How to Interview Your Interviewer: 6 Tips for Nailing this Overlooked Step in Getting Hired

Congratulations! You attended one of our recent New Tech Job Fairs, made several meaningful connections and landed an interview. We previously covered ten tips to help you ace the upcoming job interview (here and here). Today we will dive deeper into one of the tips only touched on briefly in that series: The art of asking insightful questions before concluding the interview.

We often spend much of our time and energy preparing to answer the most dreaded interview questions (e.g., What’s your greatest weakness? Tell me about a recent failure you experienced? Describe a time you disagreed with a manager / coworker and how you handled it?). However, we often overlook another key portion of the interview that only you can control and provides another opportunity for you to shine.

You don’t want to leave the impression that you haven’t done your homework (asking basic questions about the company that could be found on their website or in the job description) – or worse that you don’t have any questions at all – so make time to jot down a list of questions that show your interest, enthusiasm and curiosity about the company and role. Those final five to 10 or 15 minutes of the interview are just as much about making sure the job is the right fit for YOU as you are a fit for the employer and role.

Try to avoid questions they can answer with a simple “yes” or “no” response. Ask questions that begin with “what, how, and why” to generate deeper answers with more information. You want to devote this time to really learning more about the company, the specific role, the team and culture. To get the creative juices flowing, here are some sample questions you can ask:

  1. Instead of simply asking about company culture, where you’re likely to hear much the same from every company, ask, “How does the culture differ from that of your competitors / other tech companies?” Instead of hearing about dogs, video games and free food, you can start to learn how much thought and energy the company places on fostering culture internally.
  2. If the individual or individuals conducting the interview will work closely with the person hired for this position, you may want to ask them to “Describe a project you’ve collaborated on with this role in recent months. What did the project entail and what were the results?” Rather than simply hearing about a project the interviewer is proud of but could have no connection to this role, the goal here is to hopefully learn more about how the team works together and whether it’s the right fit for you.
  3. To try and get at the internal decision-making roles, processes and procedures, consider asking, “How are technology product / service decisions made?” Is the process clearly defined? You could pick up some clues here about opportunities (or bureaucracy) to influence products as they evolve or help the company pursue new services based on your area of expertise.
  4. Particularly when it comes to startups and private companies it can be insightful to ask, “What is the company’s current financial status (and / or goals)?” The interviewer may not know or be able to share much detail, but you may be able to glean whether they are profitable (or when they expect to be). If it’s important to your career decision, you may also be able to learn if there are plans to eventually take the company public, secure another round of funding, or pursue a merger or acquisition.
  5. How does this role serve the business and financial goals of the team and company leadership?” Job descriptions are often a bulleted list of tasks, which they may or may list in order of priority or even clearly correlate to the company’s goals and objectives. This is your opportunity to better understand how you can help impact the business.
  6. And, lastly, my favorite question to ask before concluding an interview is not about next steps, but instead is one that can take a bit more confidence to bring up. Particularly, if you’ve already been through one or more rounds of interviews, consider asking some variation of, “Is there anything I have shared or about my background that makes you question whether I’m a great fit for this role?” The interviewer won’t always be forthright but you may uncover a gap that you can address before walking out the door.

There you have it. In addition to highlighting any skills or experience that you did not have an opportunity to speak to during the interview, these questions should give you plenty of insight to include in your thank you note following the interview (yes, they still matter).

Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that you may receive answers to some of the questions you wrote down during the interview itself. As such, it’s always a good idea to have more questions than you’ll have time to ask. Remember, you’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you. Instead of drawing a blank when the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?” take time in advance to come up with a list of insightful questions when it’s your turn.

And now it is your turn. What are some other questions you like to ask at the end of an interview?

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