There’s no better strategy in a job interview than turning the tables on your interviewer (politely) with your own strategic questions. Researching the company and the staff isn’t enough in today’s career environment. To stand out, become the interviewer and use on-the-spot questions to both better your own answers and find out more concretely if a role and a team are a fit for you. Here are 3 questions that can give you an upper hand:
1. Ask why your interviewer is eager to fill the open position.
Those of us who have been on the hiring side know that, more often than not, teams have been waiting for a long while to fill a staffing need by the time they get to interviewing candidates. Then, there’s the thousands of resumes, phone screens, and trying to find consensus on hiring anyone in particular. It’s a hassle. While that process goes on, the hole in the team that needs a body to fill it is either (1) making someone else ten times busier than they should be or (2) leaving a gap in team and company performance.
So find out why the person across from you is excited to get you on board. What work is piling up on them that they’ll be offloading to you? Ask them, “What are you, personally, looking forward to achieving when this position is finally filled?”
Turn their answer around to your favor. You can be the person tracking marketing campaigns that are otherwise going unmeasured. You can be the engineer that takes up the internal tools cause. You can be the content marketer that deals with the neglected social media accounts. Tell a story of finally clearing the plate of things keeping your interviewer up at night.
2. Ask about the key decision makers in the organization.
This key question can really help you shape the rest of the interview. If you’re interviewing for a newly created role, there’s likely not a defined set of expectations. You’ll want to know who will be setting them and the managerial style they bring to the table. If you’re interviewing for a role that’s been around, there should be clear answers as to who runs your team -- otherwise, you can be sure of dysfunction.
Further, their answer to this question will reveal the structure of the larger and smaller teams within an organization. Is this a small startup? Does the CEO get involved in every decision? Does the management team care about this department? Do team leads have autonomy or get micromanaged?
You’ll also get a sneak into how responsibility gets distributed. If it sounds like there are only a few key decision makers and they’re all of the older variety, you’ll know it’s a seniority-based culture. If there are smaller teams with younger project leads, you’ll know that you can take initiative to impress your peers and earn leadership stripes.
3. Ask what weakness could really break someone in the role.
You might not feel comfortable asking this particular question. Another variant is asking what would make someone really successful in the role -- you’ll have to feel out which question the interviewer would best respond to. While asking about success is a good, safe question, asking about potential weakness can give you serious insights into the team and position.
Their answer should give you a clear idea of what the company values, whether it’s work ethic or results. You might get a hint of how you’ll be managed and the working style of teammates. If you get a good answer to this question, it’ll be all the ammo you need to focus on the right things and impress in your first 90 days -- which is just as important as landing the job.
Sometimes you’ll even get an interviewer that will explicitly address a concern they have with you, which gives you the perfect opportunity to address it (and you should!). Sometimes you’ll get an answer that tells you why others have fallen out of the role in the past. In any case, the answer will give you a very clear peek at what the company values and how it fits you.