There’s a common saying when interviewing, “Act like the job needs you, not like you need the job.” For the most part, this quote is pretty accurate. When you walk into the conference room, waiting for the lineup of potential bosses and coworkers to meet you and assess if you’d be good for the team, you need to keep a cool head and pull a left turn: flip the tables on them. Make them want you.
You need to become the one asking the hard questions, to make them fall in love with you.
By flipping the script and interviewing your would-be peers, you’re letting everyone know that you mean business. Answering questions with thought out replies is a significant part of the interview process, but by keeping a few questions in mind to ask when feeling out how the team and company moves shows you’re thoughtful and that you care about the position.
Confidence and composure are what the team is looking for, not how your resume reads. By creating conversation, or bouncing ideas off one another in an admittedly awkward environment relieves some of the tension but also shows that you can assume control of a situation that you’re not entirely comfortable with. People enjoy being engaged, it’s not Pavlovian, but we react in kind when an interviewee volleys the questions back and thus creates an honest dialogue vs. a rehearsed call and response.
We asked some folks who’ve been on the hiring side of the interviewing table what they’d love to hear when looking for their next great teammate, what makes them raise an eyebrow or catches them off guard. In the world of the job hunt, it’s all about impact and standing out, not just answering what you think the interviewer wants to hear.
“The interviewee should have made time to conduct strong research on the company, role, market, and form ideas about how they will add value. The most compelling candidates do their research and ask relevant questions.” – Brian, CFO/COO
It’s important to come to your interview prepared and know the company, their space and what you think they’re trying to accomplish. By asking about how the company is positioning itself against natural industry evolution, it shows you’re trying to plan the next move and instead of trying to come from behind and jump in mid-stream. Granted, no one expects greatness overnight, but it helps to feign commitment to developing the future instead of relying on status quo.
Others are all about goals and successes, finding out ahead of time where you could fit in and what is expected of your role. By asking what metrics can be hit for the most effectiveness or how you can be a major contributor to the team makes a case for an objective-minded person:
“I want them to ask about team dynamic. If they aren’t asking about what level of autonomy they’ll have, what the feedback process looks like, and how we typically communicate, then they likely aren’t looking to be engaged in the way we need them to be.”
– Beki, Project Manager
“What are the KPIs for the position, how are they measured (if not obvious), and is there a bonus in exceeding them?” – Victorio, CEO
“I also now ask what success looks like for the role. And add a time frame, like six months. It makes the interviewer distill the real aim/purpose of the job. What they say first is very telling about what they care about, e.g., You have met all your performance targets, or you’re successful in your team, or you’re taking the initiative on new projects.”
– Claire, Technical Writer
Other questions are straight ahead and get down to the brass tacks, looking to strip away any fluff. It’s important to keep the smaller, more direct questions at the forefront, too. Every question doesn’t have to be a big picture narrative, there’s plenty of room for the inquiry that strikes to the heart of why would I want to be on this team?
Can I meet some of the people that I will be working with, or managing? – Heather, Writer
What surprised you most about joining this team? – Elena, Product Marketing Manager
Heading into your interview with a few questions about the position will only help drive the point home that you’re the person for the job. It doesn’t matter if you’re trading stocks, cleaning toilets, or writing blogs, the important lesson here is to drive engagement between you and the people interviewing. You want them to see you as effective, informed, and ready to be an impact player on the team. You made it all the way to the in-person round; they like you, it’s up to you to seal the deal with some extra pizazz.
And if all else fails you can be weird and ask something like “Would you rather fight 100 horse sized ducks or 100 duck sized horses?” We don’t recommend it, but Michael, a quirky CEO went there. Don’t blame us. We’re just trying to help.