I was recently interviewing a potential sales candidate for TransTech. I was one of the last interviewers. I asked him if he had any questions for me. He said, “Nope. Everyone has given me a really good view of the company.” That is NOT what I want to hear.

I want to hire really engaged and interested people in our company, culture, direction, etc. Not having a question for a top executive is like saying, “I don’t really care where I work. I just want a job.”

As a part of most job interviews, the hiring manager will usually ask a candidate if they have questions. Most candidates take this opportunity to learn more about the job specifications and salary.

While those questions may be important to you, leave those for the HR recruiter and focus on questions that will help you enhance the dialogue with the interviewer and make you a more memorable candidate.

As the leader of Transtech, I’ll often speak to prospective candidates toward the end of our interview process. I’m always looking for the best fit for the candidate and our company culture. When I ask candidates if they have questions for me, I’m really asking how interested they are in TransTech and in the people who work here.

I want to have an engaging conversation to assess their interest, and I want to get to know what kind of person they are.

While interviewing a candidate I often hear, “I’ve talked to so many people already they’ve pretty much covered everything.”  That’s usually a show stopper.

Always have questions for the hiring manager at any level. Being able to hold a conversation with an important figure in the company allows the candidate to build rapport with the interviewer and stand out from the competition.

How to ask the right questions? The key is preparation – do your research:

  • Do your homework on what is happening in the industry. It’s important to be on top of the industry trends. This shows that you’re passionate about your work and aware of the market changes.
  • Know the company and the person who is interviewing you. These days you can find a lot of information about a company online. Check out their company website. What are their core values? Do you like their culture? What would it be like to work there? Check out their awards and PR to understand what big milestones they may have accomplished.

Once you’ve done your research prepare your questions based on what you’re personally curious about. Recently someone asked me about my experience working at Microsoft – which they had discovered on LinkedIn. I have never been asked that question before. Not only did it spur additional dialogue, it impressed me that she discovered it, and was curious about it.

Preparing good questions is beneficial for many reasons. First, you show a genuine interest and curiosity in the job/company/person. Secondly it helps to build rapport and have a free flowing conversation instead of just answering questions, which improves the interviewer’s impression of you. The third reason, and quite possibly the most crucial, is that good questions can really bring out your personality and help the interviewer get to know you better.

Here are the questions I’ve received that stood out to me:

  • After asking a candidate about his “biggest mistake” – he turned it around and asked me mine! I liked that – we had a really fun discussion.
  • I looked at your core values on your website, how do you instill those values in your employees?
  • What do you do to decompress from the stress of running a busy company?

The key to a good interview is good conversation – sometimes you uncover common interests, hobbies, or even mutual friends that you wouldn’t uncover by being shy. If you’re only prepared to answer the usual interview questions, you won’t stand out.

Good luck in your next interview – and remember to relax and enjoy the conversation!