Anyone searching for a job right now knows that the market is tough, and competition for open positions is fierce. Worse, many job candidates perform poorly in interviews, as nerves or inexperience get the better of them. Whether you’re fresh out of school and looking for your first job or searching for new employment as the result of corporate changes at the job you’ve had for a number of years, delivering an amazing interview may not be a skill that you’ve practiced a lot. What can you do?


Job candidates sometimes lose sight of the fact that interviews aren’t just their chance to impress the hiring powers at a given company. While that’s part of the game—especially if you want the position—an interview is also an opportunity for you to interview the company. You may think you want to work for a particular company, but what do you really know about what it’s like to work there? What about the expectations they have of the person in the position they’re hiring for? When job candidates get caught up in the idea that they must impress during their interview in order to secure the position they want, they forget to ask questions. Asking questions allows you to uncover the organization underneath the veneer of its branding: What benefits do they offer? What does that tell you about how they view and treat employees?


An interview should always be a dialogue. Too many candidates expect a scripted question-answer session, wherein the hiring team asks them questions, and they provide answers based on knowledge, experience, and skill—hopefully with a little flair or personal twist to make themselves really stand out. But candidates must always ask questions; they shouldn’t only provide answers. Remember that you and the staff sitting in that room have the exact same purpose: to determine if you’re a good fit with the corporate culture. Whether or not you have the skills and experience, fit is a predominant factor in any hiring decision. And if all you do is answer questions, not only do you miss out on discovering more about the company, but you also miss an opportunity to show the interviewers your curiosity and your intellect. What kind of questions you ask can give interviewers just as much information about who you are and how you think!


While the questions you might ask will vary by industry, position, and even the company itself, experts agree that there is one question you must ask no matter what: “Who succeeds in this role?” Of course, you can phrase it other ways, such as “How do you define success for this position?” but it is imperative that you ask it.


Remember that the questions you ask can give insight into who you are and how you think; answers are much the same. How someone answers this question can give you deeper insight into the company and the recruiter’s views—it’s a sort of “insider information” you can’t look up on the company website.

What kind of information can you glean from the answer to this question? Specifically, you can get information about how your skills and career ambitions align with the company’s goals. Is this a position where you can move up or develop new skills?

The answer can also tell you about the company’s ethics and values, as well as their real expectations for the position. The verbal answer will elicit more information than the job posting, and the nuance of speech will yield more than trendy jargon or PR terminology, which will allow you to determine if the position is a good fit for you.

Bruce Powell

Bruce Powell