I frequently get inquiries from clients for advice on what are the best questions to ask an interviewer. From my own experience in the corporate jungle and from the best practices I’ve gleaned from the most successful executives, there are two primary approaches that will win you the most points in the eyes of the interviewer and provide you with relevant insight that you can actually use to your advantage.
One approach is to center your questions on the interviewer – focus on the path he took to get to the company, where his career is headed and why working with him makes the most sense for your own career. Four sample questions you can use:
1. Tell me about your job. What are your day-to-day responsibilities and where do you see your work taking you in the next five years?
2. What do you consider to be your strengths and what has led to the success you’ve enjoyed at the company to date?
3. Why did you decide to join the company? What keeps you motivated to continue on?
4. If you could change on thing about the company, what would it be?
Why this works: People love to talk about themselves. There is no shame in stroking the ego of your interviewer to demonstrate how interested you are in “following” in her footsteps and pursuing a similar path. Joining a company is just like joining a club in this regard, and asking an interviewer questions centered on her is a good way to learn about the company and generate good will.
The second approach is to ask questions on what the ideal candidate is according the interviewer, quickly connecting what skills or experience you have that fit the role. Three sample questions:
1. Can you describe for me who your ideal candidate would be? I know what the job description says, but I’m curious about what your preference is for the candidate who will be best positioned to add the most value to your group.
2. What are the top three skills of experiences you are looking for in the ideal candidate? How would you value my own experience or skill in [x] against the top three criteria you just described?
3. Is there anything that would preclude you from considering me for the position?
Why this works: connecting your skills to the job requirements should be one of your primary strategies in interviewing in any scenario. These questions will allow you to tailor your responses to what the interviewer is looking for in a candidate. Question #3 is particularly important as you then have an opportunity to address anything that might have been missed.
Utilize one or both of these two approaches and you should do just fine during the Q&A session with your interviewer. Above all, be honest and genuine in your approach and you won’t go wrong.
Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.