If You Want To Stand Out in an Interview, Ask Questions

…the RIGHT way.

I have had my fair share of being interviewed in the past, and fortunately, I was taught early on that I should prepare questions for my interviewers.

Yes, you read it right. You can ask questions to your interviewer during your interview and I truly believe every interviewee should.

Back in the day, I would usually come to my interviews armed with questions. But here’s the thing, I would do my homework and research about the company (this was before Google and Glassdoor era), then prepare questions for those I cannot get outside of the company.

Why do I have to prepare questions, you might ask?

1. Contrary to what you and I might think, most interviewers find applicants who are interested in the company and the job admirable.

There is nothing more admirable than a candidate coming in prepared with questions about the job and the company they’re applying for. I know I have earned brownie points because of this, and felt the same way when I was the interviewer. On the flip side, there is nothing more frustrating for an interviewer than a candidate who doesn’t even know where they are, what they are applying for, and why they are even there in the first place.

2. You find out more about the company you’re getting into by the manner your interviewer answer your questions.

Keep this in mind, almost all companies will put nice words about the company and the job they’re offering in their websites and social media accounts. It makes sense. Who in their right mind would advertise that they are the worst employer ever?

But more than the answer itself, it’s how they will respond to your questions that would benefit you the most. This has helped me make life-changing decisions in the past — whether to join or otherwise. Each job decision is a life-changing decision, so make sure you make the right one.

3. Asking questions may get you some answers but what does keeping silent get you?

I admit there have been times wherein I got shallow or even no answer at all to the questions I gave. But look at the alternative. What do you think I would have gotten if I didn’t ask anything at all? The great thing was though, during those times I got answers, they were answers that really helped me with the interview. I found out what qualities they needed and I was able to position my strengths and abilities toward their needs. I was able to share relevant experiences and made the discussions more engaging and insightful for the interviewer.

I also got nuggets of wisdom from the senior managers who interviewed me. Again, contrary to what we might think, busy as they may be, successful people love to share how they got to where they are. All one has to do is to ask them the right questions and they will shoot away regardless whether they are introverts or extroverts.

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”
― Peter F. Drucker

I know it’s hard to come up with questions so let me share with you what you can use. These are the questions I have personally used in the past. I usually prepare a different set of questions (maximum of three) for each interviewer based on where they are in the organization.

You may start with this list and probably make your own, eventually.

A. Recruitment or screening officer

  • What is the prevailing leadership style here?
  • What’s the reason for this vacancy?
  • What qualities do you look for when you promote people?

B. Hiring manager

  • How do you want to be addressed?
  • What is your personal career goal?
  • What would you want from the person in this position?

C. Senior manager, GM, CEO or President:

  • What keeps you awake at night?
  • What three things do you think you did right that got you to where you are right now?
  • What made you hire or promote your next in line?
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