There’s a single interview mistake I’ve seen with hundreds of candidates, and years of experience on both sides of the interview desk.

We spend time thinking about what we’ll wear, or preparing for answers to the commonly asked questions in our field (Check out this blog for tips on how to answer tough interview questions: How to Answer Tough Interview Questions). We’ll scope out the LinkedIn profiles of the people we’ll be interviewing with, and we’ll review our previous work experience for skills we want to highlight. This is all good preparation and absolutely necessarily. And, it’s only going to get you so far.

The fact is, if you’ve been invited in for an interview you can assume you already meet the qualifications of the job.

Otherwise, you wouldn’t be there. So your challenge in the interview is to set yourself apart from the other candidates who also meet the qualifications of the job.

The best way to do that is in the questions you ask and when you ask them.

It’s a Big Mistake to Wait to the End of the Interview to Ask Your Questions

The biggest reason you don’t want to wait until the end is simply time. If you’ve prepared a meaningful list of questions that will inform whether you actually want this job, it’s quite possible you won’t have time to get the details you need.

Once they’ve asked, “Do you have any questions for us?” the interview is nearly over.

Your questions give you control. If you’ve prepared them well, they will set you apart from the pack. Good questions show your thought process. They demonstrate how you might approach the job, and they tell the interviewer what matters to you. More than anything else, your questions will help you determine whether the job will be a good fit for you.

How to Avoid This Interview Mistake

Instead of holding your questions until the end, use them as a pivot point to gain information. (Here’s a article on how to ask great questions: How to Ask Better Questions).

A “pivot” is simply asking a question to turn the conversation back over to the other person. So instead of answering a question and stopping, answer the question and then ask a question back. This is very powerful and will transform the interview into a conversation. Here’s an example for a question about management style:

Hiring Manager: Can you tell me about a time when you had to make a decision and your manager wasn’t available? How did you handle that?

You: Sure… (offer a situational answer that highlights your skills, then pivot): As I mentioned, my manager there was relatively hands-on. I’m curious, when it comes to your own management style, how would your team describe you?

To do this effectively, your question has to relate to their question. In the example above, the question was around independent decision making. So, a natural pivot is to management style.  

Now that you understand the process, look at your questions and see if you can tie them to questions you are likely to be asked. You probably won’t find a match for all of them, but the more you can fit them into the conversation, the better impression you will make, and that’s the key to standing out as the best candidate for the job.

Do you suspect your interviewing skills could use some polishing? I’d love to chat and see how I might help. You can schedule a complimentary chat here!