I am often asked whether you need to ask questions in an interview, even if all your questions were answered during it. YES! YES! YES! You should always have several questions ready to ask at the conclusion of the interview when the interviewer says, “do you have any questions?” Asking questions