When you attend an interview (actually we prefer to call it a meeting), the initial phase will be the interviewing Manager asking questions around your skills and capabilities in order to reconfirm in their mind that you can do the job from a skill base perspective.
Later, the interview focus will usually shift to you as a person, which will allow them to gain a basic understanding as to whether you will ‘fit’ into their existing team.
Any interview should be an exchange of views and capabilities from both sides, which is why I call it a meeting rather than an interview. The interviewer is looking at you and asking themselves, “Can he/she do the job, and will they fit in?” You are looking at them asking, “Will this position use my skills, and will I like working here?”
Towards the end of the interview you will usually be asked, “Is there anything that you would like to ask me?” This is the time to impress if you ask the right questions.
Below are, in my view, the top five questions that should help you stand out from the crowd.
1) What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?
Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They don’t want to spend weeks or months “getting to know the organisation.” They want to make a difference — right away.
2) What are the common attributes of your top performers?
Great candidates also want to be great long-term employees. Every organisation is different, and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organisations.
Maybe the top performers work longer hours. Maybe creativity is more important than methodology. Maybe constantly landing new customers in new markets is more important than building long-term customer relationships. Maybe it’s a willingness to spend the same amount of time educating an entry-level customer, as you would spend helping an enthusiast who wants high-end equipment.
Great candidates need this information because
(a) they want to know if they fit, and;
(b) if they do fit, they want to be a top performer.
3) What are a few things that really drive results for the company?
Employees are investments and every employee should generate a positive return on his or her salary, (otherwise why are they on the payroll?)
In every job some activities make a bigger difference than others. Managers need their HR team to fill job openings, but what they really want is for HR to find the right candidates, as this will result in higher retention rates, lower training costs and better overall productivity. For example, companies need their service techs to perform effective repairs, but what they really need is for those techs to identify ways to solve problems and provide other benefits — in short, to generate additional sales.
Great candidates want to know what truly makes a difference. They know helping the company succeed means they succeed as well.
4) What do employees do in their spare time?
(a) like what they do, and
(b) they like the people they work with.
Granted this is a tough question for an interviewer to answer because unless the company is really small, all any interviewer can do is speak in generalities.
What’s important is that the candidate (you) wants to make sure they have a reasonable chance of fitting in — because great candidates usually have options.
5) How do you plan to deal with …?
Every business faces a major challenge — technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends.
So while you may see the company as a stepping-stone in your career, you still hope for growth and advancement and if you do eventually leave, the company will want it to be on good terms and not because you were forced out of the business.
For example, say you’re interviewing for a position at their bike shop and another shop is opening less than a mile away. How do you plan to deal with the new competitor? Or they run a poultry farm (a huge industry in the area). How will they deal with rising feed costs?
From an interviewer perspective, a great candidate doesn’t just want to know what you think; they want to know what you plan to do— and how they will fit into those plans.
All of the above are great suggestions and you will need to mold each question to suit each situation. Never be afraid or nervous about asking questions.