We have 96 intervals of 15 minutes every day, meaning you have many opportunities to make a difference. Each day this month, I’m giving you a 15-minute project idea. Pick your favorites to improve your day, yourself or your world. I promise you have time for this.
In the last decade, I’ve interviewed over 1000 people. And I’ve discovered a few things that really make the right people stand out. Your job search takes time, but if you organize your methods–you significantly increase your chances to get the job you want and set yourself up for success with your new position.
You’re finishing your interview and the potential employer ends with “What Questions Do You Have For Me?” (Note to potential employers: Ask this question instead of “Do You Have Any Questions?” because it confirms that you, as the employer, know that the interviewee should and does have questions) and you immediately are handed an important moment that can boost or break your interview. Here are a few simple solutions to make the most of this opportunity.
Don’t ask questions that seem self-serving. One of my first after-college interviews was with DC Comics (would have been cool, right?) and as I was asked the “Questions” question, my first thought was, “Ask something!” so I asked about the vacation time available. Terrible idea. Now as a seasoned interviewer here’s what I’d be thinking: “Really, you’re interested in this job and the first thing you’re thinking about is TIME AWAY FROM THE JOB?!” It is OK to ask more information about salary and benefits, but you should wait until it’s addressed by your employer.
Do ask questions that make employers share the best. When I worked at Bath & Body Works, we’d hire about 100 people per busy season, but that didn’t mean we’d only interview 100 people. With the volume of interviews I completed, the candidates that would really stand out were the ones that asked me “What do you like best about working here?”
This question gave me a chance to share the successes of our store, the company and often myself. I’d recommend asking, “What are a few things that you like about working here?” to the employer–makes it easy to give good answers instead of taking time thinking about the best thing ever (think “What is your favorite Movie?” vs. “What are some movies you really like?”)
Don’t ask questions that confirm you didn’t do advanced research. Many companies today post basic benefits information online. Spend time researching information and see what you can discover. If needed, print this information so you can bring it with you for questions that provide more information than the basics list online. It’s OK to ask for more information, but spend time getting the basic information first. Look online, ask friends that know about the company, and if you know anyone–ask current employees of the company the basics first.
Do ask questions that give you a chance to boost your potential. When I was being interviewed for positions, one of my standard questions is “What are you looking for in a candidate that you feel I haven’t shared enough information regarding?” As an interviewee, this gives you an advantage.
- If they say “No,” then it would seem you’ve met their expectations for the position.
- If they say “Yes,” you have the opportunity to share with them more about what makes you great.
Don’t ask questions that have already been covered in the interview. In advance, write a list of 3-5 questions down to ask and bring the list with you. When you get asked this question at the end, it’s fine to pull out your list and ask questions from the list. It’s also fine to say aloud quietly (to yourself as you mark off questions) “We’ve covered this one.” It is NOT OK to ask questions that have already been covered because you’ll seem like you haven’t listened at all. And really, if you feel like you didn’t get enough information about an in-question interview, you should ask it during the conversation about that topic–don’t wait until the end, unless you have to.
Do ask open-ended, specific questions. Yes/No questions limit you. General/Hypothetical questions are ridiculous. The best kind of questions you can ask will allow the employer to elaborate about specific information. I’d recommend something like, “What are the skills/characteristics necessary for someone to be successful in this position/department/company? How are these assessed?” This shows that you’re thinking about what it takes to be the best and how you’ll receive feedback to help you grow.