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 Customizing Your Interview Questions

By Joe Stein

A common concern amongst job seekers is what to ask in the interview that will be impressive to the Interviewer. It is sometimes difficult to determine what is not only an appropriate question, but also one that will earn you some additional points. Like everything you do in an interview, you can improve your candidacy by asking solid insightful questions.
 
One way you can separate yourself, is to differ the questions depending on who you are being interviewed by. Of course, you can ask questions to really anyone, but certain questions seem to match up better with some people.
 
So, you may be wondering how you can customize your interview questions in a positive way. Below is a list of potentially key players in the interview process and what questions you can consider asking in order to learn more while providing yourself a competitive advantage.
 
·         Recruiter – The Recruiter is often your starting point in the interview process. This is generally a good spot to ask questions about the company culture and anything that has recently been “in the news”.   He/she should know the “buzz” and should not be taken off guard with these types of question. The Recruiter will also typically be the one “quarterbacking” the overall process and can shed light on the various steps and approximately how long it should take to reach completion. A more inexperienced (or someone who really wants the position filled) Recruiter may also provide you with some key clues regarding what the Hiring Manager is specifically seeking in the position. Finally, you can also ask about the Hiring Manager in an attempt to find out more about his/her personality and background.
 
·         Hiring Manager – The Hiring Manager is traditionally the person you will be reporting to if hired for the position. This is also the person who ultimately should be the decision maker regarding whether you will be hired for the position.  If you have any specific questions about the Department or the position, this would be the person to ask. Inquire about the key challenges being faced and how you can be of assistance. It is generally a good practice to ask this question of anyone, but be sure to probe with the Hiring Manager whether you have answered all of his/her questions. Inquire whether the Interviewer has any concerns that you can try to address while you are together. If appropriate for the position, this is also where you would clarify items like your schedule and the training or on-boarding program. Please keep in mind that if you are interviewing for a more entry level position or with a smaller employer you may only meet with the Hiring Manager once before a decision is made. This is the time to ask any questions you may have that will need to be answered prior to you making a decision to accept.
 
·         Sr. Leader – On some occasions, you may be required to interview with the supervisor of the Hiring Manager. In most circumstances, this is an indication that the company is serious about your candidacy. If provided this opportunity, take advantage of the chance to talk about the style of the Hiring Manager. You can also ask this person’s perspective regarding how the department is performing, what will be the key challenges, and what they already do well. A Sr. Leader also has a different view, due to the higher level, regarding company performance and overall business opportunities. In summary, this is less about the day-to-day of the position and more about the bigger picture perspective.
 
·         Co-Workers – On some occasions, you may have the opportunity to speak to people you will be working with (on even rarer occasions, it may be people that will report to you). This will likely be done via a tour or some type of group setting. With this audience, you can ask about the leadership style of your potential supervisor. You can also probe about the company and department culture. Other questions that may be of value can be what these people like best about their job or (perhaps) what they like least. Finally, you can inquire about the training/on-boarding process for new hires.
 
We have focused this week on what to ask and to whom. There is very little you can’t or shouldn’t ask in an interview, so don’t be nervous. Personally, however, I like to stay away from asking specific questions regarding benefits, vacation time, or pay until towards the end of the process. I generally prefer to have the emphasis on the position and how my specific skills compare to the needs of the organization. Wait until towards the end of the process, when you are convinced that you are a leading candidate, before asking any of those pay/benefits questions.
 
The opportunity to ask questions is the traditional way for a job seeker to be able to finish an interview. This exercise provides you the opportunity to not only learn some valuable information, but also to impress the Interviewer with the quality of your questions. One of the ways you can do this is to customize your questions based on who you are interviewing with. 
 
As always, best of luck in your job search!