In almost every interview, your turn to ask questions has the potential to create that approving nod we all crave, or that big yawn that makes us all cringe. So while it’s important to prepare your answers for the job interview, it’s also valuable to plan out your questions.
Your questions reveal a lot about you. How well-informed and thoughtful are your inquiries? How well will you weave what you learned in your visit so far into the inquiries you make? What questions will you ask to enhance your bond with your potential boss?
“Job candidates who use questions wisely have an advantage over others,” said Stephanie Daniel, vice president of Keystone Associates, a career management and outplacement company. “They prepare their questions by researching the interviewer and by knowing the company’s major new products and problems. They will go beyond the most basic and obvious questions and use them to really connect with the interviewer.”
“You can’t plan every single question ahead of time,” she said. “Some need to flow directly from the content of the interview or from something that stands out as you walk through the cubicles.”
Some, however, you do need to plan ahead. To help you with a healthy headstart, here are seven questions Daniel recommends:
- What are your most important goals for the next six months or year?
- What work issues keep you up at night?
- What do you anticipate being the major challenges your company / department will face in the next year?
- What’s the most gratifying aspect of your job? And the most grating?
- What words of wisdom would you share with someone just starting at this company?
- Describe your ideal candidate to me. Why are those qualities important to you?
- Why do you do what you do? What led you into your current career path?
Notice that these questions are getting a clearer picture of the interviewer and what’s important to her. You also want to know what problems you could help solve.
“The goals question can be used in just about every situation,” Daniel said. “And the look inside their work-life can be useful to build rapport. Show an intellectual curiosity and a genuine interest in the employer, she said.”
If you have some concerns about the company or culture, phrase your questions in a neutral, non-confrontational way. You do not want to sound like you’re a critic!
Most important, avoid questions that turn the spotlight back on you.
“One of the questions I’m not crazy about is ‘Do you have any concerns about me?’ It puts the interviewer on the spot, making an awkward moment,” said Daniel. Instead ask the “Describe the qualifications of your ideal candidate…” question.
“Use your ability to read people,” she said, and the direction of the interview. “Invariably, you’re not going to use every question you’ve prepared. And that’s okay, because we have to know when to stop talking, too.”
Can’t questions often lead to incredible answers… and maybe even one really good question: “When can you start?”