How big is your parking garage? What are the smog levels like in Spartanburg? Can I bring my mom to the final interview? All of these are actual questions I have seen or heard candidates ask during their phone interviews with executive hiring managers. Spoiler alert: They did not get hired. In many cases, the questions you ask during a job interview are just as important as the questions you answer. The manager has just thrown a string of questions at you about your background, skills, situational processes, ect. If you have interviewed a lot in your lifetime, you can more than likely repeat this experience with ease. But now you have that 5-10 minutes at the end of an interview where the hiring manager asks “What questions can I answer for you”?

While I always tell my candidates that they are interviewing companies just as much as the company is interviewing them, I also caution them to take this part of the interview very seriously. This is the chance for you to show what is really important to you and leave a lasting impression on the interviewer. So what questions can you ask to leave them with a positive impression? And what questions should you avoid?

ASK: By hiring for this role, what challenge are you looking to solve? There is a reason a company is hiring for the role. Whether it is new or a backfill, there is a reason your presence is needed. Is it to help the team with bandwidth? Is it to directly drive revenue? Is it to help launch a new product? Get the end goal or the “why” behind the job. Then, you can also provide an example of how you possibly solved a similar challenge in your career.

ASK: What are the common traits your top performers share? Every company has a different environment and a different culture that is more likely to create success for certain types of people. Find out what traits align with that culture, and what others are doing/have done in your role to be successful in the past. It shows the employer you aren’t just there to get the job, but want to start strategizing on how to best do the job itself.

ASK: How do you measure success? What goals would you have for me coming in to this position? Most jobs have some sort of measurements in place to determine the performance of the employee. Finding out these metrics are important for a few reasons. One, you want to know what level of expectations are being placed on you before accepting a new job. Two, it gives you another opportunity to tie your past metrics back into the interview, allowing the manager to have more comfort you have done this before.

DON’T ASK: What does this pay? How much PTO is there? Remember, you are interviewing with a manager or executive. While these questions are extremely important information for you to obtain, they need to be navigated carefully and with the right people. Salary should be talked about to the recruiter, HR, or the hiring manager if the other options either don’t know or are not part of the recruiting process. PTO should be handled strictly with the HR or the recruiter. You can just ask for a copy of the benefits packages, and that should suffice. Salary should be discussed in the initial interview stages, but PTO should be something that can wait until the end of the process.

DON’T ASK: Do you know Mike Smith? Yeah, Mike is a good friend of mine! Ok, nothing against Mike. But in general, you want to avoid name dropping unless references are specifically asked for. We all use our network to connect us with job interviews, but those connections shouldn’t be leveraged during the interview itself unless brought up by the interviewer. You never know what kind of relationship the person interviewing you has with your friend (even if said friend thinks they have a great working relationship).

DON’T ASK: How fast could I potentially be promoted? You took the interview for a certain job, so don’t ask about anything outside of that job. That manager wants to hire you to fulfill a role, and will not want to bring someone on that is more concerned about getting on to the next one. Is upward mobility important? Absolutely. Instead, ask about the typical career path associated with the job you are interviewing for. It is a similar ask, but a longer-term play that signifies to the manager that you are in it for the long haul and not just using the position as a stepping stone.

To summarize: One of the best things you can do to prepare for an interview is to write out a list of questions for the interviewer. Have separate sets for managers, executives, and potential peers. Then read that list out loud and ask yourself “If I was on the other side of these questions being asked as an employer, do they give off any red flags?”

Don’t let the questions you ask (or the way you present them) be a hurdle for you getting your next awesome job. Let them be ammo to show that you are truly a fit and can knock that job out of the park.

To conclude, I’ll answer one burning question right now, so you don’t have to ask it… No, you can’t bring your mom to the final interview.

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