Last week in his weekly post, Hank Stringer addressed the question of how to answer what is many times the last question of an interview; “What questions do you have for me?” At the same time that Hank was posting his thoughts, I was coaching a senior executive on how to answer the same question. I won’t say that it is any more an important question at one job level versus another, but I will say that how you answer this question can be either the icing on the cake to a good interview, or the answer that ices what might have other been a successful interview. I want to offer you three suggested ways to answer the question:
Turn the table with a question that keeps the interviewer talking but shows that you are intently listening. One that has worked on me is, “I’m not sure I have any one great question for you, but I will ask is there anything that you think you want from me, or anyone in this job, to knock it out of the park? This question gives the interviewer a chance to state what he/she wants to see in the job/person and for them to see these attributes in you as you listen, acknowledge and reinforce where appropriate that you carry all of these traits and more.
Tilt up and ask a very strategic question if you have it.…but it’s risky because it could end up being too esoteric. However, if you have listened carefully and you have done your homework, you could really pick up IQ points if you are able to match both what you have heard about the job/role and a strategic direction or issue for the company. For example; “A question I might pose back to you is how do you see this role being central to solving what I have researched and heard your CEO say is (fill in the blank), and what appears the number one issue the company faces?” Like I said, this could be a little risky, but if you are interviewing with a very senior person or he/she has been reinforcing a bigger picture, strategic challenges, etc., I would go for it. Unless your homework is flawed or you pick a less than important challenge to address, then you should come across as thinking bigger and being someone who sees and appreciates the strategic landscape.
Set up your first day…by getting an opinion of what priorities you should set for yourself for the first 100 days. The question can be this; “What do you see as the priorities and must get done objectives for me within the 100 days on the job?” What makes this a great question is that it shows you are a goal-setter and also someone who sets milestones and knows the importance of time-bounding an objective. This question also gives the interviewer the opportunity to give you a task list, which can to him/her feel like they have unloaded and already have you working for them.
Most importantly, the best way to answer the last question is for you to have listened well throughout the entire interview so that when the question comes to you, you are prepared. Also, don’t fret if you don’t get asked the question. If things are going really well, you likely have run out of time because the conversation flowed so easily. On the other hand if this is the third or fourth question you are asked and there is still plenty of time to go, then you are going to have to reengage the interviewer because they have either written you off early or their mind is somewhere else. As I said, you have to have listened well and be reading the situation at all times to make an interview work for you. At least when you get to this final question I hope you can be a little bit better prepared than before.