The Interview: It’s not what you ask, but when you ask it

April 27, 2015

Making a job transition is a very exciting and stressful time for most; usually filled with lots of emotion. One of the areas people stress about most is the first interview! Let’s be honest, most of us are not interview experts; we are experts at our jobs. There are a number of resources that offer advice on how to successfully interview (a Google search of “interview tips” yields about 277 million results).

Rather than create a lengthy document tackling mastering the first interview, this is the first article tackling one of the topics people think about going into a first interview. “what/how…and when” to ask as appropriate interview questions.

Asking good, intelligent, and insightful interview questions is a key to interview success. It shows you have thought about your career in depth. It shows interest in the organization and job. It allows people to talk about how great they are and the company is (which most people love to do!)

Can you relate to any of the below statements…

  • “I wonder what average hours per week are normal/expected. Can I ask that?”
  • “I really don’t want to waste my time going back in vacation?” How do I bring that up?”
  • “I want to progress quickly in my career but don’t want to seem disinterested in the job at hand? How do I get that across but get the answers I need around progression?”
  • “My current company is experiencing a lot of turnover, I am nervous about getting into a similar situation.”

Here are some insights gained over the years on how to effectively prepare questions for your interview.

  1. Do you know what is most important to you
    Make a list of what you are looking for in your career and where you are most talent/least talented. Your questions should be items you find important, not something someone else thinks is important.
  2. It isn’t what you ask, but when you ask it
    Arguably the most important thing to remember. A successful interview follows a beautiful flow and harmony! A 50/50 conversation that if done effectively follows: Sell first, buy second. I am assuming that people who have felt they “nailed” an interview have felt this. Companies and hiring managers want to know what you can do for them, before talking about what they can do for you. Any of the wonders listed above about progression, hours, vacation, etc. are great questions but need to be asked once you “feel” whoever you are selling yourself to has bought in.
  3. Know Your Audience
    We have compiled an extensive list of good questions to ask in an interview broke out by topic area: General Topics, Career Motivation, Anticipated Job Responsibilities, Work Environment, Personality factors, Employment Trends, Measures of Work Performance, Salary and Benefits. Remember that what you ask a peer might be different than the direct hiring manager, and certainly is different than HR and what to ask executives. (Contact us for a list of questions if interested!)
  4. Remember to Close and Ask for the Job
    You are selling yourself and don’t do that well and forget to close to something. Some good closing questions to consider, “How did I do?” or “”What concerns, if any, do you ave on my background fitting into this position?” or “What can I expect as next steps?”

And don’t forget to show your excitement!