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Interview Prep: Ask These Questions To Stand Out From Your Competition

Written by: Alexandra Floersch
Published on: Nov 8, 2017

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Preparing for an interview can be a daunting task. Preparing well requires more than just selecting a noteworthy outfit, researching the company’s background, and dusting off an old resume. A bad first impression will make an impact, but a list of thoughtful, pre-determined questions could sway the hiring manager’s opinion of you by, leaving with a strong, positive impression of a future employee.

Your problem-solving skills are noted when answering interview questions, but that’s only one part of the package. Asking your own questions is just as important. This ensures you’re as interested in the position as the company is in you.

Edmond Lau, author of The Effective Engineer, has hired 500 candidates over the course of eight years. He said the questions you ask indicate to a hiring manager “whether you’d be a good culture fit for the team, what gets you excited about the mission and the product [of the company], and how well you communicate.”

Trivial questions like “What does the job entail?,” “Are benefits included?,” and “What’s the dress code?” may be less than impressive. What will you do to stand out? Before you show up for a palm-sweating, heart-racing interview, add these six questions to your list:

Before we begin, would you mind sharing your reasons for selecting me to interview?

Your initial introduction is important. Before the interview process even begins, first thank the interviewer for the opportunity and tell them you look forward to the discussion. From there you can easily transition into asking them why you were selected for the interview. This will give the employer the opportunity to point out what they value in you, setting yourself up to highlight those specific skills throughout the interview.

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“Consistency is a good weapon of influence in job-hunting,” said Robert Cialdini, PhD, persuasion expert and author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Knowing your perceived value helps you to focus on those strengths during the interview and ensure [the interviewer “will spend much of the rest of the meeting validating what they [value] about you, because people want to stay consistent with what they’ve previously claimed.”

What have you enjoyed most about working here?

After the interviewer has exhausted his or her list of questions, it’s your turn. Ask about the best aspects of the job to ensure you start on a positive note. The interviewer’s response—likely your future boss—will indicate what they value most. If they solely highlight company perks (like free lunches and great health insurance) or cannot come up with an answer at all, chances are they don’t entirely enjoy their role in the company and neither will you. However, if they mention their love for company culture and the ability to grow, this will give you insight to what has led to their success.

What are some challenges that will face the person filling this position?

Though your instinct may be to steer clear from a question like this, many employers consider it thoughtful, addressing what it takes to succeed. The answer will give you an idea of the hurdles you may face in accepting the position. The interviewer may not point out the greatest challenges, out of fear of scaring you off, but denying there are any challenges at all should also raise a red flag.

In the end, knowing the challenges and their complexity will help you gain perspective and gauge whether or not you will be happy in the position. If you value work-life balance and one of the biggest challenges is the amount of hours employees typically  work, the position may not be the best fit for you.

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

Referring to yourself directly in the question will allow the interviewer to envision you in the role. By asking about goals well in advance, you’re giving your future employer the impression that you’re eager and willing to jump in to make a difference as soon as possible.

The answer  is also a great way to gauge your role in the company. It will reveal your workload and foreshadow what you can expect on your first days on the job. If there are no company goals or ambitions that you are asked to be part of, you might ask yourself if the company is a good culture fit for you.

Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?

This may be the most important question and the best one to end with. Although it’s gutsy, it reiterates the confidence you projected when you asked the interviewer to list your strengths at the beginning of the interview. The question will show you are willing to address vulnerabilities and able to be coached. John Kador, author of 301 Best Questions to Ask on Your Interview, explained, “Coachability is a hugely attractive attribute as far as interviewers are concerned.”

If, for some reason, the interviewer does have reservations, you will have the opportunity to tackle those doubts and reaffirm your strengths. “You may be able to come up with a satisfactory response, you may not,” Kador said. “But at least you have the chance.” If it turns out you are lacking necessary skills for the job, this may give you an indication to move on before you are overwhelmed by a position that you’re underqualified for.

What are the next steps?

Before leaving the interview, be sure to ask what you can expect in the near future. Don’t leave yourself in the dark, wondering when you’ll get a call back and doubting the success of your interview. Asking what’s next will express your interest in the position and encourage the employer to keep the process moving along. In their response, you may also get an indication of your competition and the number of candidates you’re going up against.

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In the end, the interview questions you ask should be just as polished as your resume. The interview is just as much for your benefit as it is for the employer’s. While general questions about the position are necessary, deeper inquiries demonstrate confidence, address the presence of challenges, express eagerness to join the team, and, most importantly, highlight the skills and experience that make you the winning candidate.