There comes a point in every interview when hiring managers ask applicants the exact same thing, "Do you have any questions for me?" Although this off-script moment feels like a formality, the applicant's questions could provide just as much insight as you make your final evaluations.

Global Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Johnson & Johnson, Sjoerd Gehring, shared his favorite candidate questions and the reason why after 100,000 or so interviews, in The Muse, an online career resources website, which is a content partner of Inc.com.

Here are the four that really stood out:

1. "Why does this role matter to the growth of the company?"

As a manager, try not to be too nebulous when answering this question. You want to help the candidate visualize the bigger picture without setting false expectations or creating confusion.

Focus on connecting the dots and explain the important interdependencies between the role's work and the company's strategic vision. The candidate's aim is to will walk away with a better understanding of the organization's vision and an idea of where they can leave a mark. It's a great sign that they are interested in more than the here and now.

"This question showed me the candidate was interested in making an impact beyond their role and how they'd fit into the future plans of the business," said Gehring.

2. "What do you like most about working here?"

Throughout the interview, it's likely that you and the others on the itinerary are following a script. Even though a list of consistent and vetted questions is great for ensuring an objective evaluation, we all know the importance of making a deeper connection. This question may force you off-script, but it also opens a door for you to differentiate your organization's culture.

When Gehring was asked this question, he said it opened the door to a more meaningful discussion. "We ended up having a great conversation about how rewarding a career at J&J can be, both personally and professionally." 

3. "Do you have any reservations about me or my qualifications?"

This takes some courage. As someone who has interviewed thousands of candidates, I'm not usually a fan of this question. If the tone isn't right, it can come off as a little too brash and leave a negative impression. I will admit though, when asked properly, this question encourages managers to voice their doubts and gives candidates the ability to address any unfounded reservations.

In Gehring's case, "...the candidate was actually able to mitigate the concerns I had about a large, unexplained gap on their resume."

4. "Who does the wireframing for your site?"

Ok, so this one seems weird. It's hyper-specific and was obviously for some type of web design role, but that's also the reason why it's so good. It's a great example of a question that distinguishes the applicant's experience and helps you as the manager evaluate their technical expertise.

In his explanation of the situation, Gehring said the question lead to a great conversation about J&J's processes and how this candidate could add value. Gehring described the discussion as if "we were already working together."

Although it seems like a polite way to close the interview, a candidate's questions can be a powerful and telling way to determine their fit for the role and for the organization.

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Published on: Oct 11, 2017