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Top 10 Questions to Ask in an Interview to Get Hired

Top 10 Questions to Ask in an Interview to Get Hired

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 actually interviewed more often from within the organizations as I steadily climbed the corporate ladder. I was very successful in most of my interviews and usually landed the position I was seeking.

Why you should Interview the Interviewer

An interview is essentially a sales pitch–and your skill set is the service you are peddling. However, you should never enter an interview believing that it is only you who is on the market. It is equally important that your potential employer sell you on the position as well.

When you pose questions in an interview it does a few key things:

  • It shows that you are interested in the position and company.
  • It shows that you are assertive, competitive and driven.
  • It demonstrates that you have done your research and are prepared for the interview (which also provides the interviewer a peek into the type of employee you’ll be).
  • It makes you appear less desperate (this of course depends on the type of questions you ask).
  • It changes the tone of the interview. Roles flip-flop and you become the interviewer and the interviewer is now pitching to you.
  • It helps to inform your final decision on whether or not to accept the position.

Make your questions count

Before we dive into the questions you should ask, there are a few things to remember when you are preparing your questions and during the interview:

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  1. The Q & A portion of the interview usually takes place near the end. It is essential that you have questions prepared (write them down) but it’s even more important that you mentally tweak them based on the interview conversation. Some of your questions may (should) be answered or partially answered during the interview. Do NOT ask questions that have already been answered. Be sure that you remain flexible enough to add, delete and amend your questions as necessary.
  2. If the interviewer fails to ask you if you have any questions — take the initiative and ask the questions anyway. Saying something like “before we end, I have a few questions I’d like to ask if you don’t mind,” is the perfect way to politely remind the interviewer that you haven’t had the chance to get your questions answered.
  3. Ask clarifying questions throughout the interview. If you don’t fully understand, ask the interviewer to clarify the question or ask additional questions about their initial query. It is critical that you understand and fully address all of their questions–the ones they ask verbally and the ones hidden in the subtext.
  4. Avoid asking “yes” or “no” questions. You gain very little–if any–insight from yes or no questions.
  5. Avoid self-centered or “me” questions. Try to avoid asking about vacation time, benefits, company perks, stock options and even salary — unless the interviewer brings it up. And even then, proceed with extreme caution. Once you are offered the position you can discuss those items at length.

Top 10 questions to ask in an interview

Here is a proven list of the top ten questions you should ask in an interview

1) What are the company’s vision and overall mission?

Employers love to talk about their company’s vision for the future. If they are passionate about their work, they enjoy discussing the company’s vision. Let them start to think about your help in fulfilling them. Asking questions like this also shows you are interested in understanding and contributing to the success of their mission.

*Caution: This is a question that most likely will be answered–at least partially–during the interview. Be prepared to amend or nix this question.

2) Can you tell me more about ______ (insert a specific fact or aspect 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 well-researched.

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3) What are the top 3 most important qualities for someone to excel in this role?

This question will tell you exactly what the interviewer is looking for–while making the interviewer pause and think. Asking for a specific number of traits–three–forces the interviewer to tailor his or her response to be short, precise and easy for you to remember. Jot down the answer to the question and at the end of their response, make sure you have demonstrated that you possess those three characteristics.

4) What does success in this role look like?

It’s helpful to understand expectations upfront. Asking them to paint a picture of what success looks like from their vantage point shows your willingness to align with the vision. Disappointments are often caused by unmet expectations. This question gives the employer the opportunity to clearly establish expectations from the beginning and it allows you to assess whether or not those expectations are realistic and achievable. Pay close attention to this response and don’t become blinded by desperation.

*Note: This question can serve as a follow up to the third question or may be omitted altogether based on that answer.

5) Can you describe a typical day for this position?

This question is helpful in highlighting the actual the details of the work. It goes from being abstract to a concrete answer to the question, “what will I actually be doing?” It sets the tone and will show you things like pace, work flow, meeting schedule and how the work is structured. If it is a free-flowing position where tasks are random and sporadic, make sure you consider that before making your final decision. Be sure the environment and pace suits you.

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6) Can you describe the company culture?

Every company has a culture. Corporations are like microcosmic versions of countries. Understanding the cultural expectations and hierarchy is important. Be prepared to ask follow up questions such as:

  • What are this company’s core values?
  • How does the organization support your professional development and career growth?
  • Is risk-taking encouraged, and what happens when people fail?

7) How has the company changed over the last few years?

This is a great chaser to the question about company culture. The answer to this question will highlight growth (and problems associated with growth) and also gives you a bit of insight on the primary focus of the company. Are they aggressive? Are they understaffed? Are they stagnate and comfortable with the lack of growth? Is this a traditional company or a start up? And the most important question here is–are you comfortable being apart of this company’s culture?

8) How has this position evolved and how do you envision it continuing to evolve?

This question can tell you exactly what you need to know about this particular opportunity. It lets you know if this job is a dead end or a stepping stone. It shows the potential for either growth and development or mind numbing stagnation.

A great follow up question to this question is what is the typical career path of a person in this position? This will let the employer know that you are ambitious and want to grow and progress. It also subtly tells them that you will be committed to them if there is potential for you to grow.

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9) Is there anything in my background you have questions about or need to be clarified?

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 may be standing in the way of you being hired? 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.

10) Can you explain how the rest of this process will go?

I’ve actually been a bit bold and asked, “So, when do I start?” and I got the job when I did this. However, I was interviewing for a sales position so that may be a bit too brazen for interviewers seeking a different kind of employee. However, taking initiative to know what the next steps are is helpful. It will give you peace of mind and also asks the interviewers to commit to a time frame. It will let you know an approximation of when you should expect a call or when you should stop waiting and pursue other opportunities.

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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Sarah Hansen

A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up.

You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out. But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

Check out these important listening skills: 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

3. Go to All Office Networking Events

Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

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4. Show Initiative

Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

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These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

7. Find a Mentor

With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

Not sure how to find the right mentor? Here’s How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed.

8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

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You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

9. Set Your Professional Bar High

Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

The Bottom Line

Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

“Half of life is showing up.”

The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

Remember, your career is your business!

More About Continuous Growth

Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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