By Joshua Pringle
Joshua Pringle is the Director of Marketing at CO2Meter, a leader in Carbon Dioxide metering, sensing, and detection. CO2Meter designs, manufactures and distributes industry leading devices to consumers and companies in diverse business segments. Mr. Pringle has put together a series of articles providing advice, from a company’s perspective, on interviewing. The series will be added throughout the spring semester.
You spent time researching and finding the company with which you want to interview. You emailed and called and asked for the interview. You met with a career counselor and prepared a great cover letter and resume. You bought a new shirt/blouse, and your outfit looks great. But you shouldn’t bother even walking in the office door if you haven’t prepared well thought out questions in advance. I can almost guarantee your failure if you don’t have questions prepared or if the questions are too rudimentary.
Start by thinking about the Seven P’s. Prepare in advance by reviewing any materials you were sent, the company’s web site, their company financial filings from the last few quarters, www.glassdoor.com, etc. This preparation will not only help you learn about the company but give you plenty of ideas about questions to ask. Here are some ideas to start your brain thinking about questions you should ask.
1) If you read conflicting information from/about the company, you should ask a question about it. For example, if one quarterly statement says they invested in something (another company, technology, etc.) and in a subsequent quarter the company takes a write down on that investment, you should ask about it. Bad investments and write downs are like a questioner’s field day.
2) If you are interviewing for a new/expanding part of the business, ask about the company’s expectations for that area. What does management expect? What are the goals? How quickly do they expect a return on their investment?
3) Sites like Glassdoor will tell you how current and former employees view their jobs and the company. For example, if several former employees comment about the lack of flexibility with time off, you should ask questions about the company’s commitment to employee health and well-being.
4) Figure out who their competitors are and research them thoroughly. The competitions’ positioning will tell you a lot about how your interviewer is positioned in the marketplace. Are they a leader in their field or a follower? “I saw that XYZ has this new technology in the marketplace. How are you planning to counter that and retain market share?” This tells your interviewer that you have immersed yourself in their business and want to know how you will help them be successful in the future.
Now here is the kicker – you MUST ask these three questions at the end of your interview. No matter what. No matter how uncomfortable you are asking these, you must do it. I also include a note about why you are asking these questions too.
1) Are there any red flags from our interview today that give you concern about my candidacy for the position? The answer to this one questions tells you everything you need to know walking out the door. If they say “No,” then you can pat yourself on the back and feel satisfied. You also have made your interviewer cement in their minds that you are a great candidate for the job because the last thing they will remember saying is that, “I see no issues with you getting this job”. If they say “Yes,” then you have a list of the issues they see with your candidacy. This gives you items to follow up on after the interview to provide tangible proof the perceived issues are no longer viable. You also have a list of things you need to improve on before your next interview.
2) After our conversation today, I am more excited than ever about this opportunity. When will you and your team be making a decision about candidates? This question tells you when you can expect an answer. This will help you lower your anxiety level about hearing back, and it also puts the interviewer on notice that they have to deliver you a response by a certain date. If you don’t hear back from them by that date, you are green lighted to call and ask about the results.
3) Are you the only person making this decision, or is there a group consensus? Will I have the opportunity to meet with the others? If it is a solo decision, you now know who the decision maker is. And you just aced your interview with that person. If it is a group decision, you now know who else at the company is involved, and you have asked to meet them too. One of the rules in business is, “find a way to meet the person at the top because they ARE the decision maker.”
While the answers to these questions are critically important to you, the fact that you asked the questions in the first place is a huge “plus” for your candidacy. To ask these questions, you must be prepared, and you must have confidence. The interviewer is going to recognize those qualities in you immediately.
Please do not leave your interview without asking these three questions. Asking these questions will move you to the top of the heap immediately.