If you’re going through a job search, you know how competitive the interview process can be. And you’d probably like to know some ways to increase your chances of beating out the competition for an offer.
Below is a proven interview hack that’s been tremendously successful in my own career.
My Favorite Interview Hack
My favorite interview hack is winning the interview with the questions YOU ask!
I vividly remember my interview for my very first job out of grad school.
I went in with a list of questions based on my research of the job and the organization. My list was pretty long, so I assumed I wouldn’t have time to get all of my questions answered.
However, they didn’t have a lot of questions for me. Therefore, I had the time to ask all my questions on my list. And I got to ask additional ones that came up in conversation.
I left the interview thinking I probably wouldn’t get an offer since they didn’t ask me very many questions.
But a week later I got the offer! When I accepted it, I asked my interviewers what made them choose me from the other candidates.
“It was the questions you asked. Your questions showed us not only how knowledgeable you are, but also how much you care about the people you’ll serve in this role.”
The Questions You Should Ask
So, what kind of questions should you ask in your job interviews?
There are six categories of questions you should ask (because interviewing is a two-way street!):
1. Questions you need to have answered to determine fit/questions related to the organization’s culture.
“How do you foster an employee’s connection to the organization?”
“How do you motivate your employees?”
Or even “Do employees typically eat lunch together or at their desks?” (this one will tell you a lot about the company culture!).
You need to ask any question (within reason) that will help you decide if the company’s culture is something you can devote 40+ hours of your life per week to.
2. Questions that come up in the research you do on the company.
Of course you probably already know how important it is to research a company before your interview. Doing so will result in questions that will be specific to the company. These questions will also make it obvious you did your research, and therefore will show you have a genuine interest in the company.
And don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, especially if they exhibit your work ethic.
For instance, in my interview, I wanted to know how one of the practices I would be required to carry out in the job wasn’t in direct violation of a federal law common to that industry (which it initially seemed to be). This gave them the chance to explain their legal and legitimate loophole that kept them in compliance with the law.
I think this was the question that impressed them the most.
3. Questions to determine future opportunities for advancement.
For example, “What opportunities are available for advancement?”
This helps you know if you might have a future at the company and shows you’re interested enough to want to stay long-term.
4. Questions to determine their hiring timeline.
Okay, these questions are really just for you and your own sanity.
When candidates go on interviews and then don’t hear anything back either way, they freak out.
Yes, it’s stressful, and also rude of the company to keep you hanging.
So, before you leave the interview, you should ask:
- What is your deadline for making an offer?
- How firm is that deadline?
- Are you going to notify each person being interviewed of the final decision as a courtesy, or just the candidate receiving the offer?
This way you won’t spend your time and energy fretting over what they decided.
Here’s where it gets good!
These last two types of questions you should ask are the real hacks!
5. Questions to show your initiative and to help them visualize you in the job.
“What results would you like to see from me in the first 90 days of the job?”
“What will be the first projects I’ll work on once hired?”
Or “When we sit down to discuss my performance a year from now, what will success look like?”
Wording questions this way helps them picture YOU as the person in the job!
6. Questions to get them to verbalize what they like about you.
In #5, it was all about helping them visualize. Now you need to get them to verbalize!
You want them to convince YOU why they should hire you, which will in turn convince them to hire you. (Yeah, that undergraduate degree I got in psychology is really paying off here!)
For example, “What part of my resume stands out to you the most?” or “What made you choose to interview me out of all the other applicants?”
Some career coaches will recommend you ask questions such as, “Are there any concerns you have about my qualifications?”
While this question is good in possibly providing you an immediate opportunity to address any of their concerns, it can also backfire on you.
Remember, you’re supposed to highlight your strengths in an interview. Not draw attention to your weaknesses. This question is dangerous in that it immediately draws the interviewer’s attention to your weaknesses.
Instead, you want to ask questions that force the interviewer to not only focus on your strengths, but to also get them to repeat your strengths back to you. Doing so further convinces them of your capabilities.
Always Have Questions!
You should always have questions of your own prepared for an interview because interviewing is a two-way street.
When you’re asked, “What questions do you have for us?” never say, “None.” If so, you’re for sure to lose the job to someone who shows more interest with their questions.
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