When I am preparing a candidate for an interview, we discuss many topics ranging from the trivial, i.e., what should one wear, to the critical, i.e., how to respond when asked why you are leaving your current employer. Obviously, the manner in which these topics are handled is different for each candidate because each candidate is unique. There are no standard answers.
However, there is one topic – the questions that a candidate should ask his interviewer – where I do repeat myself often. I have a couple favorite questions that invariably earn high marks from my candidates during their post-interview debriefings. In order to have more than a couple great questions at the ready, I decided to ask my fellow BCG recruiters about their favorite questions. My goal was to develop a list of truly outstanding questions – my “Top Ten” if you will – designed to impress the interviewer and make my candidate more memorable – a key feature in a competitive market if one hopes to secure an offer.
Before I get to my Top Ten Interview Questions, I need to discuss the more mundane questions that you may want to ask at some point during the process as well. For example, you probably do want to ask about how work is assigned, how feedback is given to associates, when you will get client contact, and how deals are staffed (partner to associate ratio.) I do not mean to disparage these questions. They are important and will provide important information about whether any particular position is right for you. However, nearly all candidates ask these questions and you want to be able to set yourself apart from the crowd.
To that end, you may want to employ one or more of the following questions which should elicit thoughtful and animated responses. The questions are not in any particular order so they are not truly a David Letterman “Top 10”. Rather they are questions which, based upon your interviewer’s personality and the general tenor of the interview, you may opt to use in order to make your interview notable. Without further delay, my Top Ten Interview Questions are as follows:
1. What has been your most exciting experience working at this firm?
2. Is there anything that you did not know about this firm when you joined that would have been helpful or good to know?
3. If you and I were to work together on a matter, how would you utilize an associate with my skill set?
4. If I meet your expectations, what career growth can I reasonably expect?
5. What precipitated your hiring need right now?
6. Why did you choose this firm?
7. Of which accomplishment is this firm most proud?
8. Where could you use the most support in your practice right now?
9. How would you characterize the culture and philosophy of the firm?
10. What is your favorite part of your job?
I cannot stress the importance of engaging your interviewer in thoughtful conversation and these questions go a long way toward said goal. You may not want to use all of them (or any of them) if the interviewer does not seem amenable to innovation. However, commit them to memory in case you want to use them, as you may be pleasantly surprised by how these questions can turn an interview around for the better. Good luck and remember – there are no stupid questions!