The Interview Question That Is Always Asked (And How To Nail It)

"Do you have any questions for us?" As someone who regularly conducts interviews, I find it staggering how many interviewees are not prepared for the one question that you can be absolutely certain will be asked. In some ways, it is the most important question of the entire interview. The interviewer will look at the questions that you ask as representative of your top priorities.

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If you just respond with, "No, I have already heard what I need to know," it makes you seem disinterested and complacent. Even worse, if you ask the wrong questions, you could immediately invalidate the rest of the interview. This is exactly what happened to the interviewee from yesterday. The two questions that he chose to ask us were: "How often are you allowed to work from home?" and "How long do you think I would have to work on this team before being eligible for promotion?"

With these responses, he unknowingly communicated that his top priorities were to avoid coming into the office as much as possible and that he really wasn't interested in helping our team succeed, but instead wanted to use us as a stepping stone to find something else more interesting. Unfortunately for him, this led to his resume being promptly moved into the Deleted Items box in Outlook.

The Right Way

The contrary side to all of this is that the question is actually a huge opportunity for you. If you ask the right questions, you can not only get the information to decide if the position is a good fit for you, but you can show the interviewers that you are a critical thinker and a problem solver.

The secret is to pose your questions in a way that will get those conducting the interview to talk for a few minutes, and then allow for you to respond to what they say. You should ideally have two or three questions prepared that all fit this pattern. The list below shows five examples you can use in both in-person and phone interviews.

Questions You Can Ask

What is the immediate need on your team that you are hoping to fill with this position? This is probably my favourite question. You know that their team has a need, because they have an opening. There is most likely a project about to get started, or a required skill — set that they need but are lacking. Whatever they come back with, this is a perfect segue for you to explain why you are the perfect person to fill that gap. You can explain why your experience and expertise makes you exactly who they have been looking for.

What projects can I contribute to right away? One of the most frustrating things about hiring someone new is that it can take forever to get them trained and up to speed. When a candidate asks a question like this, he lets the interviewers know that he will find a way to help as soon as possible, which is a major bonus. This again gives you the opportunity to sell yourself as someone who can help on those projects, and as an added bonus — it lets you know what skills you need to brush up on before your next interview or even before starting the job.

Is this team empowered to find better and more efficient ways to do things? The interview process is all about differentiation, and a question like this shows the interviewers that you are determined to be a rock star. Most companies have many folks who are perfectly happy to learn how to do the basic tasks of their job and then sit back and collect a paycheck. What they are looking for is someone who is driven to make things better, who won't just be satisfied with the status quo. By not only identifying yourself as a big time horse, but making sure that the company will give room to graze, you are guaranteed to stand out.

Can you tell me how your organisation defines success? It would be wise to save this question for the interviewing manager, and not for a peer/technical discussion. Nobody likes a kiss-up, but letting management know that you will communicate openly and honestly with them, always scores big points. The last part of the question can be a good barometer about how easy it will be to become a top performer. You can follow up with a discussion of how you have been successful in your previous jobs.

How would you describe a typical day on this team? Last but not least, this question is more of an icebreaker, and should hopefully lead to some banter between you and the interviewer. If the interviewer relays struggles or frustrations, be sure to note how you will help them reduce their workload and make things better. If they respond positively, be sure to reinforce that you think it sounds like a great fit and you are excited for the opportunity to contribute.

Whether you use one of the above examples or not, please make sure that you have something planned for what you will say when asked this question in your next job interview. Rest assured, the question will be asked. It always is.

The Job Interview That Is ALWAYS Asked: "Are There Any Questions That You Have For Us?" [See Debt Run]

Jefferson and his wife Michelle created and contribute to the website See Debt Run, where they chronicle their adventures in personal finance. On the site, they discuss items from all across the financial landscape including debt reduction, frugal parenting, ideas for making side income, and advice on how to climb the corporate ladder.


