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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.

More by this author

Sarah Hansen

A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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Last Updated on December 5, 2018

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

Being an efficient manager and a charismatic boss at the same time can seem like an impossible task. Is there a way to deliver the desired results for your business while remaining liked and respected by your staff?

We all know bad examples of team leaders who seem to fail at one aspect or the other, or even at both. But we’ve also heard of awesome managers who seem to juggle both things well enough.

How do they do it?

By sticking to few proven ways that let them maintain a positive karma score while remaining efficient. In this article, we’ll guide you through 11 smart management tips on how to lead a team and become something more than a boss – a leader.

1. Find a Management Strategy and Stick to It

There’s nothing worse than a boss that keeps changing his or her opinions and assignments depending on their mood or a book they read this week. Chaotic decisions increase the insecurity and frustration of your team, so you better find your strategy and stick to it.

If you do find some new methods you want your staff to follow, make sure they don’t contradict the general direction you are taking. Otherwise, you risk making your team take one step forward and two steps back.

2. Set Goals​ and Track Progress in Reaching Them

Set individual and collective goals​ for your team and track the progress in reaching them. This might sound obvious at first, but too often we find ourselves stuck between daily customer requests and monthly reports, and the bigger goal or vision seems to fade away.

According to Elon Musk (and many other successful CEOs around the Globe), it’s crucial to have a clear and motivating aim to where the company is heading. His aim for the space transportation company SpaceX is “to make humankind a multi-planetary species”.[1] That’s a huge goal but the company is slowly moving closer to it by reaching smaller steps and milestones, like launching self-landing rockets. This is also a very inspiring and meaningful goal that helps employees endure the company’s extremely high expectations and 60 to 70-hour work weeks.[2]

Even if your goals are not as grand, setting and reaching milestones will give you a clear insight into the team’s overall efficiency and daily progress. With time, you will be able to see the weak spots and improve your results.​

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3. Demand Learning from Your Team

CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, believes that:[3]

“The key for a company going through rapid growth is to empower your employees’ self-development.”

His company with 500 employees spanning two continents demands a culture of learning and provides all the tools necessary to do it.

Their idea is –  as the company scales, people have to grow in their positions too, which means that they have to be constantly learning. Siksnans says:

“We try to hire people for what they might become, but they need to have that drive.“

Alternatively, you can provide educational courses for your employees or invite informal lecturers to educate and inspire your team. You can also encourage peer-to-peer learning by asking employees to teach their particular experience or skill to co-workers.

4. Invest in a Pleasant Work Environment

Studies show that a well-designed office environment can increase your team’s overall performance by as much as 20%. You’ll be surprised to see that even very small interior tweaks that don’t require major investments can improve your workers’ performance.

Some ideas for a more productive and pleasing work environment:

  • Invest in modern furniture – offer ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and individually arranged workplaces​.
  • Start an in-house library – reading for pleasure just 30 minutes a day is proven to be enough to become more effective at work,[4] improve focus, and deal with problems like depression and anxiety.​
  • Play jazzy office music – rhythmic background music will help workers feel more energetic and enthusiastic while doing everyday tasks.​
  • Set up entertainment or break rooms – being able to relax and have fun at work creates a strong commitment, helps employees relax and clear their minds, and boosts productivity.​
  • Bring in uplifting office decor – it’s been found that art in the workplace can boost productivity,[5] lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate.​
  • Decorate the office with live plants for freshness and a welcoming feel. Furthermore, plants are found to ensure better air quality and increase workers’ productivity by 15%.[6]

5. Be Kind and Sincere to Your Team

Did you know that 50% of employees quit because they dislike working with their manager?[7] In fact, most times when people leave their jobs they actually leave their managers. Being friendly and sincere may not be enough to be a successful manager, but it’s a big part of it.

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Some ways to show you appreciate and care for your staff:

  • Celebrate the progress and achievements of your employees. And don’t be shy to simply say thanks.​
  • Talk to your employees regularly and really listen to what they have to say. Address their concerns, help them reach their goals and do your best to improve their work and daily life.
  • If you’re having a bad day, don’t pour out your stress and anger on the staff. Instead, try to recharge yourself by appreciating the achievements of your team and setting the next goals.
  • Try not to overload your team with work. Every company has rush periods when it’s okay to have more work than usual. But remember that people cannot work under prolonged pressure and stress.
  • Don’t be selfish – it can be very demotivating to see that the manager only focuses on what you can do for him and doesn’t care about your goals and well-being.​ As the CEO of Xerox Anne M. Mulcahy put it,[8]

    “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.”

