Here’s the structure of an interview: The interviewer asks you a lot of questions about you, figures out what you like, what you’re good at, and customizes as he pitches the company and the job to you.
This structure works fine if you are not all that interested in the job. But if you go into the interview knowing that you want the job, this structure will not benefit you. This is because if you really want the job, you will be trying very hard during the interview to convince the person that you’re a good match. But the structure of the interview doesn’t give you the chance to find out a lot about what they’re looking for in a match, until the very end.
You will get to the end of the interview, and the person will say, “Do you have any questions for me?” The questions that everyone recommends you ask are questions that would help you know what the company is looking for in a new hire: Questions about the goals and philosophies of the company, about the parameters of the position you’re interviewing for, about the expectations for the person they hire.
The answers to these questions would help you to explain why you are the ideal candidate for the job. So why ask these questions at the end? Ask them as close to the beginning as you can.
The first time I saw this in action was when I was interviewing a candidate. I started with, “So, why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself.”
She said, “Well, first why don’t you tell me a bit about the job so that I can tailor my answer to your particular needs right now?”
I was surprised, but it made a lot of sense to me. I told her about the job. And I ended up making her an offer.
So don’t hijack the interview, but try to ask a bit about the position at the begining of the inteview and then you, too, can tailor your answers to the requirements of the job. With this strategy, coming up with questions will be easy because you will naturally want to know what the hiring manager is looking for so you can be that person:
What would the first three goals be for the person who takes this job?
What are the biggest hurdles to overcome in this position?
What type of person do you think will be most successful in this position?
If you ask a variation of these questions toward the beginning of the interview — even if you ask only one or two — you’ll be in a much better position to ace the rest of the interview.
While it is bucking convention to ask questions toward the beginning and not the end, consider that you will look more authentic doing this. After spending the whole interview convincing the person that you are a good fit for the job, why would you ask questions about the job at the end? Presumably, you already talked about why you are a good fit.
So when you get to the end of the interview, and the person says, “Do you have an questions for me?” You can feel free to say, “No, I think I asked enough questions at the beginning of the interview to understand how I will fit in well in this position. I’m very excited about working with you. I think we’re a good match. Do you have any reservations?”