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The 4 Most Important Questions to Ask at an Interview

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So you’ve completed the process of searching for a job and sent out your cover letter and resume. Now, you’re invited to come in for an interview.

An interview is a critical point in the job hunting process. It helps you and the potential employer get a sense of whether you are the right fit for the position and company culture. It also directs the next step – a second interview, an offer, or the need to go back to step one with a continued search.

One of the things job candidates can do to make a good impression during the interview is to ask sensible questions. Posing appropriate questions related to your role and assignment conveys to the employer your interest and desire to work with the company. It also helps you gather the information you will need to formulate an impression of the position and whether the opportunity is a good fit for your personal goals. Lastly, and most important, the responses you receive from the interviewer provide critical information to help you focus on relevant points that may be considered most important by the employer during the discussion.

For example, if you ask, “What are some important characteristic you’re looking for out of a candidate for this position?” The employer may respond with a focus on leadership, project management skills, and experience with social media.  In such an instance, during the interview, you can tailor your conversation and responses with information to demonstrate how you have the capabilities they’re looking for versus focusing on points you think are important based simply on assumption.

So, what questions do you need to ask during an interview so that the employer develops a good impression of you and so that you gather critical information to determine if this is an appropriate next step for your career?

  1. Ask why this position is open or if it is a newly created position. The response can tell you multiple things:
    • The company is growing;
    • The value of the position to the overall business or organization; and
    • The turnover rate or stability of the position.
  2. Ask about the performance of the position in the past (if it existed) and what improvements or changes are desired from the new candidate. The response will tell you about:
    • Day-to-day or general expectations of the position;
    • Challenges with the position; and
    • Characteristics desired in a candidate to meet and go beyond requirements to succeed.
  3. Ask about whom you will report to, who reports to you, and which contacts you have day-to-day contact with. The response tells you:
    • Structure of organization or direct team and who else will influence the decision;
    • Who you may potentially be interviewed by later in the process; and
    • Insight to individuals’ personalities or experience (for example, “You will report to Bob who has been with us for 10 years.”)
  4. Ask if they feel you are well-qualified for the position. This is very important and tells you:
    • Any objections they might have giving you the opportunity to respond and overcome them;
    • Clarification regarding whether you are really in the running for the job.

Every question you ask during an interview should give insight to help you better formulate an impression of the position and company, offer you information on what experience and skills you need to highlight, and what next steps you need to take to secure an offer.

And a last word of advice, always have a question for an employer when they ask, “Do you have any questions for me?” Regardless of how thorough the interview discussion was, think hard about whether you have neglected to cover anything additional that would be important to leaving a positive impression with your interviewer as you leave their offices for the day.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 26th, 2011 at 12:26 pm and is filed under Career Advice, Interviewing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One comment on “The 4 Most Important Questions to Ask at an Interview

  1. Dan Kenealy on said:

    I find those interview questions very insightful. I plan on using them at my next interview.

    Dan Kenealy

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