When you go in for an interview, you expect to be asked many questions about your qualifications for that particular position. That’s part of what makes the experience so nerve-racking. You’ve probably rehearsed answers to interview questions in your mind over and over again to try to keep yourself from being nervous when you’re on the spot.
Have you given any thought to what questions you’re going to ask, though? The interviewer shouldn’t be the only one with curiosity on his mind. You are trying to apply for a new job, after all! If you’re totally new, then chances are that you don’t know much about the company. The extent of your experience with the organization is probably a small blurb of requirements that you read on a recruitment website. You would do well to learn more during the interview by asking some of the best job interview questions.
Interviewing is Like Being on a Date – One-Sided Questions Are Awkward
If you don’t ever ask any questions, maybe it’s time to change your mindset. Interviewing isn’t just about someone sitting there judging you from the other side of the desk. It’s about trying to figure out if both you and the company are a good fit for each other. Think of it like a first date. The other person’s approval is meaningless unless you’re also engaged.
More importantly, making sure that you have questions for your interviewer communicates some key things to your new employer:
1) That you actually care about the position. Sure, you care about getting the position, but do you care about the job itself? Is it something that you are actually interested in doing? Are you emotionally involved with the idea of your prospective job? A person who actually cares is more likely to have questions about what the job specifically entails.
2) That you’re knowledgeable. Say you’re interviewing for a web programming position at an IT company. If you ask smart questions about what kinds of results and features the company wants in their web apps, for instance, then this tells the interviewer that you actually know what you claimed to know in your résumé on a practical level.
3) That you want to give the company what it needs. Asking questions about your future job means that you’re looking for more than a paycheck—you want to know exactly what your role can be in helping the company reach its goals.
Questions to Ask Your Interviewer
What specific questions should you ask your interviewer, then? Well, this really depends on your field and the position you’re interviewing for, of course, but there are some general themes that will get you a lot of mileage with an interviewer.
If you want to make a good impression, try asking questions along these lines:
1) “Can you explain the core company values?”
This is a very important question because it gets to the heart of what the company stands for and will give you some insight into their mission. It’s also a red flag if they don’t seem to have any values or any kind of compass at all. Good companies are thoughtful about how they want to impact the world.
Asking this question will help you learn whether you can get behind this company’s larger intention. It will also tell the interviewer that you care about the big picture, not just what you can get out of the situation. In addition, it subtly communicates that you’re a person who actually cares about values, so you probably have some of your own. This can make you seem immediately more trustworthy.
2) “What is the company culture like?”
The culture of an organization is a big part of how they put their values into practice. Ask your interviewer what the social norms are at the company. What kind of people work there? What should you do to fit in? Does the office have an open layout and do people like to speak freely while they work? Or do people tend to hide in their cubicles instead?
This will allow you to get a feel for what working at the company is like. This will also tell the interviewer that you’re serious about working there and that you’re willing to adapt to the situation once you are hired.
3) “What kind of personality is needed to be successful in this position?”
Sometimes more than technical qualifications, organizations are looking for people with certain kinds of personalities that fit the position. Asking this question will help you learn the kinds of traits that the company is expecting of a person with your prospective job. Does the description sound like you? If not, you may need to probe further or look elsewhere.
4) “What is the biggest problem that a person in this position needs to solve?”
It makes sense to ask what the company’s major challenges are in the area that you’re being hired into. After all, they are only hiring you because they have a specific set of problems that they need to solve. Find out what the biggest one is and try to figure out on the fly how you might solve it. Even if you can’t come up with anything in the moment, giving it some thought will allow you to get into the mindset of what your new position will entail.
If you can offer some kind of insight based on your knowledge, all the better. The interviewer will probably be impressed and it increases your chances of getting hired significantly. At the very least, he will know that you’re considering the company’s needs and that you’re ready to start solving problems as soon as you’re hired.
5) “Is there anything about my background or qualifications that makes you hesitant to hire me?”
If you don’t know that a problem exists, you can’t go about fixing it. Something about your résumé or interview might be vexing the interviewer, but they may not say anything about it unless you ask. While these may be real conflicts that make you unsuitable for the position, it could also be that the interviewer misinterpreted something about you or made assumptions.
Bring these doubts to the surface, since this is the only way that they can really be addressed. If the interviewer is willing to be honest with you, be very careful not to treat his comments defensively. Try to look at them objectively. Nod while he/she speaks.
If you can, attempt to neutralize his doubts with further information, some clarification, or even a re-framing of perspective. Do this without making the interviewer “wrong.” In fact, it’s a good idea to address his concerns by agreeing with him at first.
For example, let’s say that you are interviewing to join a company’s marketing team, and the interviewer confesses that he sees your lack of corporate experience as a weakness. You might say:
“Yes, it is true that I’m relatively new to the corporate world. I understand why that would give you pause. However, if you notice on my résumé, I spent many years as an entrepreneur. I have very practical experience of what it takes to market a product successfully.”
Most of all, get creative and try to highlight talents and qualifications that the company could really use.
6) “What potential for growth does this position have?”
Another question that would be good to ask is whether your job has potential for growth within the company. If you prove yourself, could you get promoted in the future? What do those higher positions look like? You don’t want to end up in a dead-end job, after all. If you want to climb the ladder, you need a position that has somewhere to go.
Asking this question also tells the interviewer that you’re serious about the job. They will know that you’re not looking for a one-off gig for a few months and that you genuinely see yourself working there years in the future.
7) “What is the first thing that I should do after being on-boarded?”
Obviously, there is usually some kind of orientation process when you first get hired to a company. After that, though, what is the first thing that you should jump into? This will give you a sense of the priorities of your job and will also let you mentally prepare yourself for the first challenges ahead.
Your interviewer will appreciate the fact that you’re already thinking about how you’re going to serve the company. A question like this shows that you’re eager to get past all of the training and get right into your job. Most companies prefer self-starters who are on a mission.
Getting hired is about more than convincing the interviewer to like you; it really comes down to finding the right person for the right position. This is why it makes sense that both sides should be asking questions. First and foremost, you want to make sure that the job is for you.
So next time you’re at an interview, take an active interest in the company itself. Prepare some questions ahead of time that are relevant to the position, or use the questions above. Not only will this help you figure out if you’re a good match, it will almost certainly impress your interviewer.