On being an information entrepreneur

Interview coming up? Questions to get to know them while they get to know you

One of the best ways to distinguish yourself among other job applicants is to ask thoughtful, targeted questions during your interview, both in response to questions asked of you during the interview and at the end of the interview, when most applicants are asked if they have any questions to ask of the interviewer or interviewing panel.

Assume you may go through at least a couple of interviews, and use each one to ask questions that will give you additional insight not only into the job itself, but also into your potential boss’s management style and the company’s or department’s culture.

First interview questions – getting the lay of the land

If it’s your first interview, you’ll probably want to ask basic questions about the organization, doing so in such a way that indicates you’ve already gained a good understanding of the employer and its industry (including libraries). For example, “My research indicates that [company] is known for outstanding customer support. Are there ways in which this job supports that effort?” Other questions might include:

Depending on the size of the employer and its hiring procedures, it’s possible (if not probable) that your initial interview will be with an HR person, rather than the person who’ll eventually be your boss.

In that case, that HR person is likely to be able to answer this first round of general questions, whereas you’ll may find that your more specific questions about management style, communication preferences, and success measurements are best answered by the person who you’d be reporting to should you get the job. We’ll take a look at those “second interview” questions next!

Second interview questions to seal the deal (or avoid a train wreck)

Once you’ve made it to a second interview, both you and the potential employer have signaled a serious interest in each other. Now’s the time to come armed with a set of questions that demonstrate your seriousness, interest in the company as well as the job, and commitment to begin delivering value from day one.

The following questions, intended for your potential boss, will demonstrate both enthusiasm for the position and a realistic sense of its potential challenges.

In a first interview, you’re generally asking and answering questions that relate to the alignment of your professional skills with the job requirements, as well as your comfort with the organization as a potential employer. As you progress through a second interview, however, your goal is more about determining whether the person to whom you’ll be reporting is someone you can work with effectively and successfully.

Asking thoughtful questions will help position you as an engaged, smart candidate; listening thoughtfully to the answers can help you determine whether to hop on board or avoid a potential career train wreck.

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