When the interviewee becomes the interviewer.

Finding a job in today’s economic climate can be difficult. The job search is unpredictable and it’s easy to feel as though you’re not in control. The best thing you can do to to help ensure success is prepare. One of the most difficult job search steps is the interview.

Some job seekers treat the interview as the final step in their job search when in actuality, it’s the starting point for success. Preparing for the interview is just as important as writing a resume and cover letter – if not more important. This means not just giving the right answers to questions you are asked, but actually coming up with questions to ask in an interview. And not just half-hearted questions, but asking the kinds of questions designed to make the interviewer sit up and take notice. Being qualified for the job isn’t enough; you must make the hiring manager realize you are the best fit and have more to offer than the other candidates competing for the same job.

Here are a few questions to ask an interviewer use as starting points for personalized questions based on the position you are interviewing for and the company. Make them your own and edit them to fit your personal situation.

Ask questions about the company.

First, this doesn’t mean ask questions about the company’s basic structure or information easily learned from its website. Questions to ask in an interview about the company should focus more on commitment, mission and values. Learn about the history and how XYZ Company builds better communities. Talk to the hiring manager about their current initiatives to improve the industry or solve a problem. These questions show you care about their company and want to make a long-term commitment.

Questions to Consider:

  1. "What exactly does your company value the most?"

  2. "How does this company define and measure success?

  3. "Who are the leaders? What are their values and goals for the company?"

  4. "How does XYZ Company participate in community engagement?"

Ask questions about the job.

Questions aren’t always meant to impress. They offer valuable insight and predict the future. Asking hiring managers about the job provides an inside look into your future with the company. Look for red flags and key concerns. Learn about your potential peers and supervisors. Sometimes job descriptions aren’t as reliable as human resources departments claim. Verify the job requirements and your duties. Ask them about specific skills.

Questions to Consider:

  1. "How does management encourage productivity and collaboration?"

  2. "What areas need more attention, and how can I contribute to this goal?"

  3. "What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 days?"

  4. "What is a typical day like in the office? Tell me a little about the environment."

Ask about their experiences with the company.

Hiring managers and recruiters often find themselves on the outside, isolated from run-of-the-mill activities. They focus so much attention to bringing in new team members, they forget to learn about the company environment. On the other hand, looking closely at their experience with the company offers valuable insight. They may not notice office politics on the third floor, but the company “feel” trickles down to their office as well. Learn about their thoughts and feelings. Just don’t get too personal. This may make them feel like you’re pushing for the wrong answers.

Questions to Consider:

  1. "How long have you been with the company?"

  2. "What do you enjoy most about working here?"

  3. "What makes you good at your job?"

Ask questions about the next step.

Many job candidates forget to tell the interviewer they want the job and why. This is a crucial last step. Not only does telling them why you want job solidify your position, it also allows you to cover information the interview neglected to ask. Use this to provide further detail into your most valuable experience. But one of the most important questions to ask in an interview are about the next steps. No one wants to return home after an interview wondering how to proceed. Ask about follow-up time and whether there will be further interviews. Ask about training, background checks, etc. Learn what to expect.

Questions to Consider:

  1. "How soon will you make a final decision?"

  2. "What should I expect after this interview?"

  3. "What is your onboarding process?"

  4. "Do you believe we are a good fit?"

Ask the “bonus” questions.

There’s a time to play it safe and a time to take a risk. Asking questions invokes the latter. Think of the interview as a blind date. You’re there to introduce yourself to the hiring manager, offer valuable insight into your life and make a long-term connection. On the other hand, you’re also there to learn more about the company, determine if this is the best fit and get an overall feel for the corporate environment. Take time to learn more about what makes the company tick. Sometimes the  questions to ask an interviewer will dig deeper into the above topics. Other questions engaged the interviewer and stimulate thought.

Questions to Consider:

  1. "How long is the average tenure of an employee?"

  2. "Where do you think the company will be in five years?"

  3. "Do you offer mentorship?"

  4. "How will you judge my success?"

Don’t squander your chance.

Asking the interviewer questions shouldn’t be a task to complete. Questions should be thought provoking and stimulating. Don’t squander the opportunity by asking mundane questions the interviewer has heard before. Don’t ask questions you could easily find on your own. Hiring managers recognize these failed attempts and will not be impressed. Don’t ask closed-ended questions that go nowhere. Ask open-ended questions that require a little thought and dedication. Your goal is to make a statement in the form of a question. Here are a few wrong questions and how to correct them:

Open-Ended vs. Closed-Ended Questions

Incorrect: "Does the company encourage collaboration among team members?"

Correct: "How does the company encourage collaboration among team members?"

Highlight Qualifications

Incorrect: "Does the company stimulate ideas and improve the industry?"

Correct: "As a dedicated CPA, I am interested in creating new methods to improve spending accountability. How does the company stimulate new ideas and improve the industry?"

Show Commitment

Wrong: "What is the employee turnover rate?"

Correct: "I am looking for long-term challenges in my career. What is the typical tenure for team members at your company?"

The golden rule for questions to ask in an interview is simple: Consider what you want to know, and determine questions in advance. Jot down a few questions to ask before the interview takes place. Take notes during the interview and revisit areas you need the hiring manager to explain. And remember, it’s not always what you ask but how you ask it.

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