The landscape for job seekers today is more treacherous than at any time in recent memory. In other words, if you want a job today, you may actually have to work for it.
Yes, you'll have to nail the answers to the questions you are asked, but the best way to demonstrate your value proposition is to ask great questions. Killer questions are the best way for you to demonstrate that you understand the company's challenges, emphasize how you can help the company meet them, and show your interest in the most unmistakable manner possible by actually asking for the position.
Here are 10 of the best job interview questions candidates have asked from my book, 301 Best Questions to Ask On Your Interview (McGraw-Hill, 2010). There's no reason why you cannot act like a superstar and put some of these questions in your portfolio. Who knows? Maybe if you act like a superstar, the interviewer will treat you as one.
1. Can we start with the weakest part of my resume?
This question demonstrates not only a high level of confidence, but a keen understanding of the selection process. Most interviewers begin in "screening" mode. They want to screen out obviously unqualified candidates so they can concentrate on the others. This question shows that you understand the process and are going right to the heart of the matter because you know the weakest part of your resume is still plenty strong.
2. What's your company's "killer application"? What percentage of the market share does it have? Will I be working on it?
Every company has a core product that often generates the lion's share of the revenues. If that's where you want to be, make sure that's where you will be placed.
3. What's the gross profit margin of the division I will be working in? What percentage of the total profit from the company does it generate? Is it increasing or decreasing?
It's critical to know the contribution of your division or department to the total profit of the organization.
4. Can you give me some examples of the best and worst aspects of the company's culture?
Does the hiring manager have enough insight into how every corporate culture has both positive and negative qualities?
5. What would I see if I stood outside the front door at 5 o'clock? Would everyone be smiling? Staying late or leaving early? Would everyone be taking work home?
Why not conduct this experiment before you ask the question? See if the interviewer's answer squares with your observations.
6. Can you show me that the company has a diverse work force and that it is tolerant of individual differences? Does it have affinity groups or similar programs that I might find beneficial? Is there a dress code? Can you give me an example of any "outrageous conduct" this firm tolerates that the competitors would not?
How tolerant is the company for the kind of chaos that many superstars generate in the course of greatness?
7. When top performers leave the company, why do they leave and where do they usually go?
This is tough for the interviewer to answer because he or she doesn't want to give you names of other employers to consider. But if the interviewer has confidence in her company, she will.
8. When was the last significant layoff? What criteria were used to select those to stay? What packages were offered to those who were let go?
Layoffs are a fact of life even in the most stable companies. It's fair game to talk about the company's management of layoffs.
9. Does the company have a program to significantly reward individuals who develop patents and great products? Is there a program to help individuals "start" their own firms or subsidiary? Will I be required to fill out non compete agreements?
You plan to generate great intellectual property for the company. It's fair to know how those assets will be managed.
10. How many approvals would it take (and how long) to get a new $110,000 project idea of mine approved? What percentage of employee-initiated projects in this job were approved last year?
Ask for examples. If you want to be part of a nimble organization, this is a great way to ask.
John Kador is the author of 301 Best Questions to Ask on Your Interview, McGraw-Hill, 2010. He can be reached at [email protected]