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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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Last Updated on October 18, 2018

10 Key Characteristics of a Highly Successful Entrepreneur

10 Key Characteristics of a Highly Successful Entrepreneur

When it comes to starting your own business and pursuing your dream of becoming an entrepreneur, it can be advantageous to go all in and embrace the flexibility of finally quitting your day job.

Keep in mind, though, that it takes a special kind of person to take the business world by storm: a person who has cultivated the key characteristics of entrepreneurial success.

People with these characteristics are likely to succeed, whereas people without them have difficulty moving forward with even the most brilliant business ideas.

These characteristics of an entrepreneur are so important that I’ve decided to cover all 10 of them in detail so that you can start your business with your best foot forward.

1. Successful Entrepreneurs Practice Discipline

Plenty of business experts claim that you can’t get anywhere as an entrepreneur without vision or creativity, but that’s simply not the truth. Instead, the one quality that no entrepreneur can be successful without is discipline.

To build an idea into a business, you have to have the discipline to spend time slogging through the least fun parts of running a business (like the bookkeeping), rather than taking that time to do something fun.

Andrew Carnegie, one of the most financially successful Americans of all time, grew up working dull and difficult jobs in factories. Despite going to bed hungry some nights, he continued doing his best work. He was eventually hired by a railroad company and continued to move up the ladder until starting his own successful businesses. Carnegie is a fine example of an entrepreneur dedicated to discipline and hard work. He truly earned his dreams of prosperity and success.

When you’re the boss, there’s no one to keep you at work except yourself — and there’s no short-term consequences for skipping out early.

Sure, if an entrepreneur plays hooky enough he knows that the business just won’t happen, but it’s very hard to convince someone that ‘just this once’ won’t hurt (and to keep ‘just this once’ from becoming a daily occurrence).

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2. Successful Entrepreneurs Keep Calm

Things go wrong when you run your own business.

Most entrepreneurs go through crises with their businesses — and more than a few wind up with outright failures on their hands. But when you’re responsible for a business, you have to be able to keep calm in any situation. Any other reaction — whether you lose your temper or get flustered — compounds the problem.

Instead, a good entrepreneur must have the ability to keep his cool in an emergency or crisis. It may not make the problem easier to solve, but it certainly won’t make it harder.

Honestly, losing your calm is a quick path to becoming the kind of person who gives up in the face of adversity. Instead giving in to frustration, remember classic entrepreneur Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin kept his calm as he experimented and tweaked his inventions again and again in pursuit of success. He didn’t give up during his many failures – he chose to innovate. You can choose innovation, too.

If an entrepreneur can handle failure without frustration or anger, s/he can move past it to find success.

3. Successful Entrepreneurs Pay Attention to Details

Restricting your attention to the big picture can be even more problematic than ‘sweating the small stuff.’

As an entrepreneur, unless venture capital has magically dropped out of the sky, a small expense can be a killer. It’s attention to detail that can make a small business successful when it has competition and it’s attention to detail that can keep costs down.

Attention to detail can be difficult to maintain — going over ledgers can be tedious even when you aren’t trying to pay close attention — but keeping your eye on a long-term vision is just asking for a problem to sneak in under a radar.

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After a business grows, an entrepreneur might be able to hire someone to worry about the details. In the beginning, though, only one person can take responsibility for the details.

Skeptical about the importance of details? Look no further than Howard Schultz, who grew a small coffee shop called Starbucks into one of the most globally successful coffee businesses in the world through his extreme attention to detail.

He is famous for taking all aspects of growing a business into account, paying attention not only to financially smart business decisions, but also focusing on socially responsible business decisions. Details can take you far.

4. Successful Entrepreneurs Embrace Risks

No entrepreneur has a sure thing, no matter how much money s/he stands to earn on a given product. Even if a product tests well, the market can change, the warehouse can burn down and a whole slew of other misfortune can befall a small business.

It’s absolutely risky to run a business of your own and while you can get some insurance, it’s not like most investment options. Even worse, if something does go wrong, it’s the entrepreneur’s responsibility — no matter the actual cause. In order to deal with all of that without developing an ulcer, you have to have a good tolerance for risk.

You don’t need to channel your inner frat boy and take on absolutely stupid risks, but you need to know just how much you can afford to risk — and get a good idea of how likely you are to lose it. If the numbers make you uncomfortable, the risk is too great.

