How to End an Interview Like a Pro
Part 1 of "The Art of Preparing Thoughtful Questions to Ask Your Interviewer" Subseries
By Brian Sullivan
You don’t need a recruiter like me to tell you that most of the energy traditionally expended in preparing for an interview is focused on the applicant developing a good defense against a barrage of tricky questions that could be asked by the hiring manager. Even before I entered the staffing industry, my understanding of doing well in an interview came down to dreaming up as many compelling answers as I could to potential questions about difficult client situations I resolved, massive projects I completed on time, or the type of snack food I most strongly identify with (interviewers always have their one whacky question). Your present perspective may also not be too different.
As we progress further into our careers, our friends, family, or mentors might pepper in the idea that we also should talk about what we could bring to the job (we’ve discussed how to answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” interview question in past editions of the R&W Group Blog, and we will be covering how to “Sell Your Employee Brand” in future posts). This almost acts like a good offense, tackling not just how we’ve fixed broken things in past workplaces, but how doing so added value to those environments.
The thing is… interviewing isn’t a competition or a sporting match. There doesn’t need to be an offense or defense. While the interviewer holds the keys to a potential job and, because of that, has slightly more leverage in this meeting, an interview is basically (or should be) a discussion between two parties, both with their own needs to be addressed and attributes that should be attractive to the other party. In most cases, unless you’re really thinking about it, almost no time gets spent preparing questions that you want to ask.
Now I’m not suggesting you stop preparing for possible questions or identifying ways to talk about why you’re a great fit for a role, but asking quality questions as the interviewee can be just as valuable as answering them. In this edition of the R&W Group Blog, we’re going to discuss why you should prepare questions to ask, what are some good (and bad) examples of those questions, and next time we will unveil which two questions you should ask to end every interview.
Why Ask Your Interviewer Questions?
The most surface-level answer to “Why Ask Questions?” is that there are unknown aspects about the position or the organization, and you want more information on them. Asking questions about how the team is organized, what regions they serve, or what particular tools, software, and other resources they utilize are all good questions to extract the information you’re seeking.
However, questions can also show the hiring manager how much information you gathered before the interview too. How does that work? Well, if you’ve done some research on the organization and learned they were trailblazers in their respective industry, or that they were recently recognized with a prestigious award, maybe a member of their leadership team delivered a viral TEDTalk… asking questions related to these topics shows you invested time to learn about their company and their values. A word of caution though – should your research uncover a history of financial hardships, scandals, or lawsuits for the company, it’s best not to ask questions about those topics, hopefully for obvious reasons. Even if they’ve fully recovered from those darker periods, it still might not be appropriate to address it.
As previously mentioned, an interview is little more than a discussion, so the last reason to ask questions is to help direct its flow. Some questions that are perfect for this are “What are common obstacles faced by people in this position”, “What is the typical day-to-day like in this role?”, “How is success measured for this job?”, and “What is the company culture like here?”. So, if you ask about the ideal qualities for a member of this team, the interviewer may respond with flexibility, good work ethic, customer service, organization, or any number of other things. However, if their answer resonates with you, this is an oft-missed opportunity to share an example from your experience that embodies that answer. In that instance, you get to respond with something like this:
“I’m so happy to hear you say that flexibility is a critical trait for your employees to have. When I worked at ABC Inc., I learned to be more flexible when it came to unexpected changes by…”.
From there, you get to finish telling that story, providing one more reason why you’re the right candidate for the job, proving you’re quick on your feet when it comes to improvising, and carrying yourself as more of a peer in the discussion.
What Questions Should I Ask?
There are no “required” questions to ask, although I do have two questions that I recommend you ask at the end of every interview (more on that next time). Before we get there though, I’d like to share a list of some questions I think make a positive impact:
- How is success measured for this job?
- What are the ideal qualities for a member of this team?
- What is the typical day-to-day like in this role?
- What are common obstacles faced by people in this position?
- How is this department organized? Who would I report to in this role?
- What regions/ states/ countries does your organization service?
- What tools/ software/ resources does the company use?
- What is the corporate culture like here?
I always encourage candidates to also Google the Top 50 Questions to Ask in an Interview, as there are plenty of articles with other examples you might like better than mine. Anyways, pick 3 or 4 questions you’d like to ask. When you do ask your questions, be sure to have a notepad handy to jot down key points, and actively listen so you can engage with the provided information, as opposed to just passively absorbing it.
What Questions Should I Not Ask?
We will have future posts on the reasoning why these questions aren’t typically appropriate to ask in an interview setting. For today though, just know that you shouldn’t ask them, and the reason for now is “because”:
- Anything very basic that minimal research would have uncovered
- Anything that implies untrustworthiness, i.e., asking about ‘strictness’ regarding policies
- (Almost) Any question starting with the word “Why”
- Anything about salary (unless they bring it up first)
- “Is it okay to arrive late or leave early (even if I’m getting the work done)?”
- “When would I be eligible for a promotion?”
- “How much vacation do employees get? When can I start taking it?”
- “Will you be monitoring my social media?”
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, as it doesn’t even broach on topics of the overly-personal, the bizarre, or the illegal. We’ll dive more into these and other no-no questions in future posts though.
Speaking of future posts, be sure to check out the next edition of the R&W Group Blog, when we explore two questions that should be asked in every interview in the second installment of “The Art of Preparing Thoughtful Questions to Ask Your Interviewer” subseries. In the meantime, if you’re looking to make a career move, we’d be delighted to support you in your job search. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking forward to hearing from you!