An interview isn’t just a chance for a company to learn all about you, it’s your opportunity to determine if this is the right next step for your career and a good fit for you. To do that it’s important to be prepared with some strategic questions to both help position you as the right candidate in the eyes of the interviewer, but also to help position you to make a thoughtful decision about the company itself.
Below I have put together a list of some questions to arm yourself for your interview. Just make sure that you don’t come out too strong with your questions and most importantly don’t ask a question that was already answered earlier on.
The Kick Off
This might be the hardest one of them all, but to me taking some semblance of control early on in your interview is a very rewarding skill to possess. Again, this is no easy task. You want to be mindful not to over step the personality of the interviewer and lose the job before you can shine. I have found that the easiest way to do this successfully is to walk in prepared with a very easy and light question. For me, I first start always having done my homework. Where did this interviewer go to school? Where have they worked? Can I find a blog or a bio or something online that talks about their passions, pleasures or even as simple as where they currently live? Leveraging these to build that early rapport is my goal. As I walk into the interview, shake hands with my interviewer and even before I sit down I usually jump right into this with a, “John, I noticed online as I was preparing for the opportunity to meet you today that you run a foundation for sheltered dogs. I have two dogs of my own and have been looking for opportunities here in the city to volunteer some of my time to walk dogs that are currently in a shelter.” How did you launch this foundation and why?” Whatever the topic is, can you see the mood this type of soft and warm approach can take? It puts you in the drivers seat and makes the interviewer feel closer and more connected to you right from the onset. The benefit tends to be easier conversations, less pressure and more reward.
Understanding people’s motivations is an important part of the interview process and understanding your interviewers reasons for joining the company might just answer your own personal why along the way. “Why did you originally join this company and has the company lived up to or exceeded your expectations?” This question or something similar might be your access pass to making a great decision for your career.
Before you walk into the interview with Jane / John Doe make certain you are already well versed on their background and LinkedIn is the perfect place to do this. If you know all about your interviewers career, the best questions to ask are always going to be about the interviewers career and career choices. People are most comfortable talking when they are subject matter experts and what better subject matter then themselves. With this said, when you get your opportunity I always find it best to ask the interviewer specific questions about job moves they have made. For instance, “why did you leave Company X to come to this company?” This type of question will give you an honest look into why you might want to consider this move. What does the company have to offer and also afford you a chance to go deeper with further questions that should arise from the interviewers answer.
What are the notable goals over the next 12 months for this role I am being considered for? My goal with this question is to push the interviewer to help set the expectations for this role up front. Are you going to be excited if the interviewer is your perspective direct boss and they answer this question saying, “there are no notable goals, we are just tasked with sustaining this function for the company.” Is that the next career step you are searching for or the next boss you’re eager to have?
I find it exciting when I am interviewing a potential candidate and they ask thought provoking questions concerning us being progressive and how they can participate in that. For example, two of our search firms are experts in Fashion and Retail (JBCStyle and Janou Pakter). Lets consider we are prepping an account executive for a interview with a large wholesale client. One of those progressive questions could center around the clients digital footprint growth. You might ask, “I have seen a lot of eCommerce growth in our industry lately with brands taking control of their eCommerce and bringing that function in house versus outsourcing it. Many of those brands have had strong expansion goals to compliment this effort. Is Company X currently focused on expansion of its eCommerce business here in the states or globally? Could you share the strategy behind that growth footprint and how that might affect this group and the company?”
While this might not work for those legal and financial professionals out there, we are living in 2014 and for many Culture is everything. Coming from a creative business, culture is very important to us and equally very important to our clients whom we support. Walking into your interview and being prepared to ask for a tour at the end of your interview and to ask the interviewer to share their perspective of the corporate culture and what types of people are most successful is a respectable and fair question that I encourage you to arm yourself with. What if the answer was the opposite of whom you are? Would you still want to work there? Of course not, so remember this is your interview as much as it is the companies. Ask the questions that will allow you to make the best possible decision for yourself.
While its important to be careful with this question, I am very much a fan of asking your interviewer what areas of weakness / deficiency are currently in the group your interviewing for or perhaps the safer road is to ask them how they believe that this group could run more efficiently. This will allow you to showcase how you could fill those voids. The part to be cautious of is to make certain you have those skills and can truly fill in the blanks.
I love asking an interviewer the simple question, “what keeps you here?” Why wouldn’t you ask that? Don’t you want to know why that person stays with the company you’re interviewing for? Wouldn’t you want to know what motivates them there? What factors are exciting them.
At the end of the interview always remember this is potentially your last chance to leave the impression that you’re the one. I find it helpful to ask the interviewer, now that we have had some time to discuss my background, do you have any concerns or hesitations about my candidacy or are there any other areas I can elaborate on? Before you get up and walk out, there is one last step you must take. Get that business card. You need it. How else will you walk out of your interview and ensure you send that critical thank you note.