Dear Matt: I’ve been told it’s important to ask questions in an interview, but what are the best questions to ask? In a few recent interviews I think the questions I asked actually talked me out of a job.
Matt says: Interviews are a two-way street, so this is your opportunity to ask questions and impress the interviewer by showing you are serious about the job, your role within the company and the organizational culture.
Unfortunately, “candidates often ask questions that are not relevant to the interview,” says Cindy Edwards, a Twin Cities-based Career Development Coach and president of To Find Your Fit (tofindyourfit.com). “Or they often ask questions solely based on the work only.”
Edwards advises interviewees to spend time thinking about what they want from the work and tasks they will perform as well as what they would like to see in an organization. For example, do you want a company’s culture to be innovative or systematic? Do you want to work with a small or large team? Do you want a hands-off or hands-on manager? Let’s say you want a manager who values independence and autonomy. You might say, “please tell me about when and how feedback is given” or “tell me about your management style” — then listen closely to the answer to determine whether or not it matches what you want.
If you are looking for a way to sell a skill or soften a question, add an “I” statement to it, says Edwards. For example:
“I’m very good at anticipating the immediate needs of others and I enjoy jumping in to help. Can you tell me about how the team works together?”
“I read about the values of the organization. In what ways does your leadership style align with these values?”
Edwards provides these go-to questions:
• Please tell me about a goal you’ve reached or success you have had as a team or as a leader.
• What would you like the person you hire to have accomplished in the first six months to convince you that you had made a good hiring decision?
• Is there anything else on your mind that I can address for you?
• Stop asking “What’s the next step in the process?” Start asking: “When will I hear from you and who will be contacting me?”
Edwards offers mock interview services in which job seekers can practice this give-and-take and practice responding to the many unexpected scenarios/questions that can come up. Interviewing is hard work. Practice with a friend or career coach. Video tape or record the interview, note your body language and listen to the tone of your voice. Put on that business suit. Act as if this was the real thing. Success is all about preparation and practice.
“Bring your typed up questions to the interview,” says Edwards. “This will help you look and feel prepared.”
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