Want to Stand Out in an Interview? Ask these Four Questions.

Prospective employers will evaluate the questions that you bring to an interview almost as closely as they evaluate your answers to their questions. In addition to all those company-specific questions that everyone tells you to prepare, these questions are terrific for early career professionals, in any industry or role, to ask during an interview.

What keeps you up at night and how can this position help you sleep better? Every hiring manager wants to see a new employee as someone who will take a load off of their plate. This is true for the CEO hiring a SVP of Sales, or a Supervisor in a retail setting hiring a new person to work in the dressing room. It is especially true when they are hiring new graduates because, let’s face it; they know that they are going to need to invest in your training. This question aligns you with that unspoken hope of theirs, that even though you are brand new in the workforce, you are someone who looks to make an impact. This question also gives you valuable information re: what is on your potential boss’s mind.

When you ask it, be sure to bring an example of when you have been able to step up and run with additional responsibility. You don’t have to have an example of where you saved a business millions of dollars, or raised a million dollars for a non-profit. You need an example that establishes you as someone who is looking to add value and has been able to make that happen.

How does this business wow its customers and stand out from its competition? Showing that you are interested in the business, no matter what level your position, is a great way of catching a hiring manager’s attention. When you ask this question you have to have done your homework on the website so you have some information about how they talk about their relationship with their customers and their competitive advantage in the marketplace. Then, when the hiring manager gives you their perspective you can comment on how that answer connects with what you read on the website.

How can the successful candidate work collaboratively with peers in other departments to make an impact on the business? Today, companies and hiring managers list the ability to communicate effectively and work well with others, as two of the top traits they are looking for when they bring new employees on to their team. They are even more interested in people who have a track record of working effectively in cross-functional situations. After you ask this question be prepared to share an example of where you have done this successfully. Don’t have one? Get one. This is an important skill. Ask your current boss to be put on a project or an initiative that is based on cross-functional work. Find a mentor who is good at this and learn from them.

Do you have any additional questions or concerns about my fit for this role? Hiring managers always have things that worry them as the interview is winding down, and you want to know what they are. Knowing these concerns gives you a chance to address them and make the case for yourself as a strong candidate. You look stronger just by asking the question. When considering new graduates, one of the concerns that are almost always present for the hiring manager is the act that you have limited experience. It is very valuable to get them to voice this concern so that you can point them to situations where you didn’t have a lot of experience, but you came up to speed quickly and were successful in the situation.

Good luck! Because you are just starting out, these questions may feel awkward to ask. Ask them anyway. Interviewing is one of those skills that absolutely gets better with practice. If you want additional thoughts and support please feel free to contact us.