As a job candidate, one of your main goals during the interview process is to make a lasting impression on the people you speak to and meet with. You can go about this in a number of ways, but one of the easiest strategies for standing out from the rest of the talent pool is to ask the right questions during your interview with the hiring manager.
When your interview is scheduled, the hiring manager only has a certain amount of time set aside to speak with you before they have to get back to their job, so you want to make the most of it. Rather than asking the same generic questions as your competition, focus on asking questions that show how much company research you’ve done, highlight your experience and leave the hiring manager actively picturing you as their new employee.
Think of the questions you ask in your interview as opportunities to strategically promote your brand. In doing this, you’ll not only put a spotlight on your qualifications but you will also make the interview feel more like a conversation between two peers rather than a formal question-and-answer session.
Asking the right questions can make a major difference in your interview experience and outcome. Here are some tips to help you get it right.
Put a spin on generic questions
Every job candidate has the ability to Google ‘questions to ask in an interview’ and get the same top results as you do. While these questions are typically important ones to ask, there’s also nothing about them that will help you stand out. You can get around this by spinning the questions a little bit. In doing this, you’ll get answers to those important questions while also setting yourself apart from your competition.
For example, a common question candidates ask during an interview is something along the lines of, “What is the company culture like?” The information that comes from asking this question is important because it may help you decide whether or not you want to work for this organization. You can still ask it, just do so creatively:
Example: What can you tell me about the company culture, and how do you see it evolving over the coming years?
You’re still going to get the answer you need, but you’re also creating an opening for the conversation to flow beyond the question and into the future of the company. From there, you may be able to learn more about the hiring manager’s goals and vision for their team.
This slight change in wording can lead you to gather extra information about the position and its future and create a more memorable dialogue between you and the hiring manager.
Sneak in a humble brag
You can also use your questions as an opportunity to highlight the preparation you’ve put into the interview, your continued interest in the role and your passion for the work the company is doing. To do this, you’ll want to word your questions in a way that lets you slip in a few subtle humble brags.
Example: I helped my department work through my current employer’s IPO, and after looking at your current growth projections I have to ask, do you see the company going public in the near future?
Here, you were able to call out your experience in navigating an IPO, demonstrate that you’ve done your research by referencing the company’s growth projections and still ask a rather important question in the process.
You’re more likely to easily sneak memorable humble brags into questions that are company or job-specific because you can tailor them a little more. This is an excellent strategy, however, keep in mind that demonstrating confidence without coming across as arrogant is sometimes a fine line to walk, so use these kinds of questions sparingly to ensure they make a positive, memorable impact.
Strategically paint a picture
As you go along in the interview, you’re likely picturing yourself working at the company, doing the job and collaborating with the hiring manager. This is a smart thing for you to do because imagining what it would be like to actually do the job will help you determine whether or not it would be a good fit for you.
The hiring manager can also benefit from picturing you in the role. But if you’re the third or fourth candidate they’ve interviewed for the position, they may not be imagining you specifically by that point. For them, all of the candidates could be blending together, making it difficult to mentally put you, with your individual skills and experience, in the role as they chat with you.
To help remedy this, phrase your questions in a way that the hiring manager will have to actively imagine you in the role in order to answer them.
Example: What are the company’s/department’s five-year goals, and how do you see me contributing to them?
Not only does this question demonstrate your long-term interest in the job and organization, but it also requires the hiring manager to take a step back, really envision you in the role and then tailor their response to you and your unique skills. By going through this process, they will likely create a stronger memory of you and your skills with a direct link between you and the job you’re interviewing for. This will help leave a mark so that later when they go back through all of the candidates to decide who to hire you aren’t blending in with all of the other ones.
Remember, it's a conversation
When you think back to your best interviews over the course of your career, they are probably the ones where it felt comfortable and like you were having a conversation with the hiring manager. An easy-flowing back and forth is generally much more memorable than 30 minutes of close-ended questions and answers. Assuming there is a personality match between you and the hiring manager, your interview questions can prompt this kind of conversation, while simultaneously highlighting your skills and demonstrating your interest in the job and the company.
It’s not always easy to spin interviews this way and it can sometimes feel unnatural, especially if you’re nervous or anxious and you really want the job. That’s okay, though, you don’t need to be a pro at interviewing to impress a hiring manager. If your nerves start getting the best of you, don’t worry about asking a perfectly-worded strategic question, just put your focus on asking general open-ended questions that will spark dialogue. Soon enough, the conversation will flow, you’ll start to feel more comfortable and you’ll be well on your way to making a lasting impression.
📖 Read more: Get prepared to ace your next job interview with our interview guides.
Join a community that cares
The Mom Project supports women throughout their working motherhood journey. Search for career opportunities with vetted, family-friendly employers, and get access to job search tools, career development resources and a thriving community of moms and allies.