In my experience, I've noticed that professionals spend a lot of time thinking about how to answer questions. We go through countless responses in our head, eventually landing on a theme, and then spend hours preparing the perfect response. This is the case when we're preparing for presentations, for meetings, and for interviews.
I think we have sorely underestimated the power of asking great questions. We've spent so much time thinking about how to respond, that we've forgotten how powerful it can be to probe others for the same great responses. Particularly in interview settings, I think the easiest way to impress your interviewer, is to come prepared with thoughtful, meaningful questions that you not only ask at the end of the interview ("Do you have any questions for me?"), but also throughout the 30 to 60 minute conversation.
Here are 3 sample questions that can really set you apart from your colleagues, or competitors:
1. If I make a mistake, how will that be handled?
This is a controversial question, but one that can shed light on some very important issues. Both in your current role, and in any role you consider taking throughout your career, you should know what the culture is around failure. This will help you figure out how you're going to approach risky projects.
You should also know what type of response you're hoping for. Do you want to work somewhere that embraces failure as a learning opportunity? Or one that condemns mistakes and punishes employees for making them?
2. What is the decision-making process among leadership?
Within a interview environment, this question can be particularly powerful. When searching for candidates, interviewers are often asked questions about the job description, and the person who will be doing it. They rarely hear questions about the bigger picture; this shows that you're already thinking about yourself contributing on a greater scale, and sets you apart from the pack. It shows your interviewer you are serious about making an impact, and want to be up to speed on how the entire company contributes to the process.
3. What are 3 words you would use to describe your ideal candidate?
In my mind, this question is the ultimate great question. It not only shows that you're thinking about how to be the absolute best person for the job, but it also forces your interviewer to boil down what they're looking for into three concise statements.