The 5 Best Questions a Job Candidate Can Ask

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Guest Post by Jeff Haden

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 candidate, “Do you have any questions for me?”

Why? The average candidate doesn’t actually care about how you answer their questions; instead they 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 answered because they’re actively evaluating you and your company… they’re deciding whether they really want to work for you.

Here are five questions great job candidates 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.

2.  “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.

3.  “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.

4.  “What do employees 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.

Now it’s your turn.

If you’re an interviewer, what are great questions you’ve been asked – and what do those questions indicate? Or, if you’re interviewed, what questions do you like to ask?

Jeff HadenJeff Haden writes for Inc. Magazine and is also a LinkedIn Influencer where the article was originally published.    Click “Here” to find out more about Jeff.   

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M Watts   |   04 August 2014   |   Reply

I would also make myself familiar with the company’s values and then ask, “how have you recently used the value of [ ] to lead or perform your work?

That shows I’m paying attention to what the company values as well as watching/expecting the company to be actively using their values rather than it being aspirational corporate speak.

Bob Tiede   |   07 August 2014   |  

Excellent question Matthew!