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Smart Questions to Ask in an Interview

Posted by Bob Corlett on August 16, 2012

I dread the part of the interview when I ask candidates, “Do you have any questions for me?” I am often disappointed by their questions. It often feels like a waste of time. (Whatever happened to curiosity anyway?)

The problem is that some candidates don’t have any questions, and others seem to be asking questions only to make themselves look good. What I really want are people who are asking questions to help evaluate for themselves if the job is a good fit. So what kind of questions are best for that? One of my favorite writers, Jeff Haden, suggested the following questions in an article for Inc magazine.

 1. What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?

Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They want to make a difference.

2.    What are the common attributes of your top performers?

Great candidates also want to be great long-term employees. Every organization is different, and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organizations. Great candidates want to know because 1) they want to know if they fit, and 2) if they do fit, they want to be a top performer.

3.     What are a few things that really drive results for the company?

Employees are investments, notes Haden, and every employee should generate a positive return on his or her salary. In every job some activities make a bigger difference than others. You need your HR folks to fill job openings... but what you really want is for HR to find the right candidates because that results in higher retention rates, lower training costs, and better overall productivity. Similarly, you need your service techs to perform effective repairs... but what you really want is for those techs to identify ways to solve problems and provide other benefits--in short, to generate additional sales.

Great candidates want to know what makes a difference. They know helping the company succeed means they succeed as well.

4.    How do you plan to deal with...?

Every business faces a major challenge: technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends, etc.

So while a candidate may see your company as a stepping-stone, they still hope for growth and advancement... and if they do eventually leave, they want it to be on their terms and not because you were forced out of business.

Say I'm interviewing for a position at your bike shop. Another shop is opening less than a mile away: How do you plan to deal with the new competitor?

Bottom line, Haden says: A great candidate doesn't just want to know what you think; they want to know what you plan to do--and how they will fit into those plans.

Topics: Job Interview Preparation