Now that all the site upgrades are pretty much out of the way, let’s get
back to business. In one of my previous articles titled, “How to Ace
Your Next Job Interview”, I talked about how to answer the most common
questions asked by a hiring manager.
A lot of folks responded with, “What are the best questions to ask during an interview?”
So today I am going to look at the other side of that coin and help clarify the best questions to ask during a job interview.
We have always grown up learning that there is no such thing as a “dumb” question. This is still true, but in certain situations there are
questions that we can ask that reveal our level of competence on a
So it is highly important that when you ask a question, you come across well informed and on the right level of competence.
Otherwise, you can easily be disqualified from consideration for not showing the right level of competence.
Remember, you may be the top professional in your current position, but the interviewer does not know you from Bill or Peter, Jane or Misty
or Sanjay from Quan. So every aspect of your interview is being
dissected for clues into your skill level, personality and overall
And questions are one of the best way for interviewers to learn these things about you. Believe it or not, but you can reveal more about yourself by what they ask then what you tell.
Experienced interviewers like myself who have interviewed thousands of candidates can easily learn about what a person brings to the table via the questions they ask.
As a result, I am going to show you how to formulate the best questions so you don’t lose a job opportunity for not knowing the difference between a good and not so good question.
So with that said, let’s get to it.
When asking questions, Human Resources and the Hiring Manager get different questions. Don’t ask HR about job duties and don’t ask the Hiring Manager about benefits, pay, etc…
HR = benefits, pay, vacation, bonus programs, etc…
Hiring Manager = all core job related questions.
There two types of questions that you will need to formulate and deliver during your job interview. The two types are:
1) Premeditated questions that you bring with you to the interview.
2) Questions that come to mind during an interview.
The premeditated questions should be limited to 4 – 6. You don’t want to have too few because they might be answered during the interview
before you get a chance to ask them. If that happens, then you might as
well have shown up to the interview without questions in the first
So invest the time to come up with 4 – 6 quality premeditated questions. Also, good premeditated questions will open up the playing
field and lead you to the questions that you will need to formulate and
ask during the interview.
The objective of all of this is to create a conversational tone between two professionals who understand each other. Telling &
selling stopped working in sales a long time ago. And it is no different
when you are trying to sell your ability to get the job done.
So how can you tell between quality questions and the alternative?
Let’s assume your name is Chuck and you are a Product Design Engineer with a Mechanical Engineering background. You are applying for a job
that requires you to improve upon the design of a popular toaster oven.
The hiring manager just finished describing the job in great detail to
you and says, “Chuck, what questions do you have in regards to this
Here are some examples of quality questions that you can ask:
1) How much innovative latitude will I have in terms the design of this product?
ex: A question like this shows that you are thinking a few steps ahead, but not too far ahead. You are
demonstrating that you have a hunger to improve and probably have some
ideas already. A question like this can really open up the conversation
and take the interview into a more conversational tone.
2) Are there any specific challenges that you are facing right now with the design of this product?
ex: When you take a consultative approach to the interview, it really sets you up for developing the 2nd type of
questions that you need to ask. Which are the questions that come up
during the interview.
Consultative type questions help you uncover the X-factors that only surface once you drill down beyond the job description and really learn what the needs are.
Keep in mind that each team has specific needs that don’t always show up clearly on the job description.
For example, in this Product Design role it could be that the manager already has a great design team, but is looking for someone with more people and leadership skills.
Or maybe they are looking for someone who is really strong using a new software that the team just implemented.
These types of things are the X-factors that really can help differentiate you from equally experienced candidates and land that job if you hit the nail right on the head.
3) If the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) is passed, then what impact do you think it will have on the design of this product?
ex: When you are a Product Design Engineer who is aware of external factors impacting your work such as
regulations, competitor recalls, etc… Then you demonstrate that you are a
different caliber of professional. It takes someone with true passion
about what they do to actually care about something like this.
You also demonstrate that you understand the product design function well enough to know that certain regulatory
measures can truly alter the scope of a project, so they need to be
This concept is not limited to engineering. Today there are more bills being passed by the Whitehouse
than between people. And that means that all industries are going to be
affected. Learn what bills impact your industry and find out how that
might change the scope of the business.
Some bills being passed can actually cripple an entire industry, so you need to know what plans a company has for them.
Keep in mind, when you are being interviewed; you are also interviewing the company. If they don’t show they have it all together,
you might want to work there. The deal is that you do your job as long
as they do theirs. And you need to make sure that they are as good at
doing their job as you are at yours.
So don’t ever feel hesitant to ask questions that help you learn if this is the right fit for you. Just don’t be brash or arrogant because no one likes that in any setting.
The idea behind asking questions is learning more about the company and also helping to move the interview along. You can only show your
great personality if you are able to talk and express yourself. And the
more you are able to express yourself, the more you give the
interviewer to observe and like.
If you are asking the right questions and responding well to their questions, then you will give more to like than dislike.
So let’s quickly look at some bad interview questions. I won’t elaborate too much because you should be able to see the stark contrast between the quality examples above vs. the low quality examples here:
1) How much training will I receive to help me do the job?
ex: There are very few occasions where this question is valid. A question like this might work if you are
recruited right out of college. Outside of that, just assume that there
is some support system put in place to help you succeed. But for the
most part, companies are hiring you to do a job you already know how to
do. And hopefully you can do it better than they expect of you.
Very few companies want to train you to do your job. They might train you once you are hired to do a more
complex job as you grow into your career. But don’t go into a job hoping
to be trained. Have confidence in what you can do and don’t ask this
question during an interview.
It shows nothing about your strengths and puts your weakness in bright bold highlights.
2) What are the advancement opportunities in this job / company?
ex: This is not a horrible question but what are you supposed to follow this up with? A great professional who
takes their career seriously knows that they will advance just on the
merits of their craft. And if they don’t advance in due time they will
When you ask then you might get a corporate sales pitch on advancement opportunities, but this question
does not show the hiring manager that you can do the job. It shows that
you are interested in Number Uno, which is yourself, but have you proven
you can do the job yet?
Should they hire you because you are interested in a promotion before you even shown you are good at what you do?
When you ask questions, you want to raise eyebrows and draw attention to your greatest strengths. You want to
take control of the interview and turn it into a conversation about what
you can deliver to this team. Not a Q & A session that is right out
of a job interview text book.
It does not build any kind of rapport and if there is a better prepared candidate with dynamic questions on the slate, then know that you are toast.
3) What is the most important skill you are looking for?
ex: If you ask a question like this, it shows you have good intention but poor tact. Intelligence is partly
measured in a persons ability to bring two concepts together and create a
When you drop a very direct question that almost has an obvious answer, then you really start putting yourself in
a bad spot. Especially if the manager answers and you respond with,
“great that is one of my strengths!”
This sort of conversation is too elementary to win the mind game in an interview. Remember the skill is
needed to solve a problem. You show that you can solve the problem and
the interviewer will automatically assume you have the skills to do it.
Remember the quality example: “What is the greatest challenge that you are currently facing in terms of design?” Once the interviewer
answers and you respond with a solution, then you have shown you have
the skills without ever needing to ask what they are. You are also
communicating at a much higher level which is always a plus in an ideal
Hopefully these examples help identify the guidelines you can follow in composing your interview questions. Your questions are a window into
your abilities, so only open the windows that you want the manager to
If you get stumped and are going on an interview soon, then don’t hesitate to reach out to me and I will gladly help you.
In the mean time, do your thing and “Make It Happen!”