Interview Tips

10 Questions That Transform Interviews Into Productive Conversations

An interview is an exploration of a partnership from both sides, not a scripted list of questions and answers

Have you ever been in a very awkward conversation? Like, just painfully awkward? Do you also remember the feeling after walking away from that conversation?

You were probably relieved that it was over. You probably felt flustered or frustrated because it was uncomfortable, and you didn’t know if it was because of you, or because of the other person, or just the topic.

Well, unfortunately, that same type of situation can often keep you from getting a job. Aside from answers to questions, candidates are judged on their personality traits like confidence, passion, curiosity, tone of voice, perceived kindness, sense of humor and more. Another significant soft skill is the ability to maintain a smooth, productive and optimistic conversation that flows effortlessly.

Meeting a recruiter or potential supervisor for the first time can end up being very robotic and one-sided, which causes the candidate to feel like they are answering a questionnaire rather than just talking to a real person. It can trick the candidate’s brain into the trap of realizing it’s a test, increasing their likelihood to feel under pressure, rather than realizing it is really just a conversation between two people to see if there is a mutual fit.

Unfortunately, if the conversation is awkward as a result of being one-sided, or you don’t knock it out of the park with all 10/10 answers, it ends up reflecting poorly on you even if it’s not entirely your fault.

The best to avoid this awkward fate is to come prepared with questions of your own. Interviews are not a one-way street. They are a chance for two people to come together and explore the idea of working together.

Think of it as vetting a partnership. When both parties are doing an equal amount of talking, the candidate has more of a chance to let their personality shine and the conversation becomes more organic and productive as a result.

There are questions candidates can ask to help move the conversation along naturally. Here are a few you can take to your next interview to make sure the interviewer not only is impressed by your experience, but is blown away by how great the conversation was.

Asking About the Interviewer

      1. How long have you been with the company?
      2. What did you do before you came here?

These questions will start the conversation off nicely because the recruiter will definitely ask you about your current role, where you’re from and start going down your resume. Take the opportunity to break up the conversation and ask them about themselves. This will help create more of a normal conversation between two people and less of a scripted scenario.

Asking About the “Meat” of the Role

      1. What are the 2-3 skills that are absolutely essential to succeeding in this role? Are there any deal-breakers (“if you don’t have this, you definitely can’t succeed in this role”)?
      2. What are the key success metrics and how are they measured? How will the person in this role be responsible for making sure success is met?
      3. What are some of the day-to-day pain points associated with this role? What other pain points exist that this role could help fix?

The above questions are the most important part of the interview. This is where you truly find out if you can realistically achieve the needs of the company for that particular role. You will undoubtedly be asked about experience, and you will be asked to go in depth about your past roles so that the interviewer can get a feel for what your key strengths are. Asking the above questions will bring even further depth and clarity into the conversation for both the candidate and the interviewer.

Longer Term, Bigger Picture, Higher Level Questions

      1. What are some of the big things you’re trying to improve on right now? How will this role help add to those improvements?
      2. Who else is on the team? How will I work with them?
      3. How do x, y, and z departments interact with our department?
      4. What is your vision for the department and for this role in the next few years?

The above questions will impress the interviewer because of your ability to think big picture. It will show the interviewer that you’re genuinely interested in the nitty gritty details of the role, showing that you’re taking it very seriously. Let your genuine curiosity come across by asking about how you’ll be working with other team members and departments, and nudge them to give you insights into their long term visions. They will appreciate the initiative and passion.

And Before You Go…

1. What is your biggest concern or reservation with hiring me for the position, based on what you’ve heard so far?

This is your one final opportunity to destroy any lingering concerns and worries. There may be something the interviewer heard that either came off the wrong way or was misunderstood. Before walking away and leaving the decision entirely in their hands, get them to let it all out while you still have a chance to defend yourself and your chances.

Remind Yourself It’s a Two-Way Street

As stated earlier, an interview is simply an exploration of a potential partnership. It is not a scripted list of questions where one person asks and one person responds. It’s a two-way street, not a one-way street. So ask questions and make it interactive. Being able to ask the right questions at the right times will add depth to the conversation and will increase your chances of having a successful interview.

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Get Hired, Interview Tips