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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Asking Intelligent Questions

22 Nov 2010 8:42 PM | Anonymous

By Stephanie Clark

I recall watching a series of delightful fairy tales, cleverly written with double entendres to amuse viewers of all ages. In a superbly acted version of Cinderella, the step-mother pressured her daughters to “Try to sound intelligent,” to which one of the hapless step-sisters responded, “What do you mean by intelligent?”

I have to admit that there was a time when I, not yet armed with the knowledge I now possess, often replied that I had no questions at all at the end of the interview. Such a wasted opportunity to “sound intelligent!” If you are serious about landing a job offer, you should come up with some interview questions that inspire confidence in your intelligence!

Possible questions can pop into your mind during the interview, but I prefer not leaving such an important aspect of demonstrating my fit with the company and the position to chance. Now, I prepare insightful questions that demonstrate my thinking process, that show I have conducted research and have given this opportunity considerable and deliberate thought. Along with questions that evolve from research, you can prepare a few general questions, always sticking to ones that you are comfortable asking. 

You can then pick and choose the questions that feel right based upon the mood of the interview and the interactions that have preceded. Here are a few such general questions: What kind of training, orientation or onboarding processes do you have? What types of qualities have you identified as being ideal for the position, the team, and the organization? What is the rate of retention in this department? (i.e., how many people have left, what is the turnover rate, is staff unhappy!?) What is the greatest challenge the company faces today or in the near future? In what way is this position critical to the company’s success? 

Perhaps you are hesitant to ask questions. In this case you can add intelligent comments. For example: I am impressed with what I am hearing about the company. In particular what has really captured my attention is (fill in the details and explain why). I really like the small town atmosphere at (insert name). It is exactly what I am looking for (and go on to explain why). I am absolutely pumped by the large scale of this enterprise. It is exactly what I am looking for (and go on to explain why). That major upcoming project intrigues me. It sounds like my past experience in (insert) is closely aligned. In that project my role was... (and go on to explain).

Remember that the interview must be more of a conversation. Take charge of your end of carrying the conversation with words that sound “intelligent”!

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