Whenever you are having doubts about your kind attitude, remember – satisfied employees are productive employees which lead to satisfied customers and eventually – success for your company.

6. Offer Flexible Work Hours

The traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job is beginning to slip away. Increasingly more people are working remotely or having flexible work hours, and we can expect this trend to continue. To adapt to these changing habits and remain competitive in the labor market, more employers are offering the chance to choose your own work hours, work from home or even from another city or country.

Offering flexible hours is a powerful way to inspire your existing staff and give them intrinsic motivation. Why not let your employees choose their preferred working hours while keeping the 8-hour day? For example, night owls are unhappy and unproductive if they have to come to work before 10 AM, while others might prefer to start at 7 and finish earlier.

You can go even farther and hire remote workers – this way you’ll be able to recruit from a global talent pool and even save money on office expenses like desks, stationery, electricity, etc.[9]

7. Track Your Team’s Productive Time

Not monitoring your employees’ progress and efficiency can result in poor performance and slacking. Instead of letting things go with the flow, you should consider installing time-tracking software on your employees’ computers and see who’s doing great and who might need a productivity boost.

But don’t get it wrong – there’s no need to become big brother and watch every step your employees take. If you use the time-tracker as a spying tool, you will only see increasing suspicion and insecurity around you, and your employees’ happiness levels will drop.

On the contrary, choose software that allows employees to mark private time that won’t be tracked. In addition, consider these time-management tactics:

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  • Allow flexible work hours. (see Tip No 6)
  • Encourage breaks – studies show that employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t.[10]
  • Enable remote work to show your employees that you trust them and that they can work from home or even from another country (if they can maintain sufficient productivity).
  • Consider offering bonuses to your most productive employees (those who show productivity levels above 90 or 95%).

8. Use Only Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism means offering valid and rational opinions about the work of others, involving both positive comments and remarks about what should be improved. Constructive criticism is usually expressed in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.

When you evaluate your team’s work, give them feedback that’s helpful, specific, and sincere. Don’t be shy to praise, but also be direct and even strict when necessary.

9. Don’t Give Special Treatment to Yourself

The boss’s actions are – directly or indirectly – observed by your team. This means that your employees look up to you and often mimic your attitude towards your work and the company – especially if your actions don’t show commitment. Nobody wants to work for a leader who doesn’t go all in or inspire motivation.

What you should do is lead by example. If you expect your employees to arrive at work on time and work 8 hours, do the same yourself. If you want them to show initiative, show it yourself and encourage others to do the same.

Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn – a company of 3,000 employees that consistently ranks as one of the best workplaces with a 92 percent employee-approval rating.[11] Weiner’s workdays are reported to be equally long or even longer than those of his employees, allowing him to stay “extremely credible as a leader.”

10. Empower Your Employees

Here’s a common mistake many managers make:

They don’t motivate their staff and assume they simply love to work for their company.​ Such belief can result in painful losses for the company – especially these days when many companies are in desperate need of a reliable workforce.

Instead of directly thinking about bonuses and perks, consider intrinsic motivation. For example, enable flat organization in your team and listen to your employees’ ideas when they come up with opinions and suggestions. Your company might actually benefit a great deal from the feedback, and the unique ideas employees come up with.

You can also start an initiative where employees can freely share or pitch their business ideas to you or the founders of the company. If the idea is accepted by the management, the project can be developed, and the employee can have equity options.

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If people feel they have an impact in the company, they become more motivated, engaged and interested in the company’s growth.

11. Nurture Your Company Culture

Company culture is the personality of a company that defines the overall work environment and relationships between teammates. It also includes company mission, values, ethics, and goals.

Some examples of company cultures are the Horizontal corporate culture (collaborative and equal; popular among startups and free-spirited businesses) and Conventional corporate culture (a more risk-averse and hierarchy-based approach common in traditional companies).

However, you don’t have to stick to pre-existing boxes when creating your corporate culture. You might think of your team as a family, a sports team, or even a hippie camp if it fits your business and purpose. But keep in mind that by the time a company’s size reaches 20 employees, the company culture is set,[12] and any changes will need to be implemented in smaller teams.

Whichever personality you choose for your company, make sure to live by it and nurture it. Some things that might help:

Team building events, relevant books in your office library and proper on-boarding for the new employees to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning.

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

Using the words of Printful’s CEO Davis Siksnans, the ultimate goal is to “Hire great people who don’t have to be managed.”

However, when you do need to demonstrate some initiative and control, act as a leader rather than as a boss.

In other words, don’t be afraid to show the personality behind your role. And keep these 11 tips close to your heart.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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