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5 Critical Interview Questions You Must Ask

You know that you should be prepared to ask questions during an interview. If you’re like most executives, however, you view this as a formality. You create a list of questions “for show,” but focus most of your interview preparation on how you’ll respond to the interviewer’s questions.

Most executives forget that the interview is as much for them as it is for the employer. You’re not there simply to convince the hiring manager that you’re right for the role. Take advantage of the interview process to gather information that will help you determine whether or not this role is the right fit for you.

Asking questions not only provides you with important information about the role, hiring manager, company culture, work environment, etc., it also allows you to better frame your responses to the interviewer’s questions. Use questions to clarify, gain additional context, and get a deeper sense of the hiring manager’s approach. This will help you shape your responses in order to present yourself as the best candidate for the role.

So which questions should you ask? Here are 5 critical questions that you must ask in every interview.

1. Why is this position open?

Before you step into a new role, you want to understand the circumstances under which you’re being hired. Is this a new position in a growing group? Was the previous person fired for poor performance? Was the last person a rock star who was adored by all?

Each of these scenarios has important implications. By asking this question, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the type of environment you’d be stepping into, any baggage associated with the position, and the expectations of the person who takes the role.

2. What keeps you up at night?

This question provides you with important insights into the hiring manager and the group. As he/she reveals frustrations and challenges, you develop a deeper understanding of the problems facing your would-be organization. This is a great way to assess whether or not this is an environment you want to be part of.

This interview question also allows you to strategically position yourself as the solution to those challenges. As you learn more about the issues confronting the group, discuss specific ways in which you’ve successfully approached similar problems in the past.  When you do, you’ll be much more memorable to the interviewer.

3. What is the criteria for success in this role?

Before you take a new role, you want to understand how the hiring manager defines success. What qualities is he/she looking for in an employee? What goals are you expected to achieve in the short and long-term? Are those goals formally assigned?

You also want to know how you’ll be measured. Understand how the hiring manager, as well as the company, evaluates its employees. How is feedback communicated? Is there a formal review process? These questions not only allow you to understand their expectations, but they give you a window into their approach to management, which can help you better evaluate the fit.

4. Based on what you know today, do you have any reservations about my candidacy?

Many executives are afraid to ask this question for fear of how the interviewer will respond. It’s a powerful opportunity to gauge where you stand, however. Whether or not the interviewer provides a candid response, his/her body language will reveal important information. Many executives leave an interview believing that it went well without ever validating this with the interviewer. Here’s your opportunity to get early feedback.

The question also allows you to respond to any objections raised. Perhaps the hiring manager misunderstood one of your responses or didn’t get a sufficient understanding of one of your skills.  If he/she provides concerns, you now have an opportunity to immediately address any objections and reinforce your candidacy before you leave the room.

5. What are the next steps?

This may seem obvious, but many executives fail to ask what’s next. Knowing the timeline for next steps will provide you with a sense of the process so that you’re not left wondering when you’ll hear something. It also allows you to follow up appropriately if you don’t hear back within the timeframe provided.

Asking powerful interview questions helps you differentiate yourself from your competition. Because most executives treat interviews as an interrogation, rather than a two-way dialogue, your questions will help you shine. You’ll also gather important information to help you decide whether or not you want the position.

Are there additional interview questions you would add to the list? Please share them in the comments section.

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