Some of my candidates focus most of their interview preparation efforts on being able to answer all the potential questions my clients present. I continually remind them that the questions they ask my clients are equally important.
Asking the right questions allows you to present yourself as someone who has “done their homework” and sees the “bigger picture” associated with the opportunity.
There are several unique advantages of working with a recruiter when it comes to this. As I always say to candidates, "Let me do the dirty work - you ask the questions that allow you to shine."
If you are working with a recruiter, you can ask them the simpler questions. There is no reason to waste precious interview time with the hiring manager by asking these types of questions:
See a pattern here? These are all simple questions that a recruiter can answer or track down an answer for you.
Another rule of thumb: If the answer is going to be Yes, No, a number/date, or simply a few words, it is not a good question in the first place.
Also, an interviewer can typically tell if the answer does not really interest you or you are asking the question just so you have one to ask. This certainly conveys a lack of interest in the position, and showing your lack of interest will not move you forward with the position.
The questions that make you shine are ones that reference some research you did on the company or position.
Typically good questions start a fruitful discussion about a topic you and the interviewer know a lot about. This projects you as an expert on an important topic and also builds a connection between you and the interviewer.
Realize that - when you get to ask the questions - you are in full control of the interview and the direction it takes. Your questions dictate the topics of discussion, and allow you to talk about things they may not have asked you about (that could paint you in the best light for the position).
My best candidates not only spend time thinking about good questions, but bounce them off of me for feedback. Since I know my clients well, I can tell the candidates if I think the questions will be a positive addition to the discussion. There is sometimes a potential for a question to get the interviewer on the defensive (never a good thing), and a good recruiter will know these potential “hot buttons” to avoid.
Do not underestimate the value of asking your interviewer the “right questions.” Keeping in mind that this typically happens at the end of the interview, those last ten minutes can leave a lasting, positive impression long after you have walked out of the office.
Job-Hunt's Working with Recruiters Expert Jeff Lipschultz is a 20+ year veteran in management, hiring, and recruiting of all types of business and technical professionals. He has worked in industries ranging from telecom to transportation to dotcom. Jeff is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a Dallas-based recruiting and employment consulting company. Learn more about him through his company site alistsolutions.com. Follow Jeff on LinkedIn and on Twitter (@JLipschultz).
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