Nervous about your next job interview? Take back control and come armed with your own questions that can help steer the conversation in your favor.

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One of the main reasons job candidates tend to get nervous before a job interview is the lack of control. The job seeker is trying to impress the interviewer by coming up with clever and interesting answers to basic questions, but the candidate never knows when the next “gotcha” question is going to come.

There’s little you can do to avoid these stressful situations. However, there is one tactic you can take that can divert the pressure somewhat: turn the tables. Come up with a list of your own questions for the interviewer about what they are looking for. As someone who has conducted a few interviews from the other side of the table, I often find it refreshing when a candidate shows enough interest and curiosity to ask a list of questions about the job.

Here are a few examples that can not only ease the tension, but also steer the interview toward your own strengths and help you discover needs that may not have been expressed in the job description.

“Why is the position available?” It seems like a simple question with an obvious answer, but it can lead to a discussion about how the position was created, how the job has evolved over time and what will be expected. Perhaps you’ll find out it’s a new position, which may allow you to mold the job description in your own image.

“What problems would you like to solve in the next three months/six months/year?” By putting a time frame on this question, it urges the interviewer to provide more specific descriptions about goals to be met. It will also help you determine how quickly the manager wants to see improvement.

“How is success defined in this position?” This is a critical question to find out if there are measurable criteria for advancement in the position. You can also get an idea of the supervisor’s management style and find out how much feedback you may expect.

“What do you see as the potential roadblocks to success?” By following up the previous question with this one, you can get the interviewer to describe the potential reasons why a candidate might fail. This can lead to a discussion about how you may have encountered and successfully navigated these problems before.

“How does this position fit into the big picture at the company?” This is another way to focus on overall goals of the job, not just a list of duties. During a discussion about the needs of the company, you may discover ways to use your skills that were never considered in the original job description.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at