3 Things to Know When Preparing for Your Interview

So, you applied for a job and landed a big interview? Congrats! You made it past one of the hardest phases of the job search!

But now what?

 It’s time to plan out your interview strategy, which includes several key components:

  1. Gather clean copies of your resume and cover letter;
  2. Finalize your references and compile a portfolio of professional accomplishments;
  3. Practice responding to interview questions by articulating your skills through stories that demonstrate your marketable skills; and
  4. Prepare good questions to ask your interviewer

The remainder of this article assumes you’ve completed Steps 1-3. But if that’s not the case, now would be the perfect time to schedule an appointment with your Career Consultant! They’ll support you through each of these steps and more.

Crafting and Selecting Your Interview Questions

 Whether you’ve written them down or not, you probably have lots of questions about the vacant position that first piqued your interest. Aren’t you curious about the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities? Maybe you’re concerned about the company’s culture and professional environment? Want to know more about the leadership style of your supervisor? Wonder what training will be like and what’s expected of you in the first 3-6 months of your new role?

These are all important factors to consider before committing yourself to a new role, and the interview process is a great way to get answers. Remember, interviews are not a one-way conversation—they’re just as much for you as they are for the employers!

 Now that you’ve put together a list of burning questions for your interview, you might be wondering how many questions to ask. All of them? Most? Some?

Well, like most answers you’ll receive in your adult life—it depends!

Three major factors influence how many (and which) questions you should ask in your interview.

  1. Your questions will depend on the type of interview you have.

Is this the first point of contact (often a phone interview) or the first in-person interview? Is this a second interview with one person or multiple interviewers? Is this a group interview, where you are one of many job applicants participating? Understanding the type of interview is the key to crafting thought-provoking interview questions that will leave a great impression on your interviewers.

For first interviews, especially ones conducted over phone or video conferencing, you’ll likely have only a short amount of time for questions—so make them count! Questions at this stage should reflect your knowledge of the organization’s needs while encouraging the interviewer to elaborate about skill gaps among their team. Once you identify these gaps based on the interviewer’s responses, you can immediately follow-up with how your skills and expertise would help fill that gap and support the organization’s success.

You will probably  have time for 2 or 3 of these questions in a short interview, and maybe 4-5 in a longer one. This gives you an opportunity to learn more about the organization, but it also helps solidify your skills to the interviewer. For second or third interviews, keep these questions to a minimum, and focus more on specific aspects of the position and organization’s culture. For a third interview, the number and types of questions you ask will depend on the conversations that took place since the initial screening phase.

  1. Your questions will depend on if the answers are available elsewhere.

Good questions are important in the interview process, but only if the answers are inaccessible from other sources—be it the interviewer, Google, or future interviews. Your interview time is precious, and the last thing you want to do is spend it asking questions you can answer yourself with a little research or patience.

Asking about information that is readily available on a company’s website is a major red flag for recruiters, so be sure to skip over questions if you can find the info online. Also, don’t overburden the interviewer with questions they likely can’t answer. For example, if you’re speaking to a recruiter for a first round of interviews, perhaps save your specific questions about office culture and management styles for a future interview—one where you’ll meet directly with your future supervisors and colleagues.

Another factor that may change the number and type of questions you ask is whether the interviewer already answered your question without you asking. You can use this scenario to your advantage and demonstrate your strong listening skills by thanking the interviewer for answering an important question you had. By briefly recalling their response to your question, you’ve now set the interviewer up to elaborate more on the topic without sounding like you’re asking them to repeat themselves. And if you’re satisfied with the initial answer they provided, recapping an important talking point provides for a smooth transition into a different question they haven’t answered.

  1. Your questions depend on if you truly want the job.

Asking questions shows that you’re interested in the position, but more importantly, asking good questions helps recruiters and interviewers better assess your qualifications and organization fit by demonstrating three things: (1) that you understand what skills are needed for the position; (2) that you’re engaged in the conversation and are interested in learning more; and (3) that you care about getting the position.

[Spoiler Alert: Number 3 is the most important.]

Anyone interviewing for a position has proven, to some extent, they possess a level of skill or expertise that may benefit the organization. Furthermore, extroverts are naturally engaged in conversations because they thrive off social situations. Good recruiters know all this, and can see past overconfidence of skills and charisma of engagement (we see you, introverts).

Therefore, the biggest factor in determining what questions you ask isn’t about quantity—it’s about quality. The questions you ask should leave an impression on the interviewer that you not only understand the position’s challenges, but that you care about overcoming them and are capable of doing so. Articulating your marketable skills and your personal investment in the position is a sure-fire way to show your interviewer that you’re the best candidate for the position.

By Jakin Vela, M.Ed.
Jakin Vela, M.Ed. Assistant Director Employer Relations Jakin Vela, M.Ed.