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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 April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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