Differentiate Yourself With Questions

by Kevin Gorham

As candidates we are always looking for ways to stand out and be memorable to the interviewer.  One frequently overlooked opportunity occurs when the interviewer turns the tables and says, “What questions do you have for me?”  Asking insightful and probing questions that show you have researched the company and understand its business model and its “pain points” can make you memorable.  Go beyond the simple inquiries of the state of the business, the size of the department, and how that person likes working for the company.

One client I had was interviewing for a role with a healthcare organization, a difficult industry to break into without healthcare experience.  He performed his due diligence on the organization and spoke with a few acquaintances he knew at competitors.  They noted that this organization was a for-profit organization rather than a not-for-profit.  He parlayed this information into the question, “Tell me how being a for-profit affects your service delivery compared to the not-for-profit business model.”  The interviewer told him that no one had ever asked that question before and proceeded to answer the question.

In another situation a client was being interviewed for a position with a company that had recently brought in several new leaders at the executive level. We crafted the question, “How have these new leaders impacted day-to-day operations here?  What changes have they made since arriving?” This question not only asked an important question, it showed that she had done her homework on the company.

In order to find the kind of information that you can use to develop these questions, research companies using such tools as Google Finance or Yahoo! Finance for fundamental financial data. Use Google Alerts to receive any new press releases or articles about a target company by email. You can also follow a company on LinkedIn.  Finally, consider subscribing to industry publications. Many are free.

Use your questions to show your interviewer that you have thoroughly prepared for your interview and you are not the average candidate. Be perceived as intelligent, insightful and probing, without putting the interviewer on the spot.  Most of all, be memorable.  You want the interviewer driving home that evening thinking about your question.  If you’ve done this part of the interview well, you significantly increase your chances of a callback or an offer.

Kevin Gorham is an accomplished human resources and organization development leader with 20 years of experience leading HR organizations in start-ups, mid-size and Fortune 500 companies.