Turn yourself into a no-brainer hire by asking these questions at your next job interview.
Job Search

What questions should a job candidate ask the interviewer?

“What questions I can answer for you?”

You know it’s coming at the end of the job interview: your chance to turn the tables and ask the interviewer your questions. The very best piece of advice for navigating this part of the interview successfully? Realize that this is still part of the interview.

There’s a common misconception that the purpose of asking questions here is to gather information for yourself. That’s not true. Until you have a job offer, your job is to make yourself a no-brainer hire – even when you’re the one asking the questions.

The right questions, then, are not about how big the company is, its history, or anything else you can find online (which you have responsibly and diligently done already!). Rather, you should be asking questions that demonstrate your ability to contribute to the company, to learn fast, and to be a great team member.

Your questions should also set you up to send a customized, value-added follow-up. They should give you some insight into the company that allows you to dig even deeper when you leave the room, and deliver additional thoughts or insights later – especially those that will set you apart from other candidates.

So, given that you goal is to lean on these questions to make yourself a no-brainer by:

  1. Demonstrating your ability to contribute to the organization
  2. Demonstrating your ability to learn fast
  3. Demonstrating your potential to be a great team member
  4. Setting yourself up to send a standout follow-up that adds value

… the best questions are open-ended and ask about big topics, like strategic concerns, company culture priorities, or what it would take to be successful in this job.

A few examples:

  • What keeps you up at night?
  • What is the biggest business problem you’re currently trying to solve?
  • What are the most exciting initiatives at your company right now?
  • What are you particularly excited to be working on at the moment?
  • Have you done anything at your company that you don’t think you could have done anywhere else?
  • When an employee really demonstrates the company’s values, what does that look like? Can you think of any examples of great colleagues who’ve done that?
  • What does this role do to change the game for your company? What can this company do with this role that we can’t do without it?
  • What has a successful candidate in this role done in 60 days on the job? In six months?

Since you’ve asked questions that give you a better understanding of how you can add value to this company, your next task is to use the information that you’ve received as ammunition to deliver something of value to the employer, something that distinguishes you as a candidate. Send your ideas for how to solve the problems; actually start building some of the solutions. While 99% of candidates will be sending a generic “thank you” email, you’ll actually be showing the kind of employee you’ll be if you get the job.

Putting in that bit of extra effort when others might lean back and wait to see what happens – makes all the difference as a candidate. We’ve seen this time and again in stories from our alumni at Flatiron School, as they went out for software engineering jobs – often competing against candidates who had more relevant experience, more extensive education in computer science, or both. Consider a few of their stories:

  • Kavan B., who watched computer vision tutorials online and created a basic facial recognition app using the same technology used by his future employer.
  • Lucas M., who found his future employer’s GitHub repository, rewrote a test left on their to-do list, and submitted a pull request. They created a role just for him because he so embodied their value of boldness.
  • Kristin D., who learned in her final interview that the employer wasn’t sure if she’d be happy relocating to a new city for the role. She immediately wrote a non-technical blog post about what she was looking forward to doing in that city and sent it to the hiring manager – who sent her an offer a couple hours later.

(You can read more of these stories and job search best practices in our eBook How to Be a No-Brainer Tech Hire.)

The opportunity to ask questions is your chance to demonstrate what a great employee you’ll be, and to gather the information you need to really make yourself stand out in the next step. I once received a follow-up from a candidate who detailed all the ways she had already implemented our approach to career coaching and student development in her other job. (She got an offer.)

Sure, you could ask how many employees the company has hired this year. But who would you rather hire: Someone who’s demonstrated that they’re already doing the job, or the guy who could have Googled it?

Rebekah Rombom is vice president of Career Services & Business Development at Flatiron School. This article first appeared at Quora.