Almost every interview ends the same way: Do you have any questions for us? What are the best questions to ask in an interview? Your questions are just as important as your other interview answers. If prepared thoughtfully, your questions can create another opportunity to tell your interviewers why you are the best candidate for the position. This is not the time to ask about how much vacation time you would have, or about where to get a good roast beef sandwich.
I recommend my clients prepare the following types of questions to ask. These questions will give you an opportunity to respond to their answers in a way that can strengthen your candidacy.
1) Affinity Questions
I recommend preparing 3-5 affinity questions. Demonstrate your passion and enthusiasm for the job by asking about what they love about the organization or the job or the employment culture – or about a favorite project or something they are proud of, etc. Be specific: “What has been your favorite project over the past 6 months?” “Why do you love walking into work every morning?”
Show your affinity for whatever their answer is to your question. (“I’m so happy to hear that the collaborative environment here makes everyone feel like family.”)
Connect their answer to why you are a perfect fit for them. (“I’m all about going above and beyond to support my team, so I think my values are a great fit for you.”)
2) Challenge Questions
I recommend preparing 3 or 4 challenge questions. Ask about what challenge they see for the position in the coming month (or year), or challenges their company has recently faced. Again, be specific: “What do you think the biggest challenge is for the first month in this position?” “What has been one of the challenges this department has faced in the past year?”.
Validate the challenge (i.e. “I can see why budget cuts are a significant challenge”).
Tell them you have the strengths to meet those challenges. (i.e. “I’m actually relieved to hear that budget cuts have been the biggest challenge this past year, because I pride myself on maximizing the use of resources with innovative strategies. I’m confident I have the skills to help you meet that challenge.”)
3) Look-How-Much-I-Know-About-You Questions
You only need one of these. Prepare one intelligent question that reflects your deep research. Done well, this question can demonstrate your passion for working for that particular company by impressing them with the depth of your knowledge. Be careful though: make sure it’s a relevant and thoughtful question. Otherwise, it will look like you are gratuitously trying to show-off what you know. Their answer won’t necessarily give you an opportunity to respond in a way that helps you. The benefit to this type of question is to demonstrate the depth your knowledge and commitment to the job. Use it only once.
4) Tell-Me-Your-Concerns-About-Me Questions
WARNING – this question can go very right or very wrong. Do not ask it unless you are confident that you can address whatever issue they raise. I do not recommend using this question if the interview is going well. However, if you are pretty sure that they are going to pass, your answer to this question can get you back in the game.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity. Is there anything we’ve discussed or anything about my experience that that concerns you? If so, can we discuss it?”
Thank them for their willingness to share their concerns.
Validate their concerns. (i.e.”I understand why you would be concerned about my lack of experience on the client side”). Do not try to convince them that their concerns are invalid or that they are wrong to be concerned.
Address their concern directly. If you are missing a crucial skill or ability, tell them what you have already done to address the issue and the measurable progress you have already made. Are they concerned with your lack of industry knowledge? Point out strengths you will use to get up to speed quickly. If they are concerned that you don’t have the required experience, make the case that you have comparable experience. And if they think that you may not be a good “fit”, use your knowledge about their culture and brand to make the case that you share their values.
Don’t Waste An Opportunity To Strengthen Your Candidacy
You cannot control that questions you are asked in an interview. But you can control the information you choose to give your interviewers. Everything you say and do should maximize the opportunity to strengthen your candidacy for the position. The best questions to ask in an interview are the ones that allow you to continue to deliver messages of value and fit, create a strong finish, and get you the job.