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Top Interview Secret: Know the Right Questions To Ask

Most interview preparation books are filled with sample questions that you’ll have to answer during an interview. While it’s certainly important to know how to answer tough interview questions, it’s equally important to know how to ASK questions in an interview.

There are three good reasons to be prepared to ask great questions during interviews.

  • To uncover the interviewer’s hiring motives.
  • To demonstrate your interest and intelligence.
  • To uncover any unspoken concerns or “red flags.”

Let’s look at each of these points:

  1. To uncover the interviewer’s hiring motives.

    A big mistake candidates make going into a job interview is to assume that they know the hiring motives of the interviewer, based solely on the job description. But the reality is that each person within an organization will have a slightly different idea of the perfect person for the job.

    Consider how the person doing the interview will interact with the new hire. An operations manager will have different needs than the sales manager-although they may both work closely with the new hire. The HR manager may envision a different “perfect candidate” than the actual hiring manager.

    It’s up to you to find out the hiring motives of each person you interview within any one organization. Ask a simple question and you’ll know what your interviewer is looking for. Such as:

    • What do you see as the most significant challenges for this position?
    • What qualities do you look for to fill this position?

    Then just listen closely. He/She will tell you just what you need to know in order to tailor your answers to his/her desires.

  2. To demonstrate your interest and intelligence.

    Nothing works better than a well thought out question to convince your interviewer of the sincerity of your interest. Additionally, a good question is the simplest, yet most effective way of impressing them with your intelligence.

    In order to ask this type of question, you’ll have to do a bit of research homework prior to your interview. Fortunately the internet provides many shortcuts to finding out issues of interest specific to just about any organization. Company websites are a good place to start, but you’ll also want to search online industry publications and press release archives to dig a little deeper.

    The main thing is that you want your question(s) to be specific to the organization you are interviewing with. Avoid generic questions such as “Where do you see your company going in five years?” The interviewer is going to realize you just asked the last five companies that same question. A more targeted and specific question will win you points in the interview, and may tip the scale in your favor when they’re discussing which candidate to hire.

  3. To uncover any unspoken concerns or “red flags.”

    Before you walk out of your interview, find out any concerns that may eliminate you as a candidate. This is your best chance to defend your candidacy. This is also your second chance to undo an interview error, or provide vital information. The best approach, again, is with a simple question. Something like:

    “What concerns do you have that would prevent you from calling me back for the next interview?”

    Then just listen. Anything the interviewer says will give you an opportunity to comment. Spoken concerns can be answered with new information on how you’ve overcome challenges, learned new skills, or adjusted to new industries quickly. Remember, if you don’t ask, they will not tell you, and you’ll always wonder why they didn’t call you back.

When it comes to interviews, there is no such thing as over preparation. An important lesson I learned in my years as a recruiter is that the best jobs go to the candidates who give the best interviews. A resume will get your foot in the door, but the interview will seal the deal. Make sure you’re ready to win the job by asking the right interview questions.

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