Owner | Career Consultant | Coach
In a job interview, what's one of the last things that happens? The person interviewing you asks you if you have any questions. Pretty much everyone knows this is coming, but nine out of ten people I ever interviewed over the last 15 years don't have anything to ask. People seem so caught up in their worries about how they're going to answer the questions posed to them, that coming up with some good questions to ask the interviewer is a second thought. They may be able to come up with something on the spot, but it's usually not very well thought out. And you know what? If you don't ask any questions, you just missed out on a great opportunity to not only learn more about your possible future employer to make sure it's a good fit, you also missed out on an opportunity to impress the person on the other side of the interview desk. I mean, you do want to get hired, right?
I can already hear what you're asking. "Well, Brian, what kinds of things should I ask?"
We're going to talk about that in a second. First though, there are a few rules on what is considered out of bounds in an interview. First, don't start asking about salary and benefits. That may be one of your top concerns, but it comes off as seeming like your more interested in their money than their awesome opportunity. Second, don't discuss your planned vacations when you need to take time off. This can be negotiated when you get an offer. If you ask them about their policy on this during the interview, you're giving the interviewer the impression that you'll be "one of those employees." Finally, make sure your questions are worded in a positive way. You might have felt burnt in your last job and don't want it to happen again, but asking a question in a negative way will put you in a negative light, too.
With that out of the way, let's talk about how you can interview the interviewer. Most people don't think of interviews as going both directions. They think it's always, "They ask, I answer." However, if you do things right, not only will the interviewer think more highly of you. You'll come away from the interview with more insight on whether or not this business and job will fit your needs. Additionally, any information you're able to glean in a screening interview will give you ammunition for later interviews with the hiring team and any information you get from the hiring manager will be great when it comes time to negotiate the job offer.
Sound good? Okay then, let's get started.
Do Your Preliminary Research First
You should always do your homework on the company you are scheduled to interview with, no matter what. First of all, it will help you make sure that you are answering interview questions in a way that will show how you will fit in with their company. Additionally, this research will give you a lot prompts on things to ask the person you're interviewing with. So what should you try to find out?
What the company does is a good place to start. You should know what products or services they are making or selling. You should also find out who their customers are.
Get a little deeper than this, though. How many employees do they have? How many locations are they in? Are they growing as a business? Find out what their future projections are. Are they expanding? Are they merging or acquiring any competitors? Are they being acquired by someone else? Finally, look at how they are perceived by their customers and employees.
To get all this information, review the company's website, google them to see if they are in the news or have made any media announcements, look at their 10-k report if they are a publicly traded company to see what their financials and projections look like, and then do a search on the company on Yelp, Glassdoor, and Indeed. Block off an hour or two to really scour the internet to see what all you can find. Then start coming up with some questions based on what you discovered.
Ask About the Future
You'll want to make sure that the company you are going to work for will be around for a while and hopefully growing. Businesses take different directions based on the economy and where the market is directing it. For instance, there was a time when cable companies sold themselves as cable television providers which also offered internet service. Today, they are shifting to being internet service providers that also offer cable television. This shift in focus will have implications on its current employees as well as who they recruit as new talent.
Ideally, you want to have opportunities to grow and build new skills that will benefit your career. Here are a few ways that you can word your questions to get some of this information.
- What direction do you see the company taking in the coming years?
- What kind of future challenges do you think the company will face?
- How will the company maintain or improve its current status in the market?
- What opportunities do you think the company will pursue to grow market-share?
- What are the companies strengths that made it successful and how will it use these strengths in the future?
Ask About the Culture to Make Sure It's a Good Fit
It's not enough to know that you'll be a good fit for the job. You also want to make sure that you're going to be comfortable in the working environment you'll be in. After all, you spend more time at your workplace than you do at home during the week, so you don't want to be miserable every day just because you don't feel you fit in. Here are several ways you can ask about the company culture.
- How would you describe the culture here?
- How do people generally like to communicate?
- What do you appreciate the most about your company?
- When things go well, how are these successes celebrated? And when something goes wrong, how is it generally handled?
