By: John Hutchins, Vice President of Client Relations
I interview candidates for a living – candidates for our clients’ technical positions, as well as candidates for our internal sales, recruiting and resource management positions. Rarely do candidates ask good questions. I typically get the standard questions about how many candidates are interviewing for the position, how soon we’ll be making a decision and what are the next steps. Don’t get me wrong, these are ok questions, but they aren’t giving you much worthwhile information. Here are six questions every candidate should ask during an interview, the earlier in the interview process, the better:
- What did you see in my resume that prompted you to contact me for this position? The information you gather from this question will help you with the current position and potentially with tailoring your resume for future positions. With regard to the current position, the answer gives you additional insight into what is important. Asking this question early in the interview process enables you to tailor your answers to what they deem is important. With regard to future positions, the answer helps you understand how recruiters review resumes and what caught their eye. You may be able to use this to your advantage when applying for future positions.
- What is the profile of the ideal candidate for this position? This is an obvious question to ask, but is rarely asked by candidates during the interview process. Again, asking this early in the interview process will give you an edge. With this answer in hand, you’ll be able to focus your answers and ensure you cover the interviewer’s actual hot buttons, rather than perceived hot buttons.
- In what areas do I match that profile? A seasoned sales professional once told me that convincing someone to buy rarely works. Instead, you need to help them convince themselves that they want to buy. This question follows the same logic. Your goal here is to help the interviewer solidify in their mind why you’re a good fit for the position. It also helps you to validate whether or not you’re effectively communicating your strengths. If they fail to mention experience that you obviously possess and that is obviously necessary for the job, you may want to rethink how you’re communicating that experience.
- In what areas are you unsure whether I match the profile? Notice that this is a softball question by design. Using the word, “unsure,” helps to soften the question. It implies that they are unsure, not that you are lacking in some skill. The interviewer is more likely to give you quality feedback just based on how you ask the question. In contrast, asking the interviewer what they perceive to be your weaknesses puts the interviewer in a difficult spot. No one wants to tell someone else about their “weaknesses” or how they “don’t fit.” If you ask the question with such finality, you’ll likely receive a fluff answer, such as, “Nothing comes to mind” or “I think you’re a great fit.” As a result, you’ll never have the opportunity to help them be sure.
- What else can I provide to help you make the correct decision – more detail, references, personality test, etc.? As with question #4, phrasing is everything. It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. With this question, it’s implied that the “correct decision” could go either way. You’re not being cocking by assuming you are the “correct decision.” Instead, you’re a consultant of sorts, trying to help them determine the best course of action. Just by asking this question, you’re exuding qualities that most employers are looking for – selflessness, team work and honesty. In addition, if they do have unanswered questions, it may provide you with the opportunity to provide information that sways them in your direction.
- With regard to other people who have been in this role, what have they done well and what were their biggest challenges? This is one of the best questions you can ask. It typically results in cornucopia of valuable information. This question often times helps you get under the hood, so to speak, to see what really is happening, and more importantly, the baggage you’ll be inheriting. Regardless of your decision, it is always good to enter a new situation with reasonable expectations and your eyes wide open.
Asking these six questions will help you refine your interview performance, provide insight into what recruiters / managers are truly seeking in candidates, and help you determine whether or not this is a good fit for you. Don’t ask questions for the sake of asking questions. Instead, ask questions to obtain valuable information that will help you succeed – whatever that means for you.