Three Questions You Should Ask Every Interviewer

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So often, interviews turn out to be question-and-answer sessions, with the interviewer doing all of the questioning until the very end, when she finally says, “so, do you have any questions for me?” As the candidate, it’s certainly preferable to have an interview be a conversation, not a cross-examination. Rather than simply answering one question and awaiting the next, look for ways to continue the thread of conversation based on the initial question. Moving toward a natural, conversational mode of communication will be to your benefit and will leave the interviewer with a more favorable impression of you, even if she’s not sure why.

As you go through the interview process, remember that it’s a two-way street. You are there to learn about the position and the company as much as you are there to sell yourself as a good candidate.  So, whether you are having a great back-and-forth or feel like a witness on the stand in a jury trial, the following are three questions you should ask every interviewer.

  • What type of management style do you prefer? If the interviewer is your potential supervisor, this is a simple way to learn about the way she might manage you, or the way she would like you to manage others, if the position involves management responsibilities. Does she say she likes a hands-off boss, or one who is actively involved day-to-day? Listen for the words and watch her body language as she replies. There is no right or wrong answer, it’s a matter of what you’re comfortable with. Do you like strong supervision or lots of autonomy? This conversation can lead to follow-up questions that will help you learn even more about what it might be like to work for the interviewer. These questions could include: “Do you travel often?”  “Do you hold frequent one-on-one meetings?”  “How do you conduct larger meetings?” and, “Is it easy to get on your calendar?” If you are interviewing with someone other than your potential boss, it may still be possible to glean this information if the person you meet with knows the boss well.
  • How will you measure success in this position?   The answer to this question will provide you with a lot to think about, post-interview. Is success measured in a purely objective way, such as a straight numerical measurement against sales goals? Or are there other, more nuanced metrics that get to so-called soft skills?  As with the question above, there are no right or wrong answers, it’s a matter of what you are most comfortable with. Some candidates prefer very specific, numerical goals. Others prefer a review process that is, perhaps, only partially based upon strict numerical goals, relying on the fact that they will provide significant value in more difficult-to-measure ways. 
  • Have you heard anything in our interview today that would prevent you from strongly recommending me for this position?  Okay, I just heard many of you groan and think, “No way could I ever ask that!” Why not? If you were selling your car, would you have any problem asking the potential purchaser what she thought after the test drive? This is no different. Not to be crass, but you are selling yourself and you should do it the same way you’d sell your car. The end of the interview is no time to be afraid to ask for the sale. I had a client reluctantly ask this question in an interview for a job he really wanted. The interviewer surprised him by indicating that, in fact, there was something she’d learned that would prevent her from highly recommending him. She offered up her thought that he was overqualified and would get bored quickly. He was able to explain, in no uncertain terms, why that wasn’t the case, and he got the job. If he hadn’t asked the question, he may have been passed over for the position.

Don’t go into an interview in a passive mode. Be prepared and ready to engage. You worked hard to get the interview, now you should make the most of the opportunity. Not sure how to best prepare? Email us at bob@epi.coach or give us a call (301-520-9511) and we’ll have a discussion.

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