Most job candidates thoroughly prepare for the questions the interviewer might ask them – but don’t spend enough time on the questions they will ask the interviewer.
In a typical hiring process, job candidates invest hours researching the employer, selecting their interview attire and preparing informed responses to questions they may be asked during the interview.
But according to Andrew Sobel, co-author of Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others, if you haven’t prepared the questions you want to ask the interviewer, you could be sabotaging your chances.
“If you talk to recruiters and executives who are actively hiring, they will tell you that there are three types of questions they get: no questions, bad questions, and—very rarely—memorable questions,” says Sobel, “And the candidates who ask the memorable ones are often the ones they make offers to.”
Across the board, candidates who go into the interview with a handful of interesting, thought-provoking questions in their back pocket fare better because they express interest in the company and showcase an inquisitive, intelligent approach to personal interactions.
“You can tell people all day long how qualified you are, how talented you are, and what a tremendous asset to the company you would be,” says Sobel. “But no statement is ever as impactful as a well-timed, well-executed question. In all situations, power questions help us connect and engage with others in meaningful ways.”
For starters, Sobel suggests there are three types of questions you should avoid asking during job interviews:
- Informational questions: Don’t take up a manager’s time asking, “How much vacation will I get?” Get the basic information you need before you go in for an interview.
- Closed-ended questions: If someone can give a “yes” or “no” answer, it diminishes your prospects for having a good conversation.
- “Me” questions: An executive is interested in how you will add value to her organization and whether or not you’re a good fit. Skip questions like “I skydive every Saturday—so will I ever be asked to work weekends?”
“As I think back to my experience in managing large sales forces, I’ve found there are typically three barriers to breakthrough sales performance: coordination of the sales function with marketing and manufacturing, customer selection, and product quality. In your case, do you think any of these factors are holding back your sales growth? What do you believe are your own greatest opportunities for increasing sales effectiveness?”
“Why did you close down your parts business rather than try to find a buyer for it?” or “Why did you decide to move from a functional to a product-based organization structure?”
Personal understanding questions
“I understand you joined the organization five years ago. With all the growth you’ve had, how do you find the experience of working here now compared to when you started?”
“What do you love most about working here?”
Value-added advice questions
“Have you considered creating an online platform for your top account executives, so that they can share success stories and collaborate better around key client opportunities? We implemented such a concept a year ago, and it’s been very successful.”
“You’ve achieved large increases in productivity over the last three years. Where do you believe future operational improvements will come from?”
“As you look ahead to the next couple of years, what are the potential growth areas that people are most excited about in the company?”
Organizational culture questions
“What are the most common reasons why new hires don’t work out here?” or “What kinds of people really thrive in your organization?”
“If you were to arrive at two final candidates with equal experience and skills, how would you choose one over the other?”
Company strengths-and-weaknesses questions
“Why do people come to work for you rather than a competitor? And why do you think they stay?”
In general, says Sobel, good questions prove you’ve done your homework. They show you’re not just concerned about yourself but that you’ve given some thought to the future of the company. They allow you to demonstrate your knowledge without sounding arrogant and improve your chances that the interviewer will like you.