You have navigated your way through all the interview preparation, from researching the company at-depth and mind-mapping the fit between your CV and this role. You have gone through three rounds of interviews and survived the psychometric testing. You have answered the competency-based questions in STAR format, and unless you are tested on your ability to perform handstands, this should be the end of the process – when you are asked for any final questions you may have.
This is perhaps the last opportunity you will have to 'sell' yourself before an offer is made (or not).
So, what questions can you ask your interviewer to really sell your business case offering? If we put the genuine ‘need-to-know’ questions aside, the typical questions asked by candidates are often intended to demonstrate an invested interest in the opportunity. The potential problem is that remarkable interest after ‘talking up’ your positives in the interview is not a 360 approach to selling yourself.
“Telling is not selling. Only asking questions is selling.” – Brian Tracy
A decent framework for asking questions in interviews is the ‘4 Cs’:
Your chance to build rapport, prior to going for the tailored questions. For instance, ‘what made you join, and how have you found it?’
Your chance to bridge any distance between the person-company fit. For instance, ‘what kind of person would you see as really fitting into this team well?’
Your chance to bridge distances between the person-role fit from a corporate perspective. For instance, ‘what challenges are coming up, and how can my role contribute to these?’
Your chance to seal the deal – determining what more might be required from your candidacy, prior to proceeding with next steps in the process.
Central point: this may be the last opportunity you have to manage any reservations your interviewer may have.
Why focus on reservations? No candidate can ever be ‘perfect’. If a prospective employee can do anything and everything on the specification (blindfolded) – what would this person find interesting about the role? How will the employer know this ‘perfect candidate’ will not simply get bored and move on elsewhere after 3-6 months Some candidate developmental areas/challenges are desirable, without the gap between current capabilities and required standards being too vast to bridge.
So the question to ask centers on what could prevent you from moving forward in the process, which you can elicit in the room to sell yourself against. This phrasing might take varied forms:
- Where might you see my developmental areas in relation to this role?
- No candidate can be totally perfect. What potential weaknesses do you think I might have for this role that we can use this opportunity to address, rather than 3 months in?
- Based on what you know about so far – what more might you need to hear from a candidate to think they are right for the role?
Some people will see an inherent negative phrasing around this question and cringe a little about the idea of asking anything which could frame their offering as anything less than perfect. But this negative phrasing is the very reason you should be asking the question – it is much easier for you bring up the topic than it is for your prospective employer/employee to seem like they are shooting you down. On both sides, you would presumably rather be aware of any developmental areas from the start, rather than 3 months in when expectations fall short.
A lot of the time, interviewers are not asking "what are your weaknesses?" just to probe on developmental areas, your degree of humility, or just for the cliché. Much of the time, the interviewer will hold a nagging reservation they would like to talk about. The “what are your weaknesses” question is thus an opportunity to raise a developmental area which may be somewhat awkward for the interviewer to pose outright. On both sides, the ‘weaknesses’ question is your chance to lay all cards out on the table.
If you are successful in eliciting a reservation, then great work. This is a discussion you should prepare for. Sit down before the interview, and list any and every possible reservation the interviewer may hold about your candidacy against this role. Start with your developmental areas against the specification, and then extend your thinking on to general weaknesses. This exercise of 'bullet-proofing' has the advantage of preparing you for any curve-ball conversations which arise and bolstering your confidence that you will be able to cover any ground. If no reservations are shared, then it means either you have not covered the necessary ground (or rapport), or there is simply nothing preventing you from receiving an offer.