An Easy, but Critical, Interview Mistake You Want to Avoid

There’s a common mistake candidates often make in interviews.  I witness this with when interviewing people for all ranges of positions, from junior level all the way up to the most senior level positions.

That mistake is asking really poor questions or not asking questions at all.

I’ve interviewed people who look great on paper, but then we get to the end of the interview and they don’t haven’t developed well thought out questions, which leaves me with a poor closing impression of them.

Really good questions set candidates apart.  They indicate you are interested in becoming a thoughtful, lasting, and productive employee.  They indicate you are interested in what makes the business success and how you can contribute.

When an interviewer asks a candidate, “What questions do you have for me?”  That’s the candidate’s opportunity to shine.  Please don’t answer: “I don’t have any.  You’ve answered them all already.” Or, ”I’ve been following your company for a while and feel like I know everything already.”

Similarly, avoid making your first question about compensation, benefits or vacation.  While I’m sure you want to know answers to those important questions to make sure it’s a valuable use of your time, if those are your first line of questions, it gives the impression you’re focused on finding just another job and could jump ship in the future for a better offer, rather than being focused on finding a company where you can make a meaningful contribution. 

I want to suggest an approach for what types of questions you should ask.

Examples of Great Questions

Here are some questions to consider:

→ What is your vision for where the company or department will be in one year? In 3-5 years?

→ How do you define success for this role?

→ What do you view as the top priorities for this role in the first 90 days?

→ How can I best contribute to the department’s goals?

→ How can I best contribute to the company beyond the job description?

→ What do you see as the biggest challenges of working here and how would you coach a new hire to overcome those challenges?

→ How can I best help you and the team succeed?

→ Why did the last person in the role leave? Is there anything you can share about what that person did really well or where you wish the person could have focused more so I can better understand how I can make an immediate impact?

→ Is there anything about my background that makes you think that I wouldn’t do an excellent job? (This gives you an opportunity to address any concerns of theirs before you leave.)

Also, if you do thorough research on the company in advance, you’ll be able to ask more specific questions about the company’s recent news, financings, blog posts, product launches, key partners, and overall strategy.

Here’s the crux of it:  Ask questions that demonstrate genuine interest in the organization and how you can help it be successful.  Don’t let the Q&A portion of your interview sink you.  It’s where you can really set yourself apart.