral Interviewing.” The purpose is to see how a candidate has acted in the past in certain scenarios, because most of the time, past behavior will predict future behavior. Along with this interview style, there are also seven questions you as the candidate will most likely be asked. My boss in our career center refers to them as the Seven Deadly Questions. This includes: “Tell me about about yourself” and “Where do you see yourself in 2–5 years?” These are loaded questions that if answered wrong can ruin your chances of getting the job.
So if these are some of the questions the interviewer asks, what should you as the candidate ask? After all, aren’t you interviewing them too? Do you know for certain before an interview if this somewhere you want to work for the next year, two years, five years? If this is somewhere you want to work, then how can you be the most impressive job candidate?
Believe it or not, many times, the best way to show an interviewer you have done research on their company and industry is not through the answers you give, but through the questions you ask.
Here are 7 questions you should ask to be the most impressive job candidate.
1. “What are the common attributes of your top performers?”
This questions serves many purposes. First, you didn’t ask “what are the common attributes of your worst performers?” The reason being is that you want to show them that you want to identify with and be one of the top performers, and not one of the worst. You will probably have the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview, so to show you share common traits with the top performers, you can either reiterate an answer you gave earlier in the interview when you hear their answer about top performers, or mention your matching skills in a follow-up email and written thank you letter. You should be sending both.
2. “What are the one or two things that really drive results for the company?”
Based on the research you have already done prior to the interview (you did do research prior to the interview, right?), you should have an idea of what is the answer to this question before you ask. This illustrates to the interviewer that you understand the position you are applying for fits into a bigger company picture. This is not the “you” show. The company has a need and you are trying to convince them your background and skill set fits that need better than anyone else and you will make them more successful than they already are. You are part of the “thing” that drives results.
3. “What do employees do in their spare time?”
This question helps you gauge how you will fit in with the people working there. “Fit” has become a big focus for companies these days. You may have the skills to do the job, but if you are socially awkward or your personality does not make the interviewer feel comfortable with you they will probably pass on hiring you. Also, this question will help you understand the job/life balance at the firm. One too many jokes about “what spare time?” from the interviewer and you may want to consider whether you are willing to put in the hours this job may require.
4. “How do you plan to deal with _____?”
This question will end with an industry-specific issue. Maybe it is regulatory like the Dodd/Frank Act that hit the financial services industry a few years ago, or maybe in doing your research, you discovered a new player entered the market. My advice to you is be CAREFUL with this question. If the company does not have an answer for the issue yet, you will make the interviewer defensive. Focus on the positives if you want to show you have done your research. Ask something like “how do you plan to spend all the money you are going to make with this new product’s sales?” I’m kidding of course, but on the serious side be careful in choosing to ask about an issue.
5. “How do you measure success of the people currently in this position?”
This questions differs from the question about attributes of top performers because you are not asking what they think makes someone in this position successful, but rather how do they measure success. The point you want to make with this question is that you plan on being successful so you want to know what goals you should focus on. Also this question may lead to a conversation about commissions and bonuses, not specific numbers probably—and do not push for that—but it will give you an idea of expectations and how realistic they are.
6. “What does a career path look like at this company?”
When you ask this question you want to make sure you get the point across that you are looking long term. Do not ask, “how long does it take to move up?” or anything like that. You are there to fill the job at hand and add value immediately. The point of asking this is to show you are in it for the foreseeable future and that you are again coming to this job with an attitude that you are a good fit and will be successful.
7. “I am really excited about this opportunity; what are the next steps?”
If you don’t tell them you are really excited about the job, how will they know you are? They are excited about filling it; you should be excited about the possibility of being hired.
If you are in the process of interviewing for a few jobs, and you should be, then this is when they can tell you it may take a few weeks before you hear anything or that there are more interviews coming. If you get an offer from another company a few days after this interview, you know you may have to ask that company to give you more time to decide, because this company told you it may take a few weeks to get back to you. Any question you ask should show either that you did your research on the company and industry, or that you are there to fill the need they have and be successful. That is what will make you the most impressive job candidate.
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