Bob Larson, CPC
Bob Larson, CPC

Job seekers tend to spend all of their time preparing answers for interviews, but the questions they ask can be as revealing to hiring managers, who may see questions as a measure of candidate engagement and interest, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

Take for example the experience of Shawn Batka. By his second interview for a director position at Turtle Wax, a car-care product company based in Willowbrook, Ill., he felt that he’d been able to check all of the boxes for the job. He impressed the interviewer with his supply-chain management experience and examples of how he’d streamlined operations and cut costs at past jobs. But he felt that he needed to do more to clinch the job.

So following the advice of the recruiter that had headhunted him, he mentioned his own personal interest in cars and started asking questions that were based on his own regular usage of several Turtle Wax products, the article pointed out.

“They asked me if I was a passionate user or a casual user. And the way I answered the questions and what I asked in return, it really helped me to connect with them by showing that I could speak intelligently about the product,” said Batka, who was invited for a third interview and eventually hired as director of strategic supply. He has since hired employees who have expressed the same enthusiasm for the company’s products that he did.

Here according to The Wall Street Journal article are other thoughts and suggestions on the topic of asking questions during an interview:

  •  Don’t wait until the end of the interview to ask about the job and what the employer is looking for in a candidate, said career expert Penelope Trunk. “If you ask them at the end of the interview, it’s too late. You already pitched yourself to the company without knowing what they want.” Being more proactive with questions also allows you to weave them into the natural flow of the interview conversation.
  •  One of the most important but overlooked questions to ask is about what communication style is used in the office, said recruiter Melissa Sconyers, who pointed out that this will show how well you can work with your boss and co-workers.
  • Ask questions that show that you have a genuine personal interest in the company and its products. Most job candidates don’t or may try to fake it, said Batka, who can tell when job candidates are disingenuous. “If someone went to stores that carried our products and asked about the way products are merchandised or asked about a wax they use on their car, that could be the differentiator between two candidates with similar job experience.” he added. But don’t go too off topic with chitchat since you don’t want to hijack the interview.
  • Ask the boss about what his or her employees like best about working for them and what they like the least. Even guarded responses can reveal how managers perceive their relationship with employees and give you a sense of his or her disposition. “Usually, in a good answer, the latter is the same as the former. For instance, it’s a fast-paced environment, which is attractive to some people and off-putting to others,” Sconyers told the newspaper. A bad answer would be having a bad temper. You can later ask for a walk through the office to see how employees actually act around the boss and vice versa.
  • Don’t leave any doubt about your qualifications, said Tim Honn, president of Fortis Recruiting Solutions in Lisle, Ill., who recommended that all job hunters ask: “Do you have any concerns about my ability to do this job? If you do, I’d like to address them right now.” This gives you a chance to bolster any perceived weaknesses, he added. Follow that up with “what’s the next step in the process?” to show that you’re confident enough with your answers that you expect to move forward.
  •  Don’t bring up salary and benefits and don’t waste the interviewer’s time with basic questions you can find on the company website. You want to show you’re interested enough to have done your due diligence, said Batka, who recalled a candidate he interviewed while at “On top of asking questions that showed he wasn’t familiar with other brands under PepsiCo like Frito-Lay, he’d also brought in a bottle of Dasani water into the interview, which is a Coke product,” Batka said. Not surprisingly, “he didn’t get the job.”