When It's the Candidate's Turn to Ask

Interviewers do not hesitate to ask some probing questions of candidates and rightly expect candid responses. Turnabout is fair play, however. An increasing number of sophisticated candidates are prepared to ask some very pointed questions. Are you ready to answer?

Monday, August 23, 2010
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Most interviewers do it at the end. Some do it in the beginning. Others find a place for it somewhere in the middle. But at some point in every job interview, every interviewer asks the candidate, "Now, do you have any questions for us?"

You asked for it, but are you ready for questions such as:

* What looks to be the weakest part of my resume? Can we talk about that?

* Now that we've talked about my qualifications and the job, do you have any concerns about me being successful at this position?

* How will you judge my success? What will have happened six months from now that will demonstrate that I have met your expectations?

* Everything I've heard tells me that I'm well qualified for this job. It's a job I would very much like to be offered. Would you recommend that I receive an offer?

* What kinds of processes are in place to help me work collaboratively?

* What are the most common reasons people leave this company?

Not Your Father's Interview Questions

An increasing number of sophisticated candidates come to the job interview prepared to ask some very pointed questions. It's only fair. Interviewers do not hesitate to ask some probing questions of candidates and rightly expect candid responses. Turnabout is fair play. Many candidates now realize that the opportunity to ask questions represents perhaps their best opportunity to advance their candidacies.

The most sophisticated candidates --the candidates companies find most desirable -- understand that asking questions is no longer about eliciting information, but advancing their candidacies. In other words, their "questions" are actually statements in the technical form of a question. The questions above are more focused on making a statement about the candidate than discovering information that is new to them.

These candidates wouldn't waste their time on questions about an organization's training programs, benefits policies, dress codes and corporate history. All of these details are quickly available on the company's website. No, they would forgo such obvious questions for items as targeted as:

* What's your company's "killer application"? What percentage of the market share does it have? Will I be working on it?

* What's the gross profit margin of the division I will be working in?

* Can you give me some examples of the most and least desirable aspects of the company's culture?

* What would I see if I stood outside the front door at 5 o'clock?

* When top performers leave the company, why do they leave and where do they usually go?

* How many approvals would it take (and how long) to get a new $100,000 project idea of mine approved? What percentage of employee-initiated projects in this job were approved last year?

* What exactly does this company value the most and how do you think my work will further these values?

* Am I going to be a mentor or will I be mentored?

* What do you see in me? What are my strongest assets and weaknesses?

* This position sounds like something I'd really like to do and I know that your endorsement is key to my receiving an offer. May I have your endorsement?

Questions such as this are out there and coming your way. The more prepared you are to answer them, the better the job interview will go.

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Of course, there is always the amusement factor when candidates ask some of the worst questions. Here are six of them, along with some comments from interviewers, that are found in Best Questions to Ask On Your Interview:

Six Deal-Killing Questions

1. Can I see the break room?

Sure, it's on your way out.

2. Is it possible for me to get a small loan?

Unlikely, especially if you are offering yourself as collateral.

3. Is it easy to get away with stuff around here?

It would be a challenge even for someone with your credentials. Too bad we'll never find out.

4. How many warnings do you get before you are fired?

The better question is, how many warnings do you get before you are hired? The answer is one. Thanks for providing it.

5. What does this company consider a good absenteeism record?

It starts with guaranteeing your absence.

6. The job description mentions weekend work. Are you serious?

No, what were we thinking? Enjoy your weekends.

John Kador, a frequent contributor to HRE, is the author of 301 Best Questions to Ask On Your Interview (McGraw-Hill, 2010, $14.95) from which the questions in this article are drawn.

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