Whether you’re new to the job-search game or have been around the block a few times, there’s always that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach towards the end of the interview. That dread of anticipation is due solely to the inevitable “do you have any questions” segment of the interview process.
We know, it seems a bit unfair. The interviewer should be quizzing for your qualifications and background, not the other way around. The fact of the matter is though that candidate questions, and good ones at that, are expected and can actually make the difference between a “thanks, but no thanks” and a job offer. Questions are an opportunity for a candidate to find out more about a potential employer as well as a chance for the interviewer to assess critical thinking skills as well as the applicant’s interest in the position.
Willing to give in to the inevitable and conquer your fear of the question round? Here are a few pointers when it comes to asking questions in an interview.
Don’t Show Up Unprepared
You wouldn’t show up to an interview without a suit and a shower, would you? (If you answered that you would, we have a few articles you may want to read STAT) So why would you not prepare for the inevitable “do you have any questions” by formulating a few in advance. Basic research on a company’s website and media presence, as well as a review of the job description, should be a great place to start.
Ask for clarity on things like start time, group configuration, whether you’ll have any management responsibilities and the history of the position. Each of these will help indicate your interest in the position as well as give an example of your level of engagement and how well you understand the current role. Just like those dust bunnies behind the bedroom door, ignoring the questions you’ll need to ask won’t make them go away but will make you appear silly come interview day.
Encourage a Dialog
There are few things worse in an interview than a series of yes/no questions and replies between candidate and interviewer. With that in mind, keep your questions open-ended and encourage explanation. Instead of how many reports will I have, try to instead ask about team dynamics to kickstart a dialog on not just the number of teammates but also how they fit together within the broader organization.
Show Off Your Research
Whenever possible, ask interview questions that give your conversant a clue you’ve done your research on the company and position. Lead off your questions with statements of observations with a follow-up question. A great example of this approach would be: “I see the company had a great 4th quarter; how would my team contribute to that?” Not only will you get the interviewer talking about their company, you’ll also show that you cared enough about the position to dig into the details on your own.
What Not to Ask
No good list of interviewee questions would be complete without a few warnings on topics to avoid in the interview room. Generally speaking, you should not ask about pay or benefit information unless the interviewer brings up the topic first. Be cautious when asking about remote work opportunities to avoid appearing uncommitted at the start. Last but not least, stay away from personal topics of the interviewer such as children, home ownership, or marital status. Not only are these often illegal topics in an interview, they can also make the conversation uncomfortable and leave a poor impression in the interviewer’s mind.
Looking for a few more ideas to get you started? While you should always craft your answers for the job at hand, here are some generic starter questions to help in a pinch or to serve as a starting spot for your own personalized questions during your interview:
- What are the day-to-day responsibilities of the position?
- If I’m hired, what would my first project be?
- Is this a new position? If so, why was it created? If not, what did the last person in this job move onto and why?
- What advancement and educational opportunities are available for this position and in this company?
- Can you tell me about the company culture?
- What are the biggest challenges that you are facing as a company? In this department?
- What’s the management style of the company? Of the direct manager for this position?
- What attracted you to this company or your role here?
- When will a decision be made about the person hired?
- Can I contact you if I have any other questions?