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Questions to Ask in an Interview

Spend Time Preparing Answers and Questions

So, you’re preparing for an interview. You already know that you’re going to get asked plenty of questions. You may be spending all of your time preparing answers, but don’t forget to devise questions of your own to ask your interviewer, in return. There are two main reasons for this: 1) to, of course, learn more about the position that you may be potentially accepting soon, and 2) to make it clear that you are interested in learning more about the position, that you’ve been genuinely reflecting on the role, and that you are taking this process seriously. Just imagine how much differently the interest levels would be perceived of a candidate who asked well-thought-out questions to ask as compared to a candidate that has no inquiries about the position, or the company, at the end of the interview.

However, we have gathered feedback from several of our hiring managers and learned that there are some questions that, while tempting to ask, should be avoided in favor of different, better-worded questions that will yield better answers and also help you eliminate the risk of your questions reflecting negatively on your candidacy.

Don’t ask: “What are the metrics/travel requirements for this position?”

Do ask: “How is success measured for this role?”

Asking what the metrics or travel requirements could give off the wrong vibe. It could give your interviewer the idea that travel is already a concern of yours or that you’re trying to see how little you’ll need to interact with your KOLs just to get by. We have had multiple hiring managers confirm with us that questions about metrics and territory size raise red flags because this can indicate that a candidate isn’t flexible. Even though most managers fully understand the need for work/life balance, the reality is that the MSL role can require a need to work flexible hours or work on the weekends sometimes.

Asking the hiring manager how success is measured should not only give you a better idea of the travel metrics the position requires but also lead to you learning about other ways in which you’ll be evaluated and possibly even shed some light on more unique responsibilities that the position includes. Additionally, phrasing this question can indicate that you’re a person that is already thinking ahead about being successful, rather than a person that is thinking ahead about how much the job may interfere with your personal life.

Don’t ask: “Why is the position open?”

Do ask: “What would you like to be done differently by the next person who fills this role?”

There are a couple of potential problems with this question. First of all, you run the risk of getting a very direct yet non-elaborative answer that doesn’t provide much information. The reason you’re probably asking this is that you are wondering if it’s an expansion position or a backfill. As an MSL recruiter, I can tell you that anytime we are recruiting on an expansion position, I’m sure to advertise it as such, and I assume other recruiters have the same thought process. So, if you applied for this position through a recruiter and you have not been told it’s open due to expansion, then it’s safest to assume it’s a backfill. If it is, indeed, a backfill hire and you ask the hiring manager why the position is open, you may be inadvertently putting them on the spot and they may not be willing to talk much about the circumstances under which the previous MSL left or was terminated.

On the other hand, asking the hiring manager what they would like to have done differently by whoever they hire will reveal a few additional details. You’ll be able to get a sense of where the previous MSL may have fallen short, highlighting the challenges you may be running into in taking over this territory. You’ll also learn more about what the hiring manager’s expectations are and the manager may even offer up what was done particularly well by the previous MSL, giving you a blueprint for how to excel in this territory.

The bottom line is that you will learn so much more about the position by asking this question this way. You learn about what special skills and experience you might be able to bring to the position that may not even be in the job description.

Don’t ask: “What about my background/qualifications interested you?”

Do ask: “What qualities would make for the ideal fit for this position?”

Asking the hiring manager what they like about your background may come across as your fishing for compliments or perhaps even a little pushy which, in an industry where MSLs are expected to be neutral and not “salesy,” may end up being a red flag for your candidacy. Getting the hiring manager to list qualities make the ideal fit for this team not only give you insight into what it is about your background that the hiring manager likes, but also gives you a clue into other areas that you should put more focus on throughout the rest of your interview process.