Crush Your Next Job Interview By Asking These Powerful Questions
Job interviews can often cause nervousness, anxiety, doubt, and a myriad of other stressful emotions. They can, however, also serve as tremendous opportunities for you to land new, awesome employment if you come prepared and nail them.
An easy way to set yourself apart and impress is to ask juicy, meaningful questions. The Interview Guys blog frames it like a first date situation:
“Asking the hiring manager questions is like bringing flowers and chocolates with you. Not only are you getting more information about the job, you’re showing the interviewer that you genuinely care about the position, the company, and your role should you get hired.”
A job interview is not just you begging a company to hire you. It's also a chance for you to interview them to learn more about the organization and leadership that you are potentially about to give a good portion of your life to.
Asking excellent questions during an interview is a huge advantage and serves three critically important purposes:
1) It gives you insight into the company and leadership that you're considering working for.
There are plenty of terrible companies rife with toxic leadership out there. Try to avoid ending up working somewhere that will suck the life out of you on a daily basis.
If you think you’ll be able to skate by for long in a job you hate, think again. Here are a few facts to help put things in perspective for you:
You’ll start packing on pounds.
There’s a lot of research out there that shows a strong correlation between employee happiness at work and weight gain. Stressed out employees tend to develop all sorts of coping mechanisms to help them deal, and running to the office kitchen for a pack of chocolate chip cookies is definitely one of them.
(Not that there's anything wrong with chocolate chip cookies, of course).
Your general quality of health overall will suffer.
Science warns us about the power negative affect, aka a persistent negative mood, can have on your body: “There is growing evidence that current trends in employment conditions may be eroding levels of job satisfaction—and directly damaging the physical and mental health of employees.”
Surprise! Working a job you hate also turns out to be a relationship killer:
“One study showed that people who are unhappy at work have less satisfying sex lives and more problems in their relationships and researchers have found a clear link between a good relationship with your spouse and overall health.”
If the best possible outcome of an interview is being placed at a company you’ll love, don't waste the opportunity to learn as much information about your future new home as possible. Former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, Laszlo Bock, describes this interviewer/interviewee dynamic at length in a great Wired piece on how Google manages to always hire the best people:
“Remember too that you don’t just want to assess the candidate. You want them to fall in love with you. Really. You want them to have a great experience, have their concerns addressed, and come away feeling like they just had the best day of their lives.”
2) It gives them insight into the kind of employee that you are.
By asking meaningful, relevant questions you have the opportunity to show that you are self-aware, smart, thoughtful, inquisitive, confident, insightful, emotionally intelligent, discerning, and see the big picture. Impressive questions immediately make you stand out from the crowd, and hiring managers love it.
"I'm always surprised at the lack of good questions candidates have, and I always respect the candidates that ask insightful questions during interviews," says Andrew Quinn, VP of Learning and Development at HubSpot.
3) It turns the buyer into a seller.
Organizations also want to put on a good face about the company. Questions that cause them to have to sell the job and company to you as well as be somewhat vulnerable and open up to you changes the dynamic of the conversation in your favor. It's disarming to turn them into the salesperson in the situation. This is a relatively common tool used in the world of sales to level the playing field in a situation where one person basically holds all of the power. Author Scott Ginsberg breaks down just what makes this tactic so powerful in his post “Walk Out of Your Interview in a Blaze of Glory”:
“Here’s why this strategy works:
You put the interviewer on the spot. After all, you’re not the only one being interviewed here. So, turning the tables in this manner helps you maintain power because – contrary to popular conditioning – the listener controls.
You prove counterintuitive thinking. I don’t care if you’re applying to work the night clean up shift at Reggie’s Roadkill Cafe – employers love people who think this way. Not just someone who “is” unexpected – but someone who actually thinks unexpectedly.”
Now that you have a better idea of why asking important questions is so valuable, here are a handful of solid questions you to arm yourself with for your next interview:
How would you describe the company/team culture? How would the rest of the team describe it?
Who will be my direct manager, and what’s their leadership style like? What are the top traits they value most in someone who works for them? Biggest pet peeve of an employee on their team? How do they prefer to give or receive feedback? You should also ask these same questions about the CEO and/or high-level leadership.
What would you say is the number one skill or ability that's a must for this position?
What are some long-term (3-5 year) goals for this position and the organization?
What are some challenges that the company faces, or biggest weaknesses to improve on?
What would the most vocal population of people here say is something that could be improved about the organization?
What does it look like for the person who takes this position to be wildly successful at it?
And for the pièce de résistance, blow them away with your brazenness:
What concerns or hesitation do you have about my experience or ability in this role?
If they give any answers that you want to hear more about, follow up with "Tell me more about that," or ask specifics and clarifying questions. Take the opportunity to interview the hell out of them. You’ll learn a lot and if they're worth a damn they'll love you for it.