The one ability you must demonstrate in a job interview to win favor over other candidates.

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” – Voltaire


That one ability is to ask “good” questions.  Do this one thing well and you can win favor over other candidates.  So that leads us to …

Interviewing Toolkit – item #7…

Have a list of “good” questions to draw from – about the company’s:

  • culture
  • view of success (for the company overall and for individual performance)
  • current business challenges

The questions you ask may be the most important part of the job interview for a few reasons:

  • Asking questions is a good opportunity to demonstrate how you work – how you think, gather information, assess things, solve problems, and appeal to/treat others when you need to get information from them.
  • Asking questions is also a good opportunity to demonstrate that you are interested in the company – when you are asking questions, you are giving your attention over to another – making them feel important – and we all know that people love to feel important – including interviewers. You don’t want it to be an interrogation nor do you just want to come across like a love sick puppy willing to do or say anything to possibly appeal to your new potential “master”.

So what are the “right” questions?  Simply put – they are the questions whose answers are going to enable you to gauge your potential for being valued for your unique combination of values, interests, talents/skills and contributions.  That’s what being the “right fit” should mean to you as a candidate – that you will be valued for what you will chronically bring to the table.  And you want to ask those questions in a conversational way.

As I mentioned earlier, you want to ask questions that give you a sense of 3 things about the company:

1.  Culture

The culture is a reflection of the company’s character, values and preferences.  This is where you can take your characteristics, values and work preferences and turn them into interview questions.  For example, if you value goal setting – ask “How does this company set and communicate goals?”  If you prefer friendly co-workers ask “What do people do around here formally and informally to foster teamwork or collaboration?”  The point is when asking about the culture, ask about characteristics, values and work preferences that are a reflection of you and what matters most to you.

2.  View of success (for the company overall and for individual performance)

Does their view of success compliment your view of success?  Simple questions you can ask here include: “What would the company consider some of their proudest accomplishments and why?” and “What’s common about people who are regarded as ‘top performers’?”  Notice the descriptive words they use – do those characteristics match, compliment or conflict with your characteristics?

3.  Current business challenges

Research and have written notes you can refer to about the company’s mission, values, history/founders, executive team, products/services, recent news/media coverage, latest ad campaigns, sales and financial health.  You can get this information easily from their annual report, 10-K report, website, social media pages, and google search – these sources will be rich in information.  I also think it is great to do a LinkedIn search on people who have or do work for the company – are you connected to anyone you can reach out to for more insight on the company culture?

Share what you have learned and ask the interviewer what they think the company’s biggest challenges are right now.



Your last question should always be to asked with the idea of discovering if they are interested in you.  This may be your only chance to find out because unfortunately some companies will not follow up with you (or return your calls or emails) if they are not interested in you as a candidate.  A simple way to get at this is to ask:

  • “Which of my personal qualities or qualifications do you think would be most valuable to the organization?”
  • “What qualifications do you wish I had more of in order to support me as a strong candidate for this role?”
  • If you are interested in the job – then ask: “What are the next steps in this process?” And “Who can I contact if I have questions or information to share during the rest of the interview process?”

For some additional great interviewing questions to ask (and avoid asking), check out this blog from Forbes – 30 Questions You Should And Shouldn’t Ask In A Job Interview 

And this blog from US News & World Report: The Best Questions to Ask During a Job Interview. 



The bottom line about “good” questions is this:  Asking good questions in a job interview is your only opportunity to actually demonstrate how you are likely to perform on the job.  You might be able to provide examples to back up claims you make about your personal qualities and past job performance – but only through your questions can you actually demonstrate what you are made of.

The truth is, you actually have a better chance of “passing the test” by demonstrating that you are even better at asking great questions than you are at answering predictable questions.  My opening quote by Voltaire supports my thinking on this point.

How can you tell if the interview was a “success”?  An interview is give-and-take – it has to feel like a conversation for both parties.  Feeling like you just had a great conversation with someone (vs. asked each other a lot of questions) is one marker of whether or not you “nailed” the interview.  Walking away with answers that gave you a confident sense of whether or not the job and culture can possibly be a match with who you are and what you want to be valued for is one marker of whether or not you “nailed” a great occupational or company match.

About Gina Calvano

Gina Calvano is a certified coach and Senior Professional in Human Resources, with over 20 years of experience as a talent management professional in both the private and non-profit sectors. With a unique approach, she combines her strategic corporate expertise and accreditations with metaphysics and transformational thinking which has resulted in people all over the world feeling good about themselves and connected to a sense of purpose.

She created the Success Readiness Bootcamp™, a step by step process that enables people to easily discover their unique talents and abilities and match them to majors, jobs, industries and leisure pursuits. Gina is also the co-author of Breakthrough! Inspirational Strategies for an Audaciously Authentic Life with NY Times Best Selling Authors Marci Shimoff, Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood and Powerful Connections Made Easy™ with Aprille Trupiano, and is currently working on her next book — Caged in My Cube: The Turnaround Guide For Loving The Job You Hate.

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