During a recent trip to Alaska, I was intrigued by the long and rich stories of the “Gold Rush” expeditions. In the day treasure hunters went to extreme lengths, often risking personal injury to find a treasure that would literally transform their lives.

And I started thinking that it’s really not much different than a job search. Sure you aren’t mining for real nuggets of gold, but nonetheless you are a treasure hunter going to great lengths and risking personal injury (albeit emotional!) as you look for job opportunities.

While you’re engaged in the hunt, chances are good that you pass by some finds dismissing them as either too small or not “pure” enough to reach your goals. But just when you start thinking you’re never going to find your “pot of gold,” you get a call for an interview for the job of your dreams! At last the chance to claim your treasure.

But before you get too carried away with interview prep, it’s important to understand that your ultimate goal in the interview isn’t to get the job. I know that’s crazy right?!? Instead your goal is to figure out if you WANT the job. And the best way to do this is by asking questions that help you determine if the position really is the “treasure” you think it may be.

In my years of coaching and candidate selection, I’ve told virtually every candidate the interview is as much about their opportunity to determine if we are a fit for them as it is about me. Yet when I ask what questions they have, most candidates either numbly reply “no” or maybe ask about a timeline for the decision. But that’s it.

Instead, ask a few of the questions below to determine if the opportunity is really your “pot of gold:”

Questions to Get Insights About the Boss:questions

1. QUESTON: Tell me about a top performer on your team. What does he/she do differently?
GOAL: To learn what skills/accomplishments are required to be a recognized team leader.

2. QUESTION: What did your team recently accomplish that made you proud?
GOAL: First, to let the hiring manager brag about a recent accomplishment which is never a bad move, but this question also provides insight about what it takes to impress them.

3. QUESTION: How would you describe your communication and management style?
GOAL: Here you’re looking to learn how much they will/won’t be in your business and how easily you can adapt to their style. For example if you are soft-spoken and concerned about hurting others feelings, working for someone with a direct communication style may not be a great move.

4. QUESTION: What will be your biggest challenge in the next 12 months?
GOAL: By learning their challenge, you should gain a pretty good idea of ways you may be able to add value to the team. And there is also a good chance you’ll learn a bit about enterprise efforts and company direction.

5. QUESTION: What will be the most important criteria in your candidate selection?
GOAL: Ideally after asking this question you want to find a way either immediately or during follow up to demonstrate your proficiency with the most important criteria…assuming the job is your “pot of gold!”

Questions to Ask to get Insights About the Job

1. QUESTION: If I was offered the job, what would be my biggest challenge?
GOAL: This question helps you spot difficulties such as work load; personality issues and skill gaps.

2. QUESTION: Would be possible to see some examples of the work I would be expected to complete?
GOAL: There’s no easier way to see if you will enjoy the work you’re expected to complete than seeing examples. It also allows you to be confident that you can perform at the expected level.

3. QUESTION: How much travel is expected?
GOAL: While some folks love travel on the company dime, others prefer a more traditional office environment. Asking this question ensures you know what you are/aren’t getting into.

4. QUESTION: What does a typical week look like here?
GOAL: This question allows you to gain a glimpse of life on the “inside.” For example if you learn that most of your days will be spent in meetings or team projects and both of those make your eyes glaze over, a “treasure” it’s not!

5. QUESTION: Would it be possible to meet the team members as a part of the screening process?
GOAL: A huge part of your work satisfaction is dependent upon co-workers and having the chance to meet the team allows you to see how comfortably you can/can’t work together. It also allows you to gauge the age, sex and experience of those you will be joining.

You see, the concept of finding a treasure (aka pot of gold) is something special. And finding a job where you are engaged (and maybe even LOVE!); co-workers who you enjoy; finding purpose in your life and maybe even the chance for further career growth doesn’t just happen. Asking a few of these types of questions during your interview helps you easily sort out the gold from a shiny new opportunity that quickly dulls.

As an added bonus, the recruiter will likely enjoy the dialogue, the chance to talk about themselves and their responsibilities and just maybe offer you that “pot of gold” with a job offer!

Best of luck and I’d love to hear from you. What is the best question you’ve asked during an interview?