Many people don’t realize that the questions a candidate asks during an interview are just as important as those they answer. It is not uncommon for a manager to tell me the reason for ruling out a candidate is that the candidate did not ask any questions. The rest of the interview might have been fine, but if a candidate doesn’t have a single question, it is taken as a sign of 1) lack of preparation or 2) lack of interest. Hiring managers don’t have time for either one.
I always suggest candidates come up with some insightful questions. Frankly, those of us who interview a lot get bored of answering the same old questions over and over again: “What is training like?” or “What’s the interview process?” Yes these are necessary questions, I’ll admit. (This is why I’ve created FAQs for some of the positions I recruit for routinely.) However, as every sales person should know, a sharp, probing question is like a double espresso. It wakes you up, sends blood to your brain and makes you sit forward in your seat. It makes you think. Hiring managers are grateful for a jolt like this every once in a while when they are conducting back-to-back interviews. It keeps things interesting.
The best way to uncover powerful questions is to research, research, research. Learn as much as you can. The things you can’t figure out on your own are probably really good questions. By asking an insightful question, you’ll reveal how much you’ve already learned, and how willing you are to learn. Since hiring managers are often concerned about how long your learning curve will be before you are knowledgeable about the products and fully effective in the territory, demonstrating that you are a fast, self-motivated learner is one the keys to any successful interview.
Most of the best questions will come out of your interview preparation. There is one other very important question however you should be certain to include in your repertoire. If it is not the very best question to ask, it’s pretty darn close.
The question is: Did that answer your question?
It’s a great question to ask periodically throughout your interview, but especially when if you sense the hiring manager disengage. They may well be thinking, “Well that wasn’t what I was looking for…” but they may not articulate it. You need to make sure you are providing the hiring manager with the information they need to consider you seriously for the position. This question is another way to demonstrate that you are interested and that you care. If you tend to babble a bit, asking this question can also be a good way to stop yourself from over-talking.
When you prepare for your next interview, make a list of all the questions you have. Then try to see if you can find answers to any of them yourself. The ones that remain may be the ones you need to ask, and always keep this one essential question handy.