When consulting to job seekers to help prepare them for upcoming job interviews, I often hear concerns about how to answer interviewer questions, choosing suitable interview attire, as well as where to find company information. While these are all very important, I have noticed that candidates often forget to think through which questions that they will ask in an interview, often treating this aspect of interviewing as an afterthought. An otherwise good interview can be undermined by a candidate who sounds unprepared, or who asks questions that come across as selfish, greedy or disinterested.
WHY ask questions in an interview?
Many candidates ask questions in interviews simply because they are expected to do so by the interviewer(s). However, keeping in mind that interviews are a two-way process in which both employer and candidate have a decision to make, this opportunity can be very useful for interviewees.
Interviewee questions can be useful for the candidate to:
- learn about the job and company
- learn more about the job and its challenges
- gain information about the culture of the company
- gain insight into the expectations of the employer from the person in that position
- showcase their interests and expertise, to further impress the employer about their suitability for the position
WHAT are the best questions to ask?
To make a strong impression, candidates might choose questions about:
1. the position (that were not covered in the job posting), such as :
- What personality would be ideal for this position?
- What are the challenges facing this position right now?
2. the company (that were not covered on the website or posting):
- How would you describe the company culture?
- What are the primary priorities for the company right now?
3. the candidate’s suitability for the position:
- How do my qualifications compare to the ideal requirements for this position?
- What do you think is missing from my resume for this position?
4. the hiring process:
- What is the next step in the interview process?
- When can I expect to hear from you?
Additional sample questions can be found in this post on this topic at the About Job Search site.
NOTE: not all questions are harmless — some questions can really undermine the credibility of a candidate, such as those that make the interviewer feel that the candidate is asking only out of a sense of obligation (such as questions to which the answers are easy to find on the company website) or questions that sound selfish or greedy (such as questions about benefits).
HOW to prepare the questions
I recommend to candidates that, before a job interview, they:
- prepare a number of questions which they could ask (approximately five questions, from which they can pick the most suitable 2-3 at the interview)
- type out and bring the questions to the interview, in a folder where it can easily be found (no need to struggle to memorize the questions — it just adds to the stress of an interview)
- have paper and pen ready, to take any notes that seem necessary
WHEN to ask the questions?
Candidates need not necessarily wait to be prompted to ask questions. Candidates who are able to initiate asking questions during the interview skillfully can come across as assertive, confident and able to take initiative.
To sum up..
Interviewees who ask questions that are carefully chosen, well-informed and appropriately timed can have a competitive advantage in an interview, leaving a solid and positive impression, which can go a long way to influencing the final decision of a potential employer.