Your Job-Seeking Secret Weapon
There’s one moment in a job interview that’s fraught with suspense: that moment when the interviewer says, “Do you have any questions for me?” In the probably 100 job interviews I’ve witnessed, either as the interviewer or the interviewee, that moment brings a crackle of tension every time: will the candidate have a relevant, insightful question? Or will they just ask about the vacation policy? Or worst of all, mutter: “No, I think you’ve covered everything.”
The do-you-have-questions moment is more than just your chance to shine in a job interview. It’s an opportunity to do a bit of interview jiu-jitsu that will tell you how to answer all the other questions the interviewer asks you.
If you’ve got the right questions in your back pocket, there’s a good chance you’ll get the job, too! And, best of all, it’s easier than you think. Read on for the three magic questions you should ask to boost your chances in any job interview.
Becoming a Job Interview Mind-Reader
Any time you interview for a job, you’d like to be able to read the interviewer’s mind. The interviewer has plenty of thoughts and opinions – on you, on the company, on the job – and all those things are extremely valuable information to you, the job seeker.
But most interviewers are not particularly forthcoming with that information, and some will even try to mislead you. For some reason, lots of interviewers want you to think that they view you less positively than they actually do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a call back or even a job offer from someone who I thought totally hated me!
To find out what the interviewer really thinks, you’ll have to do some mind-reading. Thankfully, it’s easier than it sounds.
Question Time = Open Season
The good news is that there’s usually a moment when the interviewer gives you full permission to find out exactly what’s on his or her mind. They literally invite you to ask them questions. This is your chance!
Unfortunately, there are some meaty questions you’d like to know the answers to, but you’re not likely to get a straight answer. Questions like,
“Do you think I’m the best candidate for this position, compared to everyone else you’ve interviewed?”
“Do you have any unconscious biases that will keep you from giving me full and fair consideration?”
“Is this a good job for me, or a soul-crushing energy vampire?”
The 3 Magic Questions
Interviewers won’t answer those questions, but they will answer these. I call them the three “magic questions” because each one has a special power that will help swing the interview in your direction.
1. What are the characteristics it takes for someone to succeed in this role?
Special Power: Listen closely – the interviewer is about to tell you exactly what he or she is looking for in a job candidate. Now you can tailor your answers to demonstrate exactly why you are all of those things!
Added Benefit: If the interviewer names a bunch of characteristics that just aren’t you, it’s better to know now, while you can walk away. You want a job that fits your strengths, not one that forces you to pretend to be something you’re not!
2. If I were hired for this position, what would you expect me to accomplish in my first 90 days?
Special Power: This question requires the interviewer to envision you in the job. Visualization is a very powerful influence on our decision-making processes! For example, a Stanford study found that people who had visualized the results of making a certain decision (using virtual reality) were far more likely to make that decision the same way in real life. This strategy could even help overcome unconscious biases that might prevent the interviewer from “seeing” you in the role – say, you bear a passing resemblance to their scumball ex.
Added Benefit: This list of hypothetical accomplishments tells you exactly which of your real-life accomplishments to emphasize! The interviewer wants you to land a slew of new sales? Talk about the time you brought in six new deals in three weeks. They’re looking for someone to ease overburdened colleagues’ workload? Tell the story of how you “hit the ground running” in your last job.
3. If I were hired for this position, what do you think would be my major challenges?
Special Power: Now the interviewer is going to tell you what they think your weaknesses are. This is your opportunity to either correct their misconceptions (“Actually, I’ve been programming in Java for three years!”) or describe how you’ll overcome each weak point.
Added Benefit: You’ll also learn a lot about the job and the company. You might get an answer like, “I think your number-one challenge will be avoiding burnout. The last five people who had this job quit after a month because they just couldn’t take it.” If that sounds like your cup of tea, go for it! But if not, back away slowly from the soul-crushing energy vampire.
Don’t Save the Best for Last
You’ve probably already guessed that it’s wise to bring up the magic questions early in the interview. Good thinking! Just because interviewers usually ask “Do you have any questions for me?” at the end of the interview, doesn’t mean you have to wait until then to unleash your magic. Just make sure to save at least one question until the end, to end the interview on a strong note.
Do you have magic questions of your own? Share them with us in the comments!
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More Job Interview Hacks:
The Only Way to Answer “What’s Your Greatest Weakness?”