I’ve done my fair share of interviews, even though I’ve only worked for two companies after college. While I interviewed as an outsider for the positions initially, I have, ironically, interviewed more often once I was already a part of a corporation as I moved within the many career paths. I was very successful in most of my interviews and usually landed the position I was after.
An interview is basically a sales call. You’re just the product being considered. Since most of my previous experience was in sales, the skills I learned also helped me during the interview process. Here are ten questions that I believe helped convince the interviewer that I was their top pick.
1) If you could create the ideal person for this position — a wish list, if you will — what are the top traits they would possess?
I would ask this at the beginning of the interview. Sometimes I would surprise the interviewer, as they were ready to plow into their questions. However, I had a strategy. As they answered, I made mental notes of each desire. Then, as the interview continued with their questions, I looked for every opportunity to tie my experience into their list of desired traits. I came back to this at the end of the interview, as you will see below.
2) Can you tell me more about how I would fit in with ______ (insert specific fact that shows you researched the company)?
Employers want to know how much you want this job. Are you willing to put time into studying the company and position? If you want to stand out, you’d better be. Once you have done your homework, let them know it. Prepare specific questions to ask about areas that show you did some digging. Make sure your questions are relevant and researched.
3) What is your vision for your company’s future, and how do you see me contributing to this?
Employers love to talk about their company’s vision for the future. If they are passionate about their work, they enjoy a discussion on their dreams. Let them start to think about your help in fulfilling them. Asking questions like this also shows you are a forward thinker — a desirable trait.
4) What does success look like for you in this role?
It’s helpful to understand expectations upfront. Asking them to define how success looks to them shows your willingness to be aligned to their vision. Disappointments are often caused by unmet expectations. Asking for their thoughts helps them see you as someone who creates clearly defined objectives to meet their goals.
5) Based on my research, I noticed you are distinguished from your competitors because of ____ (insert another fact that shows you have done your homework). Can you tell me what else sets your company apart?
Again, take a moment to remind them that you prepared for your interview by learning as much as publicly possible about their company. Now, ask them to go deeper into what sets them apart. People love to talk about why they stand out ahead of the competition. Let them brag a little.
6) Can you tell me what a typical day in this position looks like?
Again, it’s helpful to show that you can understand the details of the work. Asking them to help you relate to a typical day shows that you are prepared to understand and do the work required.
7) Can you tell me about your company culture?
Every company has a culture. Corporations are like microcosmic versions of countries. The ones I worked for were actually bigger than some countries. Let them know you are interested in what makes them tick. How are they unique in the way they relate to each other?
8) Do you have any concerns about my qualifications that would prevent you from selecting me for this position?
In sales, it’s always best to get all objections on the table so you can deal with them. Some people don’t want to get into these discussions because they can be uncomfortable, but wouldn’t you rather know what’s holding them back from hiring you? If you know before the interview ends, then you at least have a shot at changing their minds. Maybe they misunderstood you, or maybe you failed to address something specific they were seeking. Either way, your best bet is to deal with any obstacles head on.
9) In the beginning of our meeting, you listed your ideal candidate having the qualities of X, Y, and Z (repeat their words back to them that they used to answer to your opening question). Do you feel I have adequately shown you that I demonstrate these qualities?
This is a closed question, meaning it can only be answered with a “Yes” or “No.” It ties the entire interview together. It also puts them in a unique position, because if the answer is “Yes,” than you have used their own words to sell them. Essentially, they already told you what they wanted, if you then demonstrated what they wanted to their satisfaction during your time, why wouldn’t they hire you? If it is “No,” ask them to clarify how you failed. Again, it helps you understand their desires better and give you an opportunity to address them.
10) When will you make your final decision?
If the previous question was a “Yes,” I’ve actually been a bit bolder and asked, “So, when do I start?” instead of this question (I got the job when I did this). However, I was often interviewing for sales positions, so this may be a bit more brazen for some interviewers seeking less forceful people. However, taking initiative to know what the next steps consist of is helpful for your peace of mind and also asks the interviewers to commit to a time frame. It politely calls them to take action to give you a decision. This is a much better scenario than if they took no action and forgot you in the pile of candidates.
While the bulk of interview success is how you sell yourself answering the interviewer’s questions, asking the right queries in return can be the final icing on the cake to strong content. If the candidate pool is competitive, sometimes the line between your dream job and rejection is just asking the right questions.
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