Confident millennial female applicant in glasses talking at job interview answering questions, vacancy candidate making first impression concept and introducing herself speaking to hr holding resume
One of the easiest ways to increase positive outcomes when interviewing for a job is to prepare. If you tend to get nervous during an interview, investing time on factors within your control like your outfit, transportation, and responses to common questions can make a world of difference.
An often overlooked area of preparation is what questions you’ll ask the interviewers. This can be a "make or break" part of the interview, and I have seen things turn around both ways (in favor of or against a candidate) depending on how they respond to this inquiry: “Do you have any questions for us?”
Here’s how to make sure you impress right up through the final moments of the interview:
- “No” is never an acceptable answer (so prepare more questions than you’ll need). When done well, interviews are conversational, with back and forth dialogue. This means, many of your questions may get answered in the course of the discussion. Even if this happens, you’ll still want to have 2 – 3 questions at the ready. In this situation, try: “This conversation has been incredibly helpful in understanding how the strategy team partners with various stakeholders throughout the company and the top priorities for the coming year. Can you share what makes you proud to work at this company and one thing you’d change?”
- Use questions to the maximum benefit. Even when gathering information in the Q&A, you still have an opportunity to clarify your fit, reiterate strengths and show your interest. Ensure your questions are insightful, show curiosity and demonstrate knowledge of the role, industry and company to the extent possible. In this situation, try: “I’m excited that my fluency in Portuguese and connections in Brazil will be valuable when you expand in that region. Can you share more about the timeline and how you envision the acquisition impacting reporting lines?”
- Have the right questions for the right people. Don’t ask the entry-level Recruiter what a “day in the life” of a Senior Programmer is. While he/she can speculate, you’ll get a more thorough response from someone on the Technology Team. Similarly, very specific benefits questions may be best directed to Human Resources. Of course, there’s gray area, but a major part of the interview is building relationships, and people feel good when they’re able to confidently answer your questions. Try: “In your role, I suspect you have an insider perspective on [insert specific topic here]. Can you share [your insights on…]?” or “Can you share how your role collaborates with the rest of the project team?”
- Ask questions as if you’re already in the role. Pretend you are hired and this is your first week. What questions might be on your mind? These tend to be great questions to ask in the interview because they’re more strategic in nature and show you’ve done your homework. Ask, "What does a successful first year look like on this team?" or "What’s the company’s biggest obstacle to success this year, and how will I be able to help overcome it in this role?"
- Save self-interest questions. While it may be important to understand how frequently you’ll be paid or if you can leave early on Thursdays to attend class, these questions do not make the best first impression since they’re focused on your interests versus the hiring manager’s focus. It’s likely you’ll get a sense of some of your tactical concerns by observing the culture and interacting with potential future colleagues. If not, unless it’s a major constraint or deal breaker, save these questions until the offer stage. In the meantime, try: “What do employees comment on most about the culture here?” or “If I were a friend, what’s one thing you would tell me about working here that I wouldn’t know until I started?
- Uncover red flags. If a hiring process is moving very quickly or the interviewer is trying to sell you rather than get to know you, slow down and proceed with caution. In this situation, try, “Why is the position is open?” or “What was the deciding factor in the decision to interview me today and why do you think I’ll be a good fit?”
- Get what you need. In order to make a decision about fit for yourself, ask questions that help you understand core responsibilities, reporting structures, performance expectations and evaluation process, and future career paths. Some of this will be in the job description or come through in general interview conversation. However, if something hasn’t been covered in enough detail, ask the interviewer to explain or request to meet with additional people on the team. Interviews should be a two-way process where both parties are interested in making a smart choice for the long-term.
- Be respectful of time. Chances are, the hiring manager will save about 15 to 20 minutes for questions at the end of an interview. They have a schedule to keep, so while you may have several questions, you may not always be able to ask all of them in the first interview. If you’re unsure if you’re overstepping on time, try: “I have several more questions I’d like to ask, but want to be respectful of your schedule. Do you have time for a few more?”
- Ask the key question: The key question is some version of “Is there anything that concerns you about my ability to succeed in this role?” Asking this gives you an opportunity to erase any doubt the interviewer may have about hiring you. For example, she may respond, “I’m concerned this will be a long commute for you.” This gives you a chance to eliminate the issue: “Actually, my sister lives near here, so I’m out this way frequently.”
- Close strong. It’s not unusual for the interviewer to give you a final wrap up question like, “Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?” This is a fantastic opportunity to briefly recap your relevant strengths and reiterate your interest in moving forward. Yes, it’s important to relay that you want the job. Also, don’t forget to ask about next steps before leaving so you have a sense of when you can expect to hear from them, and get business cards in preparation to send thank you emails.
Most interviews end with the opportunity for candidates to ask questions. While you may feel a sigh of relief that the hardest part of the interview is over, don’t relax just yet. Use these final moments to leave a strong impression with the interviewer that confirms you are the best person for the job!