I debriefed with a client last week and one of the things that impressed them the most about the candidate (aside from his skills and his experience) was the fact that he had taken time to prepare for the interview, and that he had asked great questions.
Why is this important? First, it sets you apart from other candidates who “wing” their interviews. There is a very big difference between being canned and being planned; and it starts with mentally preparing for the interview. Second, it sets the stage for you to investigate the company and the opportunity so that you don’t make a bad decision and accept an offer with a company who is ultimately not going to be a great match for you.
I suggest that you sit down and write out a list of things that you loved about each of your past jobs as well as a few things that you did not like. Take this list and craft great questions to ferret out these things with a potential employer. They could be in different categories such as Company Culture, Project Types, Management Style of Direct Supervisor, Job Duties, Company Training Policies, and so on. If you notice, none of these mention money or benefits and that is because the other categories make or break your job satisfaction. Money is extremely important of course, but it’s rarely ever been the reason that people make a job change.
You can research a lot of information on the internet not only on the company website, but by googling the people with whom you will be meeting. You may see that the company just had a big project win and you center questions around their go/no-go decision process and the way they pursue work. Perhaps you see that the company won a Best Places to Work award and you center questions around how they won the award and why people love working at the company.
One of the best questions that I have ever found to ask on an interview centers around learning about the expectations for success in the role:
“If I am sitting here with you one year from today and we are having my annual review, can you share with me some things I would have accomplished for you to say I had a great first year?”
Lastly, prepare these questions ahead of time and write them down on a notepad you bring with you. During the course of a one to two-hour interview, your mind will forget the questions, but if you have them written down, you will be able to show the company your ability to prepare and to be organized.