How to Answer the Most Important Interview Question

We all know that in-person interviews can be intimidating. You do a lot of planning, from preparing your resume and reference lists to researching the company. You probably even put a lot of thought into your outfit and the best route to getting there. With all the questions you might get asked, it is hard to say what employers are really looking for in a candidate and how to tailor your answers to meet that.

 

Most candidates we talk to stress over how to strategically answer the “what are your weaknesses” and “what is the biggest challenge you faced” questions. Believe it or not, these are not the most important question. So, what is it?

 

“Do You Have Any Questions for Me?”

 

You might be thinking, seriously? Yes! There are so many hidden meanings behind this question. Before we jump into what those meanings are, I’m going to give you some insider secrets about the interviewer. Just because the employer or hiring manager or recruiter is the one conducting the interview, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t nervous too. A lot of hiring professionals admit to not being good at interviewing people. Here are some examples:

 

  1. The interviewer talks too much about themselves and the company and doesn’t ask enough about you. Hiring managers do this all the time, in particular when they get nervous.
  2. They ask the typical questions like, “where do you see yourself in 5 years” and the ones we mentioned earlier “what are your weaknesses” and “what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced”.
  3. They go through things too quickly and don’t get into enough detail. This is the individual who might be the “initial interviewer” who is there to simply weed people out and doesn’t really know enough about the role to be effective.

Now that you have that in your back pocket, let’s talk about those hidden meanings behind this question and how to blow your interviewer out of the water with your answers.

Hidden Meaning #1: Did you listen to everything we talked about? Answering the “Do you have any questions for me” question has a lot to do with listening skills. Here is how to prove you were listening.

  • Respond with “You mentioned earlier that….” and then pose a question about it “have you tried xyz method” or “what is your success rate with that” or “do you offer this…”

 

Hidden Meaning #2: Do you understand our products or services and customer base? The interviewer wants to know that you “get” their company and who their selling to. Here is how to demonstrate that:

  • Say something about their industry or segment and then ask something like “who would you say your largest competitors are”
  • Talk about the consumer and ask an insightful question about the consumers response to their product or how they might track consumer insight and feedback

 

Hidden Meaning #3: Are you capable/do you have the necessary skillset to do this job? It is obvious that the employer wants to know that you have the skills for this job, but you may not have known this is where you can knock their socks off with your answers, here’s how:

  • If the role is a highly technical, you’ll want to ask in depth questions about their systems and processes and possibly even their tools/machinery
  • If there are specific tools or methods you have used in the past that they did not mention, ask whether or not they use these tools are methods

 

Hidden Meaning #4: What do you bring to the table and will you fit in? This is an important one for a lot of companies who want to upgrade their talent, raise the bar, and maintain their company culture. Prove you are that person that will “level-up” your colleagues and still fit in by:

  • Discuss the team or environment and ask where you see the future of each
  • What are the department, team, and overall goals and do those align?
  • What might be working currently and what is not working and how can we work together to change that

Some of the BEST feedback that an interviewer can give you is “Great question!”. It shows that you found the hidden meaning and you are truly invested in learning more about this role, their company, and what they are looking to achieve.

 

Although I recommend using specific examples, below are the top 10 questions to ask in an interview:

  1. What are the most important qualities and skillsets that will make the person in this role successful?
  2. What are the expectations for the first 30 days, 60 days and year?
  3. What are the most immediate projects that need to be addressed in this role?
  4. What type of skills might be missing from the team that you are looking to find with this new hire?
  5. What are the overall goals for the company and how can this role best support those?
  6. Who do you consider your top competitor and why?
  7. What are the biggest opportunities and challenges that face the department/organization today?
  8. What do you enjoy the most about working here?
  9. Are there opportunities for advancement and additional responsibility with this position?
  10. How is success measured for this role?