THE BLOG
04/22/2016 07:20 am ET Updated Apr 22, 2017

Want The Job? Then Ask The Right Questions!

Open-ended questions are powerful. In fact, in a job interview, posing the right kinds of questions at the right time will likely determine whether or not you will be offered the position.

Any savvy job-seeker knows that selling your viability as a candidate, as well as yourself as a person, are the goals of every interview. However, in order to do this successfully, you need a thorough understanding of the position, the personalities and the issues involved. Much of this can-- and should be-- gathered prior to walking through the door for the interview. Yet, no matter how diligent you are in obtaining this critical information, there is still plenty of room for misconception and errors.

It is wise, therefore, to plan ahead to ask open-ended questions during the interview that will get your interviewer to open up and start talking. By posing smart, well-thought-out questions, you will not only obtain a far clearer picture of the manager, the position and the organization; you will underscore both your interest and your expertise.

Here are the 4 categories of questions that will help you...

#1. Gather critical information about the unwritten requirements of the job.
Job postings are generally written by human resources and are likely to be somewhat vague. All too often, the hiring manager's true needs will not be listed or prioritized appropriately. So, without first finding out additional information, it can be awfully difficult to present yourself as the ideal employee.

Be proactive, ask questions and assume the role of a consultant rather than simply a job-seeker. Moreover, do this as early into the interview as possible. It is only after you have gathered the specifics of the problems the manager is facing that you should begin selling yourself to the position. The following will be helpful in getting the interviewer to start talking:
  • What do you view to be the most critical aspects of the job?
  • In your mind, what needs to get done immediately?
  • How can the new person make your life easier?

#2. Overcome age-related objections.
One of the biggest stereotypes younger managers hold against mature applicants is that they are set in their ways and reluctant to take direction. You can address this misconception by opening up the dialogue with questions that show you welcome the opportunity to learn.

Further, you want to let them know that you thrive on change and new challenges. Because people make up their minds about you within a very brief amount of time (first impressions), you want to counteract any stereotype about your age as quickly as you can.

Preface your questions by saying something like, "I enjoy being challenged and learning new things..."
  • In your estimation, what are the major demands of the position so that I might continue to increase my knowledge and grow my skill sets?
  • How do you see the work moving forward as the technology develops? (Be sure to underscore how you enjoy keeping current with the latest advancements in your field.)
#3. Help the hiring manager define his or her true needs. Many times (especially if the position is new), hiring managers may not recognize the specifics of what they truly hope to accomplish. You can help them clarify these outcomes by asking open-ended questions about the ultimate goals of the position:
  • What do you consider to be the most pressing objectives and/or goals of the job?
  • How will a successful employee in this position benefit your team and your desired outcome overall?
Follow up with, "If I'm understanding you correctly, you are looking for someone who can..." and then explain how your skills and experience are a match with their needs.

#4. Show you have done your homework and are knowledgeable about the job, the organization and the field in general.
You want to present yourself as a knowledgeable insider-- someone with the skills, experience and personal strengths for the job. You also want to let your interviewer know that you took the time to thoroughly familiarize yourself with the particulars of the position and the goals of the company.

Prepare open-ended questions that will underscore these facts. You can even begin with the phrase, "Well, I've done my homework and..."
  • I see your products have garnered great success in Eastern Europe. How do you view the company addressing the expanding needs of your target market in these countries?
  • From my research, it looks like your major competitor is company XYZ. What are your thoughts about making inroads into their customer base?

Job interviews are your time to show how your skills, experience, attitude and enthusiasm will support the needs and goals of the hiring manager. This can only be done if you have a thorough understanding of what is involved. So ask open-ended questions often and early. Take on the role of consultant and make this conversation a true exchange of information and ideas.

By posing smart questions, explaining how you can make a difference and presenting yourself with confidence, you will make that all important, powerful first impression. In fact, with a little luck and the right timing, chances are good that your well-positioned, open-ended questions just might help you get the offer and land the job!

Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty plus years of experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it's packed with critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!

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