Andrew Sobel

6 questions to ask a job interviewer

March 16, 2012: 12:23 PM ET

To stand out from your competition, says an executive coach, you need to start a real, memorable conversation. Here's how to do it.

Dear Annie: I've only been out of college a few years, and I was hired into my first real job (which I still have) by an on-campus recruiter at a career fair, so I don't have much experience with interviews. Now, I'm looking around for something a bit more challenging. I have some tech skills that happen to be in demand right now, so I'm getting interviews, and they've mostly gone pretty well so far.

My problem is with the part of the discussion, usually at the end, when the hiring manager says, "Do you have any questions?" I research each company online beforehand, and can usually think of a few things to ask about industry trends or particular moves the company has made lately, but I keep feeling like my questions are too predictable (kind of boring, actually). What should I be asking? — Just Jerry

Dear J.J.: "If you talk to recruiters and executives who are actively hiring, they will tell you they get three types of questions: no questions, bad questions, and -- very rarely -- memorable questions," says Andrew Sobel. "The candidates asking the memorable questions are usually the ones who get job offers."

Sobel, co-author of a new book called Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, Influence Others, is a longtime consultant and coach to senior managers at companies like Citigroup (C), Xerox (XRX), Cognizant (CTSH), and Ernst & Young. He says a recruiter for a fast-growing tech company told him recently, "You'd be surprised at how many job candidates have no questions at all, or they ask dumb questions like, 'So what do you do?'"

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