You’ve almost made it to the end of a long, in-depth interview and you feel like it has gone your way. The person, or group, conducting the interview wraps it up with one final question: “Do you have any questions for us?”
It seems like an innocuous inquiry, almost a courtesy, almost like the cashier at the grocery store asking you if you found everything you were looking for. Don’t be fooled –you have reached a make-or-break moment in the interview. What you say next may decide whether or not you are a serious candidate for the position – or if you remain a candidate at all.
Think about the interviewer’s intent. He or she wants to know as much about you as possible in the short time they have. This is a last opportunity to observe how well prepared you are, how present you are mentally, and to make a determination if the company’s values align with yours. They don’t just want you to ask questions. They want you to ask the right questions.
This is your final opportunity as well. By asking insightful questions designed to continue the dialogue about your qualifications for the position, and demonstrate that you are thinking about the organization, you can quite feasibly lap other candidates who may be less prepared. Here are some great questions to ask:
Where do you see the growth opportunities for this role? This demonstrates long-term thinking about the role and the company, and clearly signals that you are the type of employee who will commit to an organization that commits to you. The interviewer’s answer will provide you an idea about the value the company assigns to its employees, as well as the personality and skills that are the most critical for the current role and beyond.
What does the ideal candidate for this role look like? This may seem like an unusual question to ask at the end of an interview, but this gives the interviewers an opportunity to express any lingering concerns about your candidacy. You, in turn, have created an opportunity you may not have otherwise had to counter their perceptions.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for someone jumping into this role? This will give you your first real idea of what will be required of the position. For example, if the biggest challenge is running a successful marketing campaign with limited resources, you now have an opening to point out your relevant experience creating high production value campaigns on shoestring budgets.
What would the first 90 days of this job look like? This is an informational question that may provide insight into the most important factors that will initially govern a position, and/or the feasibility of a project or set of deliverables. You will also find out simple truths – like the level of training you will receive (if any) and the primary responsibilities that will be the initial basis of your job performance appraisal.
What other questions do you have for me? Now that you’ve opened up some doors for yourself to create a dialogue, those doors are open for your interviewers as well. Your interviewers may have additional questions and unless space is made those questions may go unanswered – that doesn’t necessarily help you. Don’t give your interviewers an opportunity to make assumptions; help yourself by giving them a final opportunity to question you.
Just like there are questions designed to help you land your dream job, there are also questions that have the potential to end your candidacy. Here are a few questions you should probably avoid:
What does the job pay? This question is the fastest way to end your interview and candidacy. Employers usually prefer to reserve the right to imitate salary discussions. Unfair or not, candidates who broach the salary issue first tend to raise hackles. Asking about salary conveys to the interviewer(s) that your primary interest is the money, not necessarily in the work or the company.
Will I be required to work beyond regular work hours/carry a cell phone/log in during the evening? There are several variations of this very justified work/life balance question. Proceed with extreme caution as it may signal to the employer that you are more concerned about your personal schedule than the demands of the job. That said, if leaving the office no later than 5 p.m. every day is essential due to your personal circumstances, it might be better to broach the topic now rather than after accepting the job. If you’re okay with overtime, don’t ask.
Any question that begins with “Do I have to… ?” or “Will I have to…?” This sounds like you are already worried about how your work duties will impact your “me” time.
May I work remotely? While this is a reasonable question in our modern technological age, it may have negative connotations to the interviewer. Unless the option to work remotely has been specified in the job description or has been brought up by the company, it is better to avoid type of question since you’re asking about changing the overall shape of the job.
I have no questions. Potential interview killer. Having no questions at the end of an interview conveys to the employer you are not prepared, uninterested in the work, have no strategic goals, and were most likely not paying attention during the course of the interview.
One last thing – fumbling around to invent a decent question on the fly because you didn’t prepare is obvious and awkward, and can be interpreted as disinterest at best and laziness at worst. It’s okay to bring notes into an interview. A list of predetermined questions can prevent you from having to reach for one when needed.
Philip Roufail contributed to this article.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.