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Asking the Right Questions

Whether you’re from a western country, Latin America, China or anywhere else in the world, there some things that just don’t change when it comes to a job interview, and that includes asking your interviewer some of your own questions. After all, having some thoughtful questions ready only shows preparedness and curiosity on your part.

What kinds of questions should you ask? Salary is an obvious job motivator, and there’s no doubt everyone should receive a salary commensurate with his or her qualifications. But a question about salary should wait, at least until the second interview (if there is one) or until a job offer is made. Also, specifics like parking availability have little to do with your actual work, so hold off until a more appropriate time.

The first interview is a chance to impress, to talk about your passions and why you’re suited for the job, and to learn more about whether or not the position is a right fit. Veer off track with details that can wait and you could leave the interviewer with a bad impression.

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But don’t forget: a job interview is a two way street, a chance for the employer to learn more about you and for you to learn more about the employer). Below are six questions we suggest for the end of your interview.

1. If I were to start tomorrow, what would be my top priority?

The answer will surely go a long way in determining whether the job’s for you, but it also illustrates your understanding that tasks must be prioritize. But there’s an added bonus: the interviewer will begin picturing you on the job.
2. What would you say are the top two personality traits someone needs to do this job well?

Words – even the most indirect – are telling. “Creative” and “intuitive” can be translated to mean you’ll be on your own, while “patient” and “collaborative” could mean the opposite. The question can help you determine if the job is right for you, but also help the interviewer picture you as a real person, not a paper resume.

3. What improvements or changes do you hope the new candidate will bring to this position?

Usually when a position is vacated, an employer ruminates over what could be done differently when a new hire comes in. Now’s your chance to find out too, giving you insight into how the position was previously executed and how you can steer it in a new direction. It also shows the employer your desire to be the best person to fill the post.

4. I know this company prides itself on X and Y, so what would you say is the most important aspect of your culture?

This type of question is sure to impress, as it shows that you’ve done your research on the company and gives you a chance to gain insight into what values are held to the highest ideal.

5. Do you like working here?

This question might take interviewers back a bit, but their answer will be telling. Of course, most interviewers are unlikely to say a direct “No,” but their answers could ultimately determine whether you accept a job offer. A good sign is a confident smile and an enthusiastic “yes” paired with an explanation as to why. If they shift in their seat, look away, cough and start with “Well…”, consider it a red flag.

A question like this also lends itself to a conversation, which is a great way to bring the interview down to a more relaxed and personable level.

6. Is there anything that stands out to you that makes you think I might not be the right fit for this job?

Asking this question can be scary, and could lead to something you don’t want to hear. But in the end, it can work to your advantage. Not only does it give you the opportunity to better explain yourself if need be (watch your tone and don’t sound to defensive), it shows that you can take criticism.
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