Interviews: Who Should Ask the Questions?

Whether or not you are actively pursuing a leadership position in your career search, employers are considering you for your leadership potential during your interviews.

But how can you demonstrate your leadership potential in front of your interviewer beyond what he or she can read from your resume? Dr. Marlene Caroselli reminded me the other day of an important quote from Peter Drucker, the Father of Modern Management Science, who stated that “leaders know how to ask questions…the right questions.

While you typically think of the interviewer as the one asking the questions, asking questions, but more specifically, the right questions, as a candidate can not only demonstrate your leadership potential, but also your interest, your commitment and the strength of your personal brand.

Here are just some of the “right questions” to help you show off your leadership potential:

Some questions that can be especially helpful when doing informational interviews or interviews with managers in your chosen functional area or industry include “How did you break into [insert industry, functional area or company name]?” and “Do you have any advice for someone trying to get his foot in the door in [insert industry, functional area or company name]?” These questions help to put them in your shoes and offer them a relatable challenge that they were able to overcome and that they will often want to help you overcome by offering additional advice, championing you to the decision makers and more. – Chris Perry, CareerRocketeer.com

If you are an astute and verbally skilled interviewee, and interested in standing out from your competitors, ask a “leading” question. One the interviewer will not forget. For example, “I know what excites me about this industry. May I ask what first drew you to it?” – Dr. Marlene Caroselli, Caroselli.biz

I know this might sound simple maybe even obvious, but in my experience as both a recruiter and career coach, most candidates do not close the interview or ask for a decision regarding the next step. Most ask “What is the next step?” and they get the standard answer “We have more candidates to see and will get back to you in x days.” My advice is never leave the interview without knowing that you have answered all the interviewer’s questions/concerns by asking “Is there any reason you can think of at this stage that you will not be taking my application forward to the next stage?– Paul Copcutt, SquarePegSolution.com

If you feel the interviewer is not being attentive as you respond, rather than cutting short your answer, take a pause and ask the rhetorical question starting with his/her name, “Am I answering your question?” That will bring the interviewer back into the conversation in a tactful and effective way. – Dan Bauer, MBAExchange.com

Ask the recruiter for advice. For example, “What can I do to make myself more marketable?” or “What do you think I should change on my resume?” The simple act of asking for advice not only lets the recruiter know you are interested in putting forth the effort to get a great job through them, but also breaks the ice and engages them in conversation, making them more likely to take an interest in you personally. It also lets the recruiter know you respect them on a professional level and value their input. – Drew Goldsmith, HollisterStaff.com

Making a connection is about being genuine, listening and engaging the other person. You want to ask questions and show interest in them and their organization. You also want to show the value you can bring, but do it in a way that shows confidence without being too boastful or forward. Two good questions to ask in this situation are “Do I have the credentials you look for when hiring for this position?” and “What more can I do to be more in line with the requirements of this position?” These questions tell you where you stand in the hiring person’s eyes and let you know what you have to do to close the gap. – Lisa Caldas Kappesser, EQCoachingSolutions.com

Thank you to all of the experts who contributed to this wealth of interview insight!

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