Tuesday, March 16, 2021

What Questions to Ask During a Job Interview

By Deborah Acosta

In brief
  • Ask questions that will help you understand what would be expected of you on your first day and in a year, such as “How do you measure success for someone in this role?”
  • Some of the best questions are about the employer and aim to get a sense of its values and culture.
  • Ask questions about your interviewer’s experiences that will help you build a rapport. 
  • Use the interviewer’s responses to your questions as a jumping off point to highlight your strengths.

Job interviews are a two-way street and, when done right, should be a conversation between the candidate and the interviewer. “You are interviewing and auditioning them for the job, too,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, an HR consulting company. This kind of exchange is only possible if you have researched the employer and prepared thoughtful questions to understand how you can immediately provide value. Not only will you leave the interview better informed, but you also will have impressed the interviewer with your deep interest in the role and demonstrated your suitability for it. 

Ask questions that help you understand the role and how to succeed in it.

Aim to feel confident and comfortable enough that you could start the job tomorrow. “How do you measure success for someone in this role?” is a good question to get to that point, says Daniel Santos, the chief executive officer of career-counseling service Prepory. By understanding what an employer’s ideal candidate would achieve, you can present your past accomplishments in a relevant way. The answer also shows how you will be evaluated if you are offered and accept the job. 

2) Why is the position open? Another key question is why there is an opening, says Mr. McDonald. Did the last person in the role get promoted? If so, this is your chance to find out what led to their promotion and to set yourself up for similar success. If your predecessor was underperforming, perhaps you can learn how to avoid the same mistakes, says Mr. McDonald. If the role is new and part of a company expansion, you could ask about what led to the decision to expand that department to get a better understanding of the employer’s goals.

More questions about the job:

  • What are some of the day-to-day responsibilities of this job? Get a concrete sense of what the job actually is and whether you would want to do it.
  • What needs to be immediately addressed by the person you hire? The answer to this question will highlight what the pace will be when you first start and will give you an opportunity to follow up by explaining how you would meet those needs.
  • What are your expectations for this role during the first month, three months, six months, a year? What does success look like? Identify what the employer expects from you, so that when you begin, you can keep track of, meet or exceed the benchmarks for the role. You can share examples of similar achievements from your previous job experience.
  • What do you think are some of the biggest challenges for someone in this role? Get a full picture of any unpleasant aspects of the job, so you are not surprised once you start.
  • What is the typical career path for someone in this role? This shows the interviewer your interest in growing with the organization and gives you an understanding of how the employer invests in its staff.
4) Build a rapport with the interviewer. 

No matter who you are interviewing with, it is important to foster a relationship with them. You might be working with them someday, and even if not, their opinion of you will likely be considered when the employer decides whether to hire you. While you can ask generic questions, such as how long they have worked at the company, a better approach is to focus on individuals.

“The thing you don’t want to do is ask a question only to look smart,” says Sam Owens, founder of SamsCareerTalk.com. “The interviewer will likely see through that immediately and you won’t look smart.” He recommends asking “genuine questions,” that the interviewer is uniquely qualified to answer and that matter to you. That way, you are more likely to have a memorable conversation.

Questions about the interviewer: 

  • What do you like most about working for this employer? Their answer will indicate what they value most and what working at the company is like. 
  • How has your role evolved since you joined the company? Get a sense of their stature within the company as well as opportunities for career development. 
  • If you could give someone one piece of advice about working here, what would it be? This shows you respect their input and may help you make the transition to the position smoother if it works out.  

Read all 6 question topics and the complete WSJ.com article

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