- What is the key to having a successful career at your company?
Ask About the Team
This is something that doesn't get asked about often in an interview, but is a great topic. There's a couple of reasons why you want to ask about the team. First of all, it will give you some insight about how the team operates. Secondly, it will provide you an idea about where you fit in and how you can add value. This will be crucial when it's time to negotiate your offer. If you are the missing piece to their puzzle, you're more valuable. Here are some suggestions on what you can ask in this area.
- How will my team work together? What sorts of projects are they working on?
- What are the strengths of the team? What things do you feel you're missing in the group?
- Generally, how long has everyone on the team been working here? Is everyone a veteran in the field, or is it mostly a group of fresh talent?
Ask About the Previous Employee
You might not realize it, but if this opening is to replace someone else, you're going to be compared to that person. With this in mind, it's a good idea to make sure the comparison is favorable. Additionally, you also will want to know how long he or she has been in the role and with the company. Why? Because it will be an indication of what sort of budget the hiring manager is working with when coming up with a salary for your offer. Here are a couple questions you could ask about this after you learn that the opening is for a replacement.
- Could you tell me a little about the previous employee's background and what he or she was working on before leaving?
- How long was he or she in her role? Why did he or she decide to leave?
Ask About What the Boss Needs Now and in the Future
Ultimately, the hiring manager's main goal when deciding on who to hire is to find a person that is going to make their job easier. They want someone they don't have to oversee and someone who can possibly take tasks and duties off their desk. If you can show how you can fit the bill in this respect, they will be extremely interested in offering you the job. Here are a few ways to get this information.
- When I'm hired, how can I make your job easier as a manager?
- What are some things that you're team needs that it doesn't have today?
- What is the key to success on your team?
Use What You Learned to Seal the Deal
Have you ever wondered why you get asked so many questions when you walk into a car dealership? I'll give you a hint. It's not because you're so darn interesting. It's because they want to know what your hot button issues are so they can get you moving on the "yes train."
What's the "yes train" you ask?
It's how you're going to seal the deal every time you leave an interview. You see, what you've gathered during your question period (and really, throughout the rest of the interview, too) is a list of commitments from the interviewer. Now you need to make them feel they need to be consistent. This is a powerful way to persuade. People hate nothing more than feeling that they are being inconsistent.
So, mentally, you go back into the list of things that the interviewer said they really needed, their top-priorities. What ones match up with your strengths, skills, attitudes, and experience? Select three of them and drive home how you can be valuable in those three areas.
Start your closing pitch by say, "You mentioned that you really need X during the interview, right?" When he or she says yes, you've started the "yes train." Now you get to talk about what you can do in that capacity. Then you say, "And you also said that you want someone with Y experience, right?" Second yes. You've got the wheels rolling now. It's time to talk about how your experience matches up with their needs. Okay, time to get the third yes. This time ask them something like, "I also heard that you want someone with a Z kind of attitude. Did I understand that correctly?" Oh boy, now you've got them hooked. After you give them an example of how you have that same attribute. It's time to close the sale.
"Wow! It really seems like a great match! I'm really excited about being a part of the team and working under your guidance. When should I expect to hear your decision?"
Sure, the car salesperson usually whips out his contract at this point, but unfortunately, the hiring process is a little more of a . . . process. This is about the best you can do to close the interview. But needless to say, this is the best way to sell yourself so that you get an offer in short order.
So from now on, let's turn the tables on the interviewer. Let's start interviewing them!
About RockIt Career Consultation Services
At RockIt Career Consultation Services, our mission is to help you discover your true strengths and use these strengths to set your course to something more rewarding and exciting in your career.
We will guide you on what job or career best suits you and then help you market yourself through your resume, your networking strategies, your interview skills, and your negotiation to ensure that you are doing something you love and are maximizing your earning potential. Throughout, we will be there to keep you motivated and determined.
We'd love to help you launch your career and encourage you to learn more about the services we can provide you on your path to a more prosperous future. With our help, you will become the applicant every company wants to hire!