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Six Critical Questions Candidates Should Ask During an Interview

31 January 2017

The questions you ask during the interview can be just as critical as the answers you gave. Because team fit and interactions are critical for a successful Agile hiring, it is an opportunity to apply the Agile values and principles. This can work to both gauge the team and to show your ability to apply Agile in an emergent or changing situation.
This doesn’t mean that some of the more usual logistic style questions like, “how soon the hiring manager or team will be deciding” or “what are the next steps”, are forbidden. They are good immediate information but there is some more worthwhile information to be gained by asking better questions.
Here are six questions candidates should ask during an interview, the earlier in the interview process, the better:
1.  What did you see in my resume that prompted you to contact me for this position?
This is an opportunity for immediate feedback and assessing whether your job search methods are working. The information you gather from this question will help you with the current position and potentially with tailoring your resume for future positions. The answer gives you additional insight into what is important for the hiring manager and team.
Asking this question early in the interview process enables you to refine your answers to what they deem as important. It also lets you know whether these are the same things that you find important. If there is a big difference, you may be chasing an opportunity that won’t fit in the long term.
The answer also helps you understand how recruiters and hiring managers review resumes and what caught their eye. You may be able to use this to your advantage when applying for future positions.
2.  What is the profile of the ideal candidate for this position?
This can be an obvious question to ask, but is rarely asked by candidates during the interview process. Again, asking this early in the interview process is key to both assessing if the process will work for you and to check your assumptions based on the job posting. The knowledge will give you something concrete to focus your answers on.
3.  In what areas do I match that profile?
Seasoned sales professionals will tell you that convincing someone to buy rarely works. Instead, you need to help them convince themselves that they want to buy. This question follows the same logic. Your goal here is to help the interviewer solidify in their mind why you’re a good fit for the position.
It also helps you to validate whether you’re effectively communicating your strengths. If they fail to mention experience that you obviously possess and that is obviously necessary for the job, you may want to rethink how you’re communicating that experience.
4.  In what areas are you unsure whether I match the profile?
Notice that this is a softball question by design. Using the word, “unsure,” helps to soften the question. It implies that they are unsure, not that you are lacking in some skill. The interviewer is more likely to give you quality feedback just based on how you ask the question.
In contrast, asking the interviewer what they perceive to be your weaknesses puts the interviewer in a difficult spot. No one wants to tell someone else about their “weaknesses” or how they “don’t fit.”  If you ask the question with such finality, you’ll likely receive a fluff answer, such as, “Nothing comes to mind” or “I think you’re a great fit.”  You’ll never have the opportunity to help them be sure.
5.  What else can I provide to help you make the correct decision – more detail, references, personality test, etc.?
As with question #4, phrasing is everything. It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. With this question, it’s implied that the “correct decision” could go either way. You’re not being over confident or arrogant by assuming you are the “correct decision.”  Instead, you’re a consultant of sorts, trying to help them determine the best course of action. Just by asking this question, you’re exuding qualities that most employers are looking for – selflessness, team work and honesty. In addition, if they do have unanswered questions, it may provide you with the opportunity to provide information that sways them in your direction.
6.  Regarding other people who have been in this role, what have they done well and what were their biggest challenges?
This is one of the best questions you can ask. It typically results in cornucopia of valuable information. This question often helps you get under the hood, so to speak, to see what is happening, and more importantly, the baggage you’ll be inheriting. Regardless of your decision, it is always good to enter a new situation with reasonable expectations and your eyes wide open.
Asking these six questions will help you refine your interview performance, provide insight into what recruiters and hiring managers are truly seeking in candidates, and help you determine whether this is a good fit for you. Don’t ask questions for the sake of asking questions. Instead, ask questions to obtain valuable information that will help you succeed – whatever that means for you.


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