Career Center Blog

March 18, 2013

Are you asking the right questions in interviews?


NWjobs

As most veteran job seekers already know, before heading into a job interview you should have three to five questions to ask the interviewers themselves. This shows that you've done a little research, you're enthusiastic and you've taken some initiative.

But are you asking questions that will leave a lasting positive impression on the hiring manager or give you a better understanding about the position?

Kelly Gregorio, a workplace expert who works for small-business lender Advantage Capital Funds, recently wrote in the Brazen Life blog about how to ask questions that go beyond the usual housekeeping issues, such as parking validation and vacation days.

Here are some of the queries Gregorio says will help you and the interviewer determine whether you're a good match for the job. Most of them I agree with. (More on that later.)

1. "If I were to start tomorrow, what would be the top priority on my to-do list?"
According to Gregorio, this question is doubly effective. Not only does it use what she calls the "Jedi mind trick" of planting the image of you already as an employee in the company, it also demonstrates your confidence and interest in taking the next step in the process.

2. "What are the top two personality traits someone needs to do this job well?"
This question, she says, is all about discovering the preferred work culture of the company. The answers from the interviewer will give you an idea about whether you'll be working in teams or will be expected to work on your own. "It will also get your interviewer to look past the paper resume and see you as an individual," she adds.

3. "What improvements do you hope the new candidate will bring to this position?"
Depending on how candid the interviewer is, this may help explain why the previous person left. It also suggests that you are flexible and willing to make changes to help the company's bottom line.

At this point, however, I start to break ranks with Gregorio's advice. She suggests getting more personal with the interviewer and asking questions such as "Do you like working here?" and "Is there anything that stands out to you that makes you think I might not be the right fit for this job?" Gregorio says these are deliberately provocative and uncomfortable questions that are meant to turn the interview into a conversation.

I think these last two questions work like the "Jedi mind trick" in reverse. Rather than projecting positive images, you're introducing the possibility of failure and unhappiness in the interviewer's mind. Awkwardness and doubt are not good feelings to evoke at the end an interview, so I'd probably skip those two.

Asking probing questions, though, might pay off in unexpected ways. One Brazen Life blog reader shared a question-asking experience in the comments section of Gregorio's post: "I once asked similar questions during an interview and the CEO's response was, 'So who's interviewing who here? I'm the only one who gets to ask the questions.' Needless to say, that response gave me a huge insight into how it would be like to work for that person had I taken the job."

Sounds like that reader dodged a bullet. Sometimes a question that's not answered is just as useful as one that is.

Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

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Contributor

Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

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