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Successful Interviewing: Part 5 – Asking the Right Questions the Right Way

Asking the Right Questions the Right Way

There are several different times throughout the interview to ask questions and several types of questions to ask.

The Introductory Question

Towards the very beginning of the interview, it is a good idea to pose one question before getting started: “As the hiring manager for the position, I’d love to hear your perspective on what you’re looking for in a candidate and what you expect the candidate to accomplish soon after being hired.” By asking this up front, the interviewee gets the chance to understand directly from the hiring manager what they consider to be key attributes for the hired applicant. You can put stars on your checklist next to these items (to prioritize the list even further) or add new items to cover.

You may have to take initiative to get this question on the table first. You will have to find a convenient time to ask. When getting ready to sit down at the table, you might say you would like to ask one question before the interview begins.  You may also want to ask how much time has been allocated for each interviewing session (if you have several), so you can use the time wisely.

The Obligatory Question

In almost all interviews, the interviewer will ask the candidate if they have any questions for them. If it does not appear as if they are going to offer this, be sure to ask them if you can take a little more of their time to learn more about the team and company by asking a few questions.

When given the floor to ask questions, candidates should realize this is another time to shine. It is imperative that a candidate ask some questions that do three things:

1) Show you did a little research about the company

2) Mention something else (related, but interesting) about you

3) Will have an interesting answer.  Just asking, “when will you make a decision?” is not a good question. Ask about the company, the technology, the vision for the future, or something insightful.  Questions about the hiring process can be asked through a recruiter or in a follow-up after the interview.

Candidates can also opt to ask some of the more generic questions, but these should still have useful and interesting responses. There are many lists of questions available to choose from on the Internet. A short list is below.

  • What are the most attractive aspects of this job? What are the worst parts?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing this department/company in the next six months?
  • What makes this company a great place to work? Are there entities outside the company who would concur with rankings or awards?
  • What would I see if I stood outside the front door at 5 o’clock? Would everyone be smiling? Staying late or leaving early?
  • What are some examples of the decisions I could make in this job? What is the degree of autonomy and control I would have in this position?

Be sure to put your questions in writing so you do not forget them after a long interview. It is also a good idea to put the questions in priority order. This ensures that, if you run out of time, you have asked the more important ones. While asking questions, candidates should watch for cues that the interviewer is running out of time or wants to move on.

The Validation Question

After you have had a chance to ask your questions, you will want to validate that you are an ideal candidate for the job. To do this, you should probe into the minds of the interviewers and see if there are any concerns they have about you. The key question to do this can be along the lines of:

“After discussing this job, I feel as if I would be a perfect fit for it. I’m curious to know if there is anything I said or DID NOT say that would make you believe otherwise.”

The answer you get to this question may open the door to mentioning something you did not get to talk about during the interview or clarify any potential misconception over something that was covered. You may not get a chance to address shortcomings in a follow-up interview—it is imperative to understand what was missing from the discussion while still in the interview.

The Closing Question

As you sense the interview is over and all the questions have been asked, you will want to leave on a high note with great enthusiasm. You will want the interviewer to know that you are excited about the potential of working there and would like to know the next steps towards this. A simple way to convey this is with the comment and question:

“I must say that I am even more excited about the prospect of working here than I was when I walked in the door. It seems like this would be a good fit for both of us. I am excited to know what the next steps are in the process.”

This series of articles on Successful Interviewing is also available as an eBook on the A-List Solutions web site.  Click this link for a free download:  get eBook now.


March 15, 2009 - Posted by | Careers, Interviewing 101, Job Search

1 Comment »

  1. Here’s a good link to some more questions that can be asked during the interview:


    Comment by jefflipschultz | July 27, 2009 | Reply

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