While you certainly have questions you like to ask (like these three), and maybe you ask one question to identify a superstar… if you’re an experienced interviewer you may almost always feel it’s a waste of time when you ask the average candidate, “Do you have any questions for me?”
Why? Most candidates don’t actually care about how you answer their questions; instead their only goal is to try to make themselves look good by asking “smart” questions. To them, what they ask is a lot more important than how you answer.
On the other hand, great candidates ask questions they actually want the answers to because they’re actively evaluating you and your company: they are deciding whether they really want to work for you.
If you’re interviewing for a job, here are some great questions to ask:
1. “What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?”
Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They don’t want to spend weeks or months “getting to know the organization.” They want to make a difference right away.
Plus they want to know how they’ll be evaluated – so they definitely want to understand objectives and expectations.
After this post was published, Roland Ruf emailed with a nice follow-up question. He said, “One of my favorite questions to potential employers is: ‘What are my KPI’s, what are my success criterion, and how will you measure my performance?’
“You wouldn’t believe how many companies haven’t thought about this and can’t provide an answer… and when that happens, I’m no longer interested in the position.”
2. “What are the one or two things that really drive results for the company?”
Employees are investments, and every employee should generate a positive return on his or her salary. (Otherwise why are they on the payroll?)
In every job some activities make a bigger difference than others. You want your HR staff to fill job openings… but what you really need is for HR to find the right candidates because that results in higher retention rates, lower training costs, and better overall productivity.
You want your service techs to perform effective repairs… but what you really need is for those techs to identify ways to solve problems and provide further benefits — in short, to generate additional sales.
Great candidates want to know what truly makes a difference for your company… because they know helping the company succeed means they will also succeed, on multiple levels.
3. “What are the common attributes of your top performers?”
Great candidates also want to be great long-term employees. Every organization is different, and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organizations.
Maybe your top performers work longer hours. Or maybe flexibility and creativity is more important than following rigid processes. Or maybe landing new customers in new markets is more important than building long-term customer relationships. Or maybe spending the same amount of time educating an entry-level customer is as important as helping an enthusiast who wants high-end solutions.
Whatever the answer may be, great candidates want to know because 1) they want to know if they fit, and 2) if they do, they definitely want to be a top performer.
4. “What do your employees like do in their spare time?”
Happy employees 1) love the work they do, and 2) genuinely like the people they work with.
Granted this is a tough question to answer. Unless the company is really small, all any interviewer can do is speak in generalities.
Even so, great candidates want to make sure they have a reasonable chance of fitting in with the culture — because great job candidates almost always have options.
5. “How do you plan to deal with…?”
Every business faces a major challenge: technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends… there’s rarely a moat protecting a small business.
So while a candidate may see your company as a stepping-stone, they still hope for growth and advancement… and if they do eventually leave, they want it to be on their terms and not because you were forced out of business.
Say I’m interviewing for a position at your bike shop. Another shop is opening less than a mile away. How do you plan to deal with the new competitor?
Or say you run a poultry farm (a major industry where I live): What will you do to deal with rising feed costs?
A great candidate doesn’t just want to know what you think; they want to know what you plan to do — and how they will fit into those plans.
This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Jeff Haden is a contributing editor for Inc. Magazine.
Image: Hays Recruitment Consultancy Section Manager Ignacio Ramos (L) interviews Vicente Balmaseda at the Hays offices in downtown Madrid December 5, 2008. REUTERS/Susana Vera.