Questions You Should Always Ask During the Interview Process, And Why
Interviews are designed to be conversations, not interrogations. While you can expect to be asked questions by those involved in the interview process, you should also come armed with your own questions. Not only will there be certain things that you want, or need, to know about. Asking thoughtful questions can help convey to potential employers that you are a serious candidate and that your thought process aligns well with their mission and culture.
But, while you should certainly be prepared to ask questions, this isn’t a free for all; not all questions are created equal. In this post we take a look at some questions you should always plan to ask. In a follow up post we look at some questions that experts say you should never ask during the interview process.
All About Them, Not About You
The focus on your questions, says John Crossman is CEO of Crossman & Company, a real estate firm, should be on them and not you. “It shows that you have a servant’s heart,” he says.
Questions that focus specifically on the company and highlight research you have done to learn more can be a great way to indicate your interest. It shows, says Crossman, “that you are intelligent, thoughtful and prepared.” For example: “You recently expanded in the Phoenix market. What drove you to expand there? Do you have plans to continue to grow on the west coast?”
Another great question to ask says McCall, is: “How will you know, after my first 90 days, that I’ve been successful in this role?” There’s an added benefit to this one if you get hired for the job, she notes. “You have a clear directive to work toward in your first 90 days.”
This type of question conveys that you understand that your role—regardless of the position you’re applying for—is to support the organization’s efforts, strategies and goals.
Reinforcing the Big Benefits Your Military Background Can Bring
Frank Rivera is director of military and veteran affairs at New York Institute of Technology. He served in the U.S. Air Force, rose to the rank of staff sergeant, and was a flying crew chief on C-5 aircraft stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California. Candidates with military experience can ask questions to help convey the potential benefit of their experience to the employer. Rivera suggests the following:
- How do you see my military experience and education contributing to the organization’s short and long-term goals? “While this topic may come up organically, it is vital for the military veteran to gauge the cultural competency of the organization for which they may work,” Rivera says.
- How many military affiliated personnel does your organization employ? “This question is actually two questions in one,” says Rivera. “Similar to the first question, we are gauging cultural competency with the wording ‘military affiliated.’ Military service varies greatly and includes national guardsmen and women, reservists, retired, tradition veterans, and military dependents. Having an employer understand these variations of service has the ability to put the service member at ease, displaying the employer’s knowledge of the community in a covert way.”
- Does your organization have a clear and defined structure or hierarchy? “Chain of command is an essential pillar I the military, providing a service member with a clear path to elevate issues and ideas alike,” says Rivera. “Organizations lacking a defined structure can be frustrating to work for, as there is no defined route to bring issues to the proper authorities’ attention.”
Your interviewers’ responses to these questions can help you determine how well they understand the benefits your military background can bring. If that understanding doesn’t seem explicit, you have an opportunity to educate and reinforce that value.
Wrapping It Up
Maureen McCann is an executive career strategist with Promotion Career Solutions and a military spouse who has worked with the Canadian military population. The end of the interview is a good time to ask this question, McCann says:
“Is there anything about my previous answers I can clarify or strengthen for you?”
This demonstrates that you’re thinking about the process from their perspective and that you’re willing to do more than the average candidate to get the job, she says. In addition, she says: “Asking this question may give you greater insight into the motivators of the employer to hire the right candidate.”
She gives an example of a client she coached to go into the interview knowing her top five offerings. During the interview this candidate felt she had covered these five points very well. But, at the end of the interview she asked if there was anything she could clarify. As it turns out, from their perspective, she had only nailed three of her five offerings. “The employer was unclear about the other two,” says McCall. “She focused on the two items and was able to give them more than enough information to answer their question. She was offered the job shortly thereafter.”
The interview process is a two-way street. Employers and hiring managers are trying to get a sense of how well you will fit with the organization and be able to perform the essential functions of the job. Candidates are also assessing the organization for fit. Asking the right questions can get you the answers you need while reinforcing the potential value you can contribute to the role, and to the organization.
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