Interviewing Tip #5 – Asking Questions

In my previous post I described who should be talking during the interview.  Remember that during the face-to-face interview you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you.  So absolutely have a list of questions that you would like to get answered.  Your list of questions can be as long as it needs to be.  If you are interviewing with multiple company representatives, then split the list based on the most appropriate person to direct the question to.  And some of your questions possibly should be directed at multiple interviewers to compare their responses later.  Also, be very mindful of the fact that your questions also tell a lot about you.  So don’t blow them.  Don’t ask a shallow question whose answer is front and center on the website homepage.  This will just show that you didn’t dig very deep with your research.  Instead, ask a question that digs deeper into the strategy of the company or industry.  Or ask a question that demonstrates you’re looking to develop your career, not just find a job.  Here are some ideas:

  • Ask the hiring manager how they would describe their management style.  One way to ask the question is “How would your employees describe your management style?”  You can also go a step further by asking what their employees like best about working for them.
  • Ask how your interviewer would describe the culture of the company
  • Ask a question about the impact of a competitor’s recent announcement
  • If the company is private (not publicly traded), try to find out if revenue has been growing and if the company has yet reached profitability
  • When I’m interviewing candidates, I like to get questions about career paths or opportunities for more responsibility in the future because it shows ambition and shows the candidate is looking for a career-building opportunity rather than just a paycheck
  • Ask how success will be measured for the role
  • Ask what the biggest challenges your hiring manager’s team (or the department he/she is a part of) is currently facing and how the role your interviewing for can help the most towards those challenges
  • Ask what your hiring manager likes the most about the company and how much longer they can see themselves working for the company
  • Ask if the company has any basic beliefs or principals that it operates by and uses to make difficult decision.  As a follow up, you could ask for any recent examples that come to mind.
  • Ask if the interviewer has any concerns about you as a candidate for the position and mention that if they do you’d like a moment to address it.  As long as you’re diplomatic in the way you ask this question, you’ll be fine.

Finally, don’t ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.  Instead, ask what are called open-ended questions.  These questions might start off with “Can you describe ….”, “How does the company go about …”, or “What methods does the company use …”.

See the rest of my series on Interviewing Tips here.   I also have a related series for Resume Writing and one for Job Hunting.

Author: Gordon Daugherty

Over the past 15 years Gordon has seen nearly 1,000 startup pitches, advised more than 200 entrepreneurs and been involved with raising over $45M in growth and venture capital. Throughout his 28 year career in high tech, serving twice as President and three times as CMO, Gordon has both an IPO and a $200M acquisition exit under his belt. Now his emphasis is purely focused on helping startups and early stage tech companies. Through his Shockwave Innovations advisory practice and as Managing Director for Austin’s Capital Factory startup accelerator, Gordon is an active angel investor, VC and startup advisor.

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