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How to Interview Your Interviewer

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Part of a successful job interview is demonstrating your knowledge – of your field and the company, and how you'd succeed in the position at hand. But you also have to show potential employers how you'd tackle the unknown. It's impossible to know everything, and hiring managers are aware of that. What they want to see instead is that you know how to find things out. You know how to ask questions.

Any decent interviewer will end your meeting with some iteration of, "What questions do you have for me?" And this is your moment. By asking some good, solid questions, you demonstrate your ability to learn – plus, you may gather some important information about the open position. Come into your interview equipped with good questions, such as the following:

What's this job's overall purpose, and how does it help your organization in the big picture?

We've all reached that point in the job hunt – in the chaos of it all, you somehow end up at an interview for a company you don't really know, for a position you don't really understand. If that's the case, consider kicking off your interview with a question like this, as suggested by Forbes. It's much better to ask the seemingly obvious question than it is to back yourself into a corner while pretending to know the answer. Get your interviewer to tell you, in his or her own words, what the position actually is, and how it fits into the company. You want the most complete possible picture of your next potential job.

If I took this position, who would manage me? What can you tell me about the manager?

Dig for some insight into company culture here, and see if it fits into your work style. As Monster points out, if you prefer independence in the workplace but the supervisor to this position has a tendency to micromanage, that would be good to know ahead of time. Also take this opportunity to ask about other positions in the department, and how you would interact with the people in those positions on a day-to-day basis. This would not only provide you with practical information on your position of interest, but also some insight into the company culture.

Regarding people who previously succeeded in this position, what qualities made their work stand out as particularly great?

Alison Green, who estimates she has conducted thousands of job interviews, wrote in the Cut that this was perhaps the strongest question she ever heard from a job candidate. First off, it implies that you plan on being a "particularly great" employee – you want to know how to go above and beyond in an effective, stand-out way. Obviously, that impression works in your favor. But how your potential employer answers this question could also tell you a lot: how they measure their employees' success, the kind of energy they value most, how closely they are willing to work with the people they manage. You might also take this time to ask why the previous person in this position moved on. All in all, this could be a make-or-break question, both for you and for your hiring manager.

What do you expect from your new employee's first few months on the job?

Forbes recommends this question to help give you an idea of the expected learning curve, and whether you think it would suit you. If you filled this position, would you hit the ground running and learn as you go? Or would you have a specific plan to follow, perhaps with a weekly training schedule, or even a daily one? How productive would your employer expect you to be from the get-go? How could you expect to communicate, or receive criticism? What are the typical struggles for a new employee in this position? This question could help paint a picture of your employer's teaching methods and the true pace of your prospective position.

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About the Author

Brenna Swanston is a freelance writer, editor and journalist. She previously reported for the Sun newspaper in Santa Maria, Calif., and holds a bachelor's in journalism from California Polytechnic State University.