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Questions to Ask in a Job Interview, Part 1 (Or How to Have your Cake and Eat it, too)

“Do you have any questions for me?” How many times have you heard that in an interview?

Well, here’s the thing: if you wait until the end of the interview to ask your questions, you’ve missed the whole point.

The interview meeting–just like the entire job search process–is meant to be a two-way street. You are learning as much about them as they are about you. And by the quality of your questions, you can not only get a feel for the organization, but also you can give them information about how well you did your homework, your understanding of the job and organization, and your level of interest in them.

If you spend some time to prepare for what questions you want to ask, you can definitely have your cake and eat it too!

Caveats

But first, let’s cover three common pitfalls to avoid.

– Asking “Me” questions.

Although you are gaining some valuable information for your own use during this process, the focus should always be on what you can do for the employers. So postpone any questions having to do with salary and benefits. (You can ask them after they make you a formal offer.)

– Asking anything that you should already know.

This will make you look unprepared, uninformed or uninterested–none of which will recommend your candidacy. Instead, use your research as a basis for a question such as, “I read in X publication that you are opening up new markets in Y location. How does that fit into your overall market strategy?”  Now, you present yourself as a knowledgeable candidate interested in corporate direction.

– Asking for an evaluation of your interview performance.

This not only puts the interviewer in an awkward situation, but shows that you are unsure of yourself, and have low emotional awareness.

Now let’s review the types of information that you will want to find out in your questioning process. Just like cakes, there are a variety of categories, which can include questions (moving from micro to macro) around the role itself, the team you will be joining or leading, the manager you’ll be reporting to, and the organization as a whole.  We’ll start with the category with the most impact on you, directly: the position.

The Role

Questions in this category help you learn more about what your “hit-the-ground running” approach needs to be. These questions also allow you to tailor the stories and information that you share around your skills, knowledge, ability and experience to show you are the most qualified candidate.

These questions might sound like:

– What skills and background are looking for in an ideal candidate?

– What’s the most important thing for me to accomplish in the first 90 days? 6 months?

– What are the biggest challenges someone in this role will face?

This gives you a good start, yes? Great! Reward yourself with a slice of cake. But don’t eat it all yet. We’ll be back soon to discuss the remaining critical categories.

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