While preparing for a job interview, candidates can spend so much time crafting the perfect answers that they don't think of questions to ask the interviewer. Interviews are a two-way street, and candidates should feel empowered to pose questions that will help them better understand the company's culture and responsibilities of the role.
Asking the right questions can also help an applicant stand out among their competition. Amazon senior recruiter DJ Cabeen tells CNBC Make It that one question in particular will make a lasting impression on any interviewer.
"Ask them, 'What does leadership really think about the team you're on, and its performance?' or 'What does leadership think about this team and the results they're delivering, and what are some things leadership would look to change or improve within this team?'" he shares. "It's my go-to question that I've asked interviewers whenever I'm applying for a job, because it can really help you learn about the team's impact and performance."
By asking this question, Cabeen notes, job candidates signal to the interviewer that they are "thinking more broadly about how the team is impacting the organization and the bigger picture."
Ideally, an interviewer's answer to the question will reveal how the team is performing and give candidates a clearer picture of the role they applied for. "Candidates should be looking for indicators that there are specific team goals that align to larger team goals," Cabeen explains. "At the least, candidates can hope to understand more about what is or is not working well."
Before any interview candidates should also reflect on previous work experiences and how they will acknowledge any gaps in their resume, Cabeen recommends. Considering more than 15 million Americans have quit their job since April 2021, questions like "Why are you leaving your job?" and "Why did you leave your last job?" will become more common during interviews.
"Don't use that time to speak negatively about your former or current employer," Cabeen advises. "Showcase what you're running to, not what you're running from."
If a candidate has been out of the workforce for a few months, they should emphasize what they've learned during their time off, he adds. "I always encourage folks if they are taking time off from work to find opportunities to learn, to grow, and push themselves," he says. "That doesn't necessarily have to mean you take a class, maybe you're going on a backpacking trip or caring for a relative … but how did you learn more about yourself, and what have you taken from that experience that you can now bring back to a job opportunity that you're applying for?"
Regardless of their work history, Cabeen suggests candidates "look for the bright spots" in their resume and consider how they can leverage that experience in a new role. "Hiring managers want to understand how you can apply those experiences whether they were good, bad or indifferent," he says. "Remind them you're looking for a new opportunity because you want to grow as a worker, and you're ready for a challenge."
Sign up now: Get smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter