A client recently asked me to help her run through some interview strategies as she was preparing for a career shift. We discussed both her goals and concerns for this interview. We walked through common questions that she figured would be asked of her and then we carefully crafted her responses and rehearsed them. After a while she felt quite confident in her preparation. When she started to pack up, I stopped her.
Answering questions during an interview is only half the battle. Too often we believe that the judgements which the hiring manager places upon the interviewee is completely based on how questions were answered. However, the work is far from over at this point.
Do not overlook the importance of the questions YOU ask, usually towards the end of the interview when you hear “So, do you have any questions for us?”
Too often, candidates will either decline the opportunity to ask questions or ask a clarifying question or two to prove they were listening or show their level of interest. While any question is a good move, it’s not a complete one. I suggest you prepare a list of 10 or more questions in your notes prior to your interview. Remember, these questions must go above and beyond any questions of logistics (when does this position begin, where is this position located, etc.) From your list you can pick and choose what might be most appropriate as the interview is winding down but you MUST ask multiple questions.
Asking questions of your interviewer shows your thought pattern about the position. Your questions also reveal your true interest and at times, even your goals for the long-term at that organization. Interviewers want to know candidates are qualified, but are also interested and enthusiastic about the position and the organization. Asking thoughtful questions can communicate all of the above. Think of it this way, asking “when does this position begin” reveals a short-term interest, but “what would you say is the highest priority for the first year, for someone in this position?” reveals a long-term interest and demonstrates staying power at the organization. The quality of your questions can make the difference on whether or not you are hired. Take time to create purposeful and customized questions for each interview you experience.
Below are a few ideas that will show those interviewing you, your level of interest, dedication, curiosity and enthusiasm for the position. Often, these questions are the last thing they will remember about you… why not take control of the last few minutes of the interview to show what an asset you will be to them?
- In three words or so, describe the culture of the company, team or department.
- How will you know when the person in this position is successful?
- What might be the challenges a person in this position may face in the first six months?
- What will be the highest priority of the person in this position during their first year?
- What are the top three characteristics a person in this position should possess?
- How long have YOU worked here?
- What do YOU like about this organization?
- How would you describe the personalities of the people I’d be working with in this position?
- What will make someone in this position successful?
- Can you please describe a challenge that the last person in this position encountered and how they overcame it?
By putting intentional thought behind the questions which you ask during your interview you not only leave them with a lasting impression but also enable yourself to steer the conversation. You are then better able to reveal what YOU want them to know about you, simply by the questions you ask. So, as you prepare for your next interview, don’t stop after answering their questions, take control of the conversation to put your best foot forward and reveal your enthusiasm for the position. It might be the one thing that separates you from all the other candidates!
Meg Bucaro is a communication skills trainer and keynote speaker who works with clients to increase their effectiveness through confident communication skills. Meg helps professionals in business, healthcare, law and education. www.megbucaro.com