The job interview is coming to an end, and so far, you’ve done well. You’ve chosen a great interview outfit, you’ve showcased good body language, and you’ve made excellent use of the STAR formula in your answers.
Then the interviewer says, “So, do you have any questions for us?”
You reply, “No, not really. I think you covered it.”
Congratulations. You’ve just lost the job.
Why is this so important?
Accepting a new job is a major life decision. It makes sense to approach it with the same level of information-gathering that you’d apply to other major life decisions, like choosing a college or buying a house. If you ask no questions at the interview, hiring managers will wonder, why don’t you care more? Perhaps you aren’t truly interested in this job, and you’re just interviewing as a formality. Perhaps you’re just desperate for any job. Perhaps you didn’t do any research on the company, and therefore you don’t know what kinds of questions to ask. No matter which conclusion the hiring managers draw, it won’t paint you in a positive light. To avoid this, ask several questions at the interview — but not just any questions.
What kinds of questions are a BAD idea to ask?
Any kind of question that references salary, perks, benefits, hours, vacation, sick leave, promotions, etc. These kinds of questions scream, “I don’t care about doing a great job. I am chasing a paycheck.” Yes, you do need to know these things, but not now — wait until after you’ve officially been offered the job. Once they’ve decided you’re the one they want, then you can start negotiating salary and decide if you want to accept the job.
“How much will I be earning per hour?”
“What will my commission percentage be?”
“Will the company reimburse me for mileage?”
“What kind of retirement package do you offer?”
“Do you guys provide dental insurance?”
“How soon can I be promoted?”
“Will I have to work weekends?”
Any question you should already know the answer to. Read the job description carefully, research the company thoroughly, and listen attentively to everything the hiring manager says. Otherwise, you may ask bone-headed, surface-level questions which indicate that you didn’t do your homework and weren’t paying attention.
“What is the official title for my position?”
“What sorts of products do you make?”
“Do you guys have a mission statement?”
“Wow, you have a website?”
What kinds of questions are a GOOD idea to ask?
Questions about the company culture and working environment.
“What’s your favorite thing about working here?”
“Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?”
“How did this position become available?”
“I saw in the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report that you recently opened a new location downtown. Has that expansion created any new challenges for your department?”
Questions about the job duties.
“What will the training process for this position be like?”
“You mentioned that I would be assisting with the Phoenix project. Can you tell me a little bit more about this project? What role would I play in facilitating it?”
“I understand that my primary function will be to assist customers. But during slow times, when there are no customers, what are some other things you’d like me to work on?”
Questions about their expectations of you.
“How would you describe the perfect candidate for this position? What qualities would that person have?”
“Have you had a previous employee in this position who was fantastic? What made her so successful in this role?”
“What is the number-one thing I should focus on in my first 30 days of working here?”
“When can I expect to hear your decision?”
Listen for red flags. They are not just interviewing you; you are also interviewing them. Before you decide to accept the job, you need to make sure that you would be happy there. When they talk about the work environment, does it sound like an environment you’d fit well into, or does it sound clique-ish or stressful? Do the job duties they discuss seem like something you’d enjoy doing, or would you get bored? Does the boss sound like a micromanager? Does he seem to have unrealistic expectations? Has there been high turnover for this position? If you get a bad vibe from the interview, don’t ignore it. Trust your instincts.
Respond to their responses. Don’t just nod dumbly after they answer your questions. React in a positive and meaningful way. For example: You ask them to describe the perfect candidate, and they answer, “The ideal candidate would have stellar customer service skills, a meticulous eye for detail, and the ability to stay calm in a stressful environment.” You now have a golden opportunity to sell yourself. Smile and say that that sounds perfect for you. Then, address each point in turn, and explain (with examples wherever possible) how you definitely possess that trait.
Written by Lynnette Lee