Embracing risks is essential for growth and additional success, as well. Walt Disney, for example, could have stayed comfortable with his advances in the film and animation industries, but decided to expand his brand with a new dream: a theme park that soared above the competition. Without taking this risk, the incredibly successful Disney theme park empire would never have come about.

An entrepreneur has to be willing to accept pretty big risks, with some level of comfort.

5. Successful Entrepreneurs are Balanced

You can take any characteristic too far. There’s a point at which attention to detail can become obsession or calm can become unemotional response.

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As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to balance your characteristics, getting the most of them without going over the edge. But balance for an entrepreneur goes far beyond keeping your characteristics in check, though.

Just as an entrepreneur doesn’t have a boss to keep them at work when necessary, they don’t have one to send them home when they’re done. If you are working for yourself, you have to decide how to balance your work and home life — and if you have a day job to add into the equation, balance just gets more complicated.

Oprah Winfrey, one of the most successful and influential entrepreneurs out there, understands the importance of balance. Winfrey has a lot going on; she runs her own media kingdom, acts, produces films, publishes print, and more. In an interview with Fast Company,[1] she talks about her efforts to balance priorities and self care, saying that she must ask herself what is truly important in each limited day.

You may or may not have as much on your plate as Oprah, but learning how to balance whatever you have going on in life will certainly help you farther along down the road as you learn to be a great entrepreneur.

6. Successful Entrepreneurs are Passionate and Motivated

In order to develop any of the above characteristics, you must have a foundation of passion. Staying disciplined day after day during the building of your business takes unrivaled motivation.

Before you start any business, ask yourself if you can sustain true excitement about your idea during even the darkest days ahead of you. If the answer is yes, then good for you! Nurture your natural motivation by taking these action steps throughout your business journey:

  • Commit to making short and long-term goals. Check in with them often to stay on task.
  • Have a plan in place for the inevitable days when you feel discouraged. Make a list of things that will help keep you motivated and focused.
  • Share your ideas with trusted individuals who are just as excited as you are. They will help keep your enthusiasm rolling even when you are feeling down.

By being prepared for apathetic days and holding fast to your authentic passion, you can actually enjoy your journey to success.

7. Successful Entrepreneurs Adapt

Remember this one word: flexibility. Seasoned entrepreneurs know that change is not only a part of life, but also a part of the business world. Expect change and choose to adapt.

As a new entrepreneur, it will be tempting to cling to your original business plan with no exceptions, even if you notice it isn’t working. Good entrepreneurs know that it’s okay to make smart, informed changes in order to ensure efficiency.

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8. Successful Entrepreneurs are Marketing and Sales Experts

No matter what kind of business you are starting, a knowledge of marketing and sales will save you many headaches. A passion for creating a beautiful handmade lifestyle product is not enough to run a successful lifestyle brand; it is critical that you understand key business principles in addition to your natural skills or great product line.

Not sure how to start? Taking business courses is a great idea, but you can also easily brush up on sales and marketing through free online resources. Check out these 10 Sales Skills Everyone Should Master To Be Successful to begin now.

9. Successful Entrepreneurs Have Strong Money Management

Along with sales and marketing skills, money management is a very useful tool in the box of the entrepreneur. Understanding how to best manage your money can be the difference between early success and early failure in the business world.

If money management isn’t your strongest skill, prepare to hire a financial expert to help you with any tricky business that comes up. Financial guidance and knowledge is never a bad idea.

10. Successful Entrepreneurs Ask Questions and Continually Improve

Pride is a natural human quality, but it’s important to humbly conduct some constructive criticism every now and again on both yourself as a leader and your new business as a whole.

Assess how things are going and be willing to make positive changes if necessary. Here’re 15 ways to cultivate lifelong learning.

If you are always improving, then how can you ultimately fail?

The Bottom Line

Let me remind you of one important fact: the qualities of an entrepreneur listed here are not exclusively available to some people and elusive to others.

Although some people may have natural strengths and weaknesses, these qualities can be learned by anyone interested in taking up the entrepreneurial challenge. It might not be easy to change old habits, but it is absolutely possible to cultivate these characteristics in yourself.

Whether you’re a business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur, with hard work, you can train yourself to develop the qualities that truly determine the entrepreneurial spirit and future success.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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