Comments

    is this legit or troll?
    "Is this team empowered to find better and more efficient ways to do things?"

      The wording is very consultanty (shut up it is a word) but the actual question is valid. Rephrase to Is there a way that improvements can be raised to management and are suggestions acted on?

      It's a damn good way to ask the question actually. It sounds a lot better than 'How do you do stuff?'

      I would *absolutely* ask this question, unless you like being stuck in a team where nobody listens to you and you just have to keep doing things in stupid ways.

      Americans are full of themselves and shit. If you asked this question in Australia you would be laughed at and shown the door.

      MGMT speak is everywhere, be careful about using it though, they might see you as a threat.

    And this is why I aim to be as specialised as possible, to minimise the retarded business wank I have to deal with, interviews are nothing to do with how well you can perform your job but rather how well you can lie and kiss ass, fortunately if that tact was applied as rigidly to people who have to perform surgery or various scientific endeavours there'd be a lot more dead people and sued companies.

      1 up ^^

        x eleventy

    The first answer is very good. The rest are a bit kiss ass. But hey, if it kills you that much to brown nose for 5mins then maybe you should loom for a less demanding job. I hear you can do what you want at maccas

      lol no you can't - i always avoided working at maccas because they worked my friends to the bone & brainwashed them with a fantastic work ethic about never standing still for a second :) apparently they are pretty hard task masters. You can do what you like *with your brain* maybe since you have no responsibility etc.

    Interview's are there to make sure you are a fit on the team. You could be fantastic at the job, yet you can also kill the team morale with one bad hiring. Every occupation have interview's, sincerely because they have to find the right person and to ensure they know what they are talking about.

    A good organisation won't have a single interview, they will have 2 to even possibly 5, which all happen in a single week. Personally I don't see any of this as kiss arse, there is nothing worse than sitting at a desk for 8 hours doing nothing while they finish a project or being around a bunch of unsociable people.

    I generally have 3-4 questions prepared but 9 times out of 10 they answer all questions in their initial 4-5 minute discussion on what the role involves and what I'll be doing.

    When is payday?

    With than list of ideal questions we can send a bunch of Corporate spies in to ask each of those questions and fish for Corporate Intel. We can learn what they are working on and basically decide which area we need to insert corporate spies to glean the work of the company.

    It's a good idea to ask these question at the front of the interview rather than waiting for the opportunity at the end that way you can tailor ALL your questions to the answers they give. Just ask it as soon as they explain where you fit in the organisational structure.

    The big question is "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" Damn I wish I knew how to answer that question

    If someone asked those questions in an interview I'd mark them down as a bit of a douche and unlikely to fit in with the techie culture of my team of specialists. I want people that are comfortable working in jeans and tshirts not people that are going to wear suits to work each day. I can see how this may appeal to those in sales though. Good places to work at places where you don't have to sprout that business BS bingo in order to get the job.

      Can I work for you ? :P

        sounds like he's running a sweat shop

    How about, "Why should I commit myself to your success?"

    ACTUALLY, I think the interviewers attitude to the question “How often are you allowed to work from home?” is pretty poor, indicating that the hiring company clearly do not consider a healthy work life balance important. Keeping in mind job interviews go both ways. I wouldn't want to work for you if that is your attitude to a simple question - go ahead and delete my resume. Sure your company might not offer work from home options but you should not penalize people from hoping for a decent working environment. (Although I do totally agree that both questions asked together = red flag)

    You don't know what their personal situation is, for all you know they have a child at home and would actually like to spend some amount of time at home helping to raise their children(heaven forbid parents actually wanting to spend extra time with their children). Even if it was only once a month or so. Or possibly working from home while caring for sick children so they could still do work rather than just using sick leave?

    Although I do admit a better question would have been something like: "would there be any opportunities to work from home should the project allow it?"

    There is nothing wrong with wanting work life balance, especially since happier employees are more loyal and take less sick days.

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