Interview Insights | Key Question: “What questions do you have for me?”

Interview Question: What questions can I answer for you?

This question touches upon my biggest pet peeve.

So much of what I help job candidates do rests on the idea that precise responses that are also persuasive will win over interviewers.

In terms of precision, the best answer to any interview question precisely addresses the question and its content includes real details not generalities that anyone can articulate.

Meanwhile, the second prong of the best way to answer interview questions in general is that your response must persuade an interviewer that you not only can do the job but also that you can do it better than everyone else in that interview waiting room.

What I have found throughout my years of coaching top executives to feel and be prepared for the toughest interviews with top flight organizations has been that it is at the end of these interviews that things can go downhill.

The best thing that you can do (or not do) to mess up an interview is to not prepare enough for the questions that YOU intend to ask each one of your interviewers.

Thinking through what you intend to ask requires just as much heavy-lifting (if not more) than the homework you put into talking about yourself.

So let me give you a head start so that you gain an edge vs. your peers also vying for that job:

When you are asked, “do you have any questions for me,” I want you to think about what you can ask that will help you close the deal.

When you are interviewing one-on-one with a hiring manager the best way to tackle this interview portion is by illustrating how you’d think about their business challenges…if you are interviewing in front of a group of professionals then it’s a whole different ball game. Ask me more about those during a 15-minute session and I can guide you live.

As for one-on-one interviews, here’s an example of a precise and compelling question:

What has been the historical role of Brawny in the towel portfolio, what about in the greater total paper portfolio? I ask because when I was on Quilted Northern, as its brand manager, our intention was not to build a huge and profitable brand, but instead as I had suggested to the leadership team, to use a specific set of its lower margin SKUs to proactively stop the competition from growing it’s shelf space in big box players. It was this strategic recommendation that I put forth that resulted in the Quilted Northern’s franchise domination of the paper category in Walmart. What’s your thinking around the historical competitive Brawny strategy in big box stores?

A response like this one above is precise in that it asks a question that you think will matter in the role you are pursuing. It reinforces that you have a past relevant win to bring to the table and on the job. Meanwhile, it shifts the interview from a Q&A session to a conversation where you can really teach and impress your interviewer based on your proven track record.

Are you struggling with the best response to this typical interview question? Leave a comment below and I’ll provide the guidance you need to get unstuck.

Originally published at on January 21, 2015.