handshakeThere you are – looking amazing in your most perfect business outfit, fresh resume in hand, anxiously awaiting your must-have job interview for the dream job of a lifetime.

 OK, maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic. Even if it isn’t the greatest job on the planet, it’s a good one and you want it. You need it. 

How are you going to use this interview to stand out from the crowd, so that you’re selected as the winner? 

What are they really looking for and how do you impress them that you’re it? 

Obviously, you need to be a great match for the job requirements.  There’s an art these days to making sure your resume reflects that but honestly, if you’re at the interview stage, you’re beyond that step. Congratulations!

According to research by Glassdoor, your average corporate job listing brings in 250 applicants.   Four to six candidates are interviewed.  One is hired. 

Companies are extremely careful when hiring because it's expensive not to be. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) averages the cost of a new hire at $4,129. Other estimates go much higher when long term factors for retraining rehiring and general company productivity are factored in. 


Job Interview Means Questions Are a Two-Way Street

Novice job seekers tend to think a job interview is all a one-way horror show. The big bad boss will drill you with impossible questions, and hopefully, you won’t say something hopelessly stupid. So, you prepare quality answers to all the expected questions such as: “What’s your biggest flaw?”

Please don’t say you care too much. That's been used already. 

 Truth is, you want, and need, to find out things about them too. Asking questions of the person doing the hiring is also a wise tactic. HR managers will tell you bright inquisitive folks are actually looked upon favorably in most companies. 

 In other words, not only should you not be afraid to ask questions, you should look upon coming up with some dynamite questions to knock their socks off as an important part of your preparation.  

 Be Inquisitive and Show, Don’t Tell!

 Have you ever heard the advice common to the vastly differing disciplines of sales, storytelling, and educational theory, that you should show and not tell? 

 Don’t tell somebody you’re the greatest, show it! 

 Asking questions is a classic “show, don’t tell” technique. 

 Asking questions is a way to demonstrate, or show them, that you are the kind of person they want, and it’s a way more-effective technique than rattling off resume highlights.  


What Questions Should You Ask?

 The obvious questions are those pertinent to the job.  Study the job description again before the interview so you do not ask a question that has been plainly answered. Remember, the person doing the hiring gets bored and frustrated just like you do. If they wrote the shift hours in the headline, and the first question you ask is what time you should be there, then let’s just say they'll think you didn’t prepare. 


 Demonstrate you have absorbed any information already given.  You’ve also familiarized yourself with the big picture and contemplated how you might fit in. 

 No matter what job you’re applying for, you should ask enough questions to answer all the basics such as:

  • What are the exact duties and responsibilities of this position?
  • How does this position fit in with the larger organization?
  • How has this position evolved in the past few years and how do you expect it to continue to evolve? 


Show you have done your homework about this specific company and ask something extremely specific like:

  • “Over the past five years your company valuation has risen from x to y, what policies do you think are responsible for that increase?”
  • “I noticed you moved into a new building about a year ago.  Has your foot traffic increased as you had hoped?”
  • “You’ve always concentrated in the widgets market, but since the competition is getting so fierce, do you have any plans to expand into widget-helpers? 
  • “I understand your industry experienced a big problem with (insert specifics) how much did it affect you and how did you deal with it?”


In other words, ask questions that demonstrate you are up to date with their business and the industry as a whole.  The more you can show you know who they are and what they’ve accomplished, the better. 

If you can find something specific about the hiring manager, that’s great, but don’t get too personal, or you might come across like a stalker. Stick with information on LinkedIn profiles. 

The goal is to convey that you're positive you are a really good fit into their world!  If you can demonstrate that you’ve figured that out already your excitement can go a long way toward convincing them it’s true! 


Ask Questions That Demonstrate You’re an Overall Good Employee

According to human resources conventional wisdom, one of the personality traits of a good employee is a willingness to learn. That translates into job seekers making sure to ask a question about professional development and continuing education opportunities.  Try to remember to use the word opportunities instead of requirements as it displays a more eager-beaver attitude.

On the flip side, avoid asking about things that make it seem you are more interested in the vacation, time-off and weekends, than the work itself. 


If You REALLY Want to Knock Their Socks Off…

Showing that you have pride in your professional skill set and are self-motivated to improve as an employee is one of the sweetest sounds a hiring manager might hear all day. 

Any potential employee who shows a genuine interest in growing with the company is going to stick out like a rose in the onion patch to most hiring managers. 

 So even in the job interview, you could mention a desire to grow your skills and improve both yourself and the company's bottom line. 

For example, suggest continuing education with SAP training.   

You could ask if they would be receptive to your organizing a directory of SAP courses online that are aligned with specific job titles and benefits for the learner. 

Or you could just give them this link and tell them how you’ve been doing some of these SAP training modules online and you think they’re awesome! 

You did it without even being asked!  Prized employees take it upon themselves to improve their skills. Being able to demonstrate that trait in a job interview is definitely worth the trouble. 

Author Photo

Lorraine Grula is a curious and compassionate Okie native who grew up on politics and science. She loves to read, write and study the world and shares her insights in our blog.
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