At some point in the interview, likely towards the end, we know we’ll be asked for our questions (it happens in 84% of interviews). And we know asking good questions is important, since 32% of hiring managers in a recent study listed not asking good questions in the interview as one of the most detrimental mistakes job candidates make.
Yet we often cut short preparing for this inevitable moment of the interview. I hear it all the time:
“I’ll just ask about company culture, or what they like most about working at the company, or about an exciting project coming up.”
These mediocre questions may not hurt your chances of getting the job like some questions do, but they don’t help you either.
What few people realize is that great questions have the power to convince your interviewer to give you the offer -- sometimes right there in the interview room. And a handful of these great questions carry the dual benefit of eliciting information to help you determine whether you really want the job.
The “Do you have any questions for me?” moment of the interview can confuse us, because we’ve prepared for and gotten used to responding; when the table turns, we can mistakenly put ourselves in the driver’s seat and assume what we ask doesn’t matter.
And while in some cases this may be true (like Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting when he knew he could do anything and still get the offer), most often you are still selling yourself during this part of the interview! Therefore you need to focus on questions that demonstrate your commitment and determination to helping your prospective employer be as successful as possible, and save the “me, me, me” questions for once you receive the offer.
Here’s our shortlist of win-win questions you can ask in almost any interview to get one step closer to an offer while simultaneously determining if it’s the right job for you. And don't miss the bonus question if you determine it is that right job!
1. “What does success in this role look like?”
This question shows your prospective manager your motivation to not just land the role, but to be successful in the role; you’re a candidate who focuses on hitting your goals, hence making her more likely to be successful too.
This question also opens a window into how your prospective manager thinks and what she cares about. Ask yourself upon hearing her response: Are her expectations reasonable? Does she have a clear vision for what it would take to achieve those expectations? And does her definition of success inspire you to want to work your hardest?
2. “What are the most important qualities you look for in someone reporting to you -- what could I do in this role to help you be most successful?”
This question demonstrates your openness to coaching and your eagerness to ensure your behavior sets your manager up for success.
It can also reveal how she relates to her employees. Listen for clues about whether you’ll thrive working for her: Does she look for qualities you already or aspire to possess? Can you expect autonomy or micro-management? Will she expect perfect performance or invest in your growth and development? Her responses should inform whether you would thrive working for her.
3. “Can you tell me about the team’s goals and top priorities for the coming year?”
Asking this question reinforces your results orientation and focus on contributing to the team’s overall success.
It can also generate a dynamic conversation about the team’s struggles and opportunities -- giving you the chance to illustrate why you’re the perfect person to help address them. Listen for opportunities to engage with her about specific areas of knowledge or experience where your contributions will make a difference.
4. “Have I given you any reason not to hire me?” or “Do you have any reservations about my candidacy?”
It may be uber direct, but when asked humbly, this question shows your employer your willingness to get vulnerable and accept constructive feedback.
Most importantly, this question enables you to sniff out any potential objections to your candidacy and to tackle them right there in the room. Listen actively but remember that no matter which reservations she may have, you were qualified enough to make it to the interview! Be ready to respond by restating your greatness in a way that assuages her fears, or by crafting a plan on the spot to address her concerns.
A Bonus Question For The Bold
If at this point the conversation has affirmed your interest and you feel in your bones that this role and manager could be great for you, you have nothing to lose (and a potential job offer to gain!) if you ask this question right:
BONUS: “Can I please have this job?”
Yes, the end-of-pitch close is scary and bold, but I can point to a number of cases where this question has led to an offer right there in the interview room. And at the very least, it illustrates your off the charts enthusiasm for the position and positions you as the most passionate candidate.
Make sure your tone hits somewhere between embarrassed and genuine enthusiasm with a heavy dose of humility, and make sure she gets the point -- you know the odds of her offering you the job in the room are slim, but you just can’t help telling her how perfect this opportunity is for you and inquiring if there’s any chance she’ll tell you it’s yours before you leave.