Preparing for a job interview can feel like you’re slaying a two-headed beast. You’ve got to sell yourself, while also interviewing your host to make sure the job is one you really want.
The first part is easy. After several decades on the job, you know how to sell yourself. But lots of candidates neglect the flip side of the interview – what you should ask. Smart questions that show you know a lot about your potential employer can be the best sales pitch of all.
The right approach is to ask questions that demonstrate you’re really interested in the job and the company, and also show off your experience and know-how, says Vivian Steir Rabin, co-founder of iRelaunch, co-author of Back on the Career Track and a former executive recruiter.
Just about every interviewer ends with “Do you have any questions for me?” “That last ten or fifteen minutes is your time to shine,” says Rabin. And if your interviewer doesn’t ask, be sure to volunteer, saying something like, “I have a few questions for you if you don’t mind.”
Prepare, prepare, then prepare some more
The key to questions that transport you to the top of the list is massive preparation. You already know you should read the annual report (if the potential employer is a public company) and any news reports. By now you’ve talked to everyone you know who works or worked for the company or has a friend who worked there. These days you’ve also got to scour the internet and social media sites. Read the company’s Facebook page, Twitter feeds, the LinkedIn account. Watch every You Tube video the company has posted. Often smaller companies that are not required to file public documents will have a big presence on the Web.
Pose questions that show off your smarts
Armed with this research you should formulate big-picture questions about the business as well as specific questions about the job. For instance, “What about that dip in earnings last quarter?” Or, “I know there’s a new product line in the works. Would this marketing job be involved with that?” Be sure to mention what you saw – or didn’t see — on new media. Something like, “I noticed your Facebook page hasn’t been updated in a while; what is your social media strategy?” Or, “Have you ever considered posting your customer service videos on You Tube?”