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Questions Great Candidates Ask in Interviews

Posted by Bob Corlett on January 3, 2013

Be honest. Do you feel that the part of the job interview where you ask the candidate, "Do you have any questions for me" is almost always a waste of time?  Chances are good your answer is “yes.”

The problem is most candidates don't actually care about your answers; they just hope to make themselves look good by asking "smart" questions, says Jeff Haden, writing for Inc magazine.

But great candidates handle that portion of the interview differently, writes Haden, They ask questions they want answered because they're evaluating you, your company--and whether they really want to work for you. Here are five questions great candidates ask:

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--right away.

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... there's rarely a Warren Buffett moat protecting a small business.

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: Interviewing Executives