The current job market is red hot, and as the New York Times put it, “This is the job market we’ve been waiting for.” Opportunities are rich, but so is competition. And it’s no secret that as a result of the pandemic, the majority of today’s interviews are taking place virtually, which makes it even harder to differentiate yourself in the market. One critical component of an interview is questions. For some it is a stressful moment when the interviewer asks if you have questions. You should always have questions. This portion of the interview is really a unique opportunity to not only showcase your perspective but also control the conversation. Below are some strategies for developing meaningful questions that will showcase your best self.
1. Avoid questions where the answers are easily discovered online or on the company website. These questions are less desirable because they make it very clear that you may not have done your due diligence. Questions that may fall into this category are, “What cities do you have offices in?” or “How long has your company been around?” There are better ways to reframe these questions if you’re generally curious. For example, “I saw you are headquartered in Seattle. I’m curious, what other cities are you expanding to?” or “I noticed that your company went through an acquisition in 2011. How long has your company been around?”
2. Steer clear of questions that are about you, not about the company. Some examples include: “Do you have any reservations after reading my resume?”; “Why should I join Lighthouse?”; “Do you think I’m a good fit for this position?” The answer to all of those questions won’t highlight that you’ve done your research and don’t showcase your best self. Those questions are also more about the candidate than the opportunity, and strong questions will focus on the role. Of course after an interview we all want to hear that we’re a perfect fit and that there aren’t any reservations. But the reality is questions like that often put pressure on the interviewer, which can be uncomfortable, and you run the risk of that uneasy feeling being the final beat of your interview.
3. Avoid stock questions. These are clichés that could really be applied to any position at any company. These could make it sound like you don’t have a strong interest specifically in the company you’re interviewing with. If it sounds like you Googled what questions to ask in an interview, then it is likely in the category of a stock question. Examples of stock questions include, “How big is the company?” or “What is the 30, 60, 90 plan for this role?” These are both valid questions, but do not demonstrate your interest in the particular role or company. It’s fine to ask one or two stock questions, but you want to make sure they’re not your entire question repertoire.
4. Know your audience. Make sure you’re asking the right questions of the right interviewer. It goes without saying that candidates should research the individuals they’re meeting ahead of time. When a candidate asks a question for the wrong audience it becomes very apparent the candidate did not research. For example, asking the Head of IT about company benefits. Or asking the head of HR what scripting languages they use. Make sure the questions you ask are geared towards the individual’s expertise.
5. Ask questions that will give you a strong sense of what the role entails and ask ones you genuinely want to know the answers to. I always recommend imagining yourself on day one – what would you want to know? For me, I’d want to know what a typical day is like, what’s expected of me, and what the biggest challenge will be on day one. I’d also want to understand what tools I will be utilizing and what resources will be available. I’d also want to know the full scope of the team—including how it fits into the organization—and how the department is viewed throughout the company.
6. Remember to listen. A great practice when asking questions during an interview is repeating facts the interviewer stated earlier in the conversation. Why? This showcases your listening skills and genuine intellectual curiosity. To accomplish this, you could ask questions like, “You mentioned earlier that the three team members I’d be working with all started this year. Historically, what has the turnover been like on this team?” or “You said my biggest challenge would be a limited budget for resources. What has the team done that has been successful in the past?”
7. Frame questions so they demonstrate you’ve done your due diligence. When I am interviewing candidates, I always appreciate when it is clear the candidate has researched my background. Some examples include, “I noticed you’ve been at Lighthouse for three years, what has kept you there?” or “I noticed that Lighthouse has around 700 employees, are those employees currently working remotely?”
Following these seven tips will help highlight your research, genuine interest in the role, and curiosity — and will hopefully send you down the road of knocking your next interview questions out of the park!