An interview is a conversation between two or more individuals with all parties involved in the process. Asking and answering questions is fair game for everyone. Unfortunately, sometimes job seekers and hiring managers alike are so uncomfortable with the interview process that they ask the wrong questions or forego their opportunity to ask questions entirely.
As a job seeker, it is your responsibility to communicate to the hiring manager the information she needs to make a smart decision. That means asking questions that engage the interviewer and give you insight into the organization’s needs and values.
Here are five questions you should commit to asking during every interview. Keep in mind that the specific language you use to ask the questions may vary.
Your goal is to elicit the information you need to make a smart decision, and at the same time engage the hiring manager in a meaningful business conversation that explores the possibilities and pluses of working together.
What would you like to see accomplished by the next person who fills this position?
This is a needs assessment question and is best asked early in the conversation since the response will dictate the specific information you provide throughout the conversation.
What is the organization’s most pressing problem?
If you have done your homework, you have a clue about what this might be; however, you want to confirm what your research turned up before you launch into how you can add value/offer solutions to their business challenges.
This is also a needs assessment question. It helps you identify what they need that you can provide. For the rest of the conversation, make sure you tailor your answers to respond to the needs the interviewer identified.
What skills are necessary to succeed in this position? What skills are necessary for success in this company?
These two questions both get at the dual issues of skill and fit. The answers will help you determine if this is a good match for you. Does the position or company require the technical, political and people skills you possess or would you be walking into a minefield? Now is the time to sort that out.
How do my qualifications match your requirements?
This is a “testing the waters” question. You can believe the hiring manager has an opinion about how well you fit, and it is to your benefit to hear what it is. Her answer may be positive, neutral or negative.
If you are interested in the position, you must be prepared to respond appropriately to each of these scenarios. Your role is to confirm her good sense in thinking you are well-qualified or convince her to rethink the mistaken impression that you are not an ideal candidate.
What’s the next step in the process? Or, when do you expect to make a decision?
If the interviewer doesn’t offer this information, ask for it! Don’t leave the interview without an understanding of what you can expect to happen and when. However, never assume that things will happen on the timetable the interviewer proposes; things change.
Do ask, “Would it be OK if I followed up by telephone just to answer any other questions you may have about my background or experience?” Then follow up before the drop-dead date she gives you. If you wait too long, her decision has been made and you didn’t influence it.
By the way, I snuck in a couple of extra questions worth asking during your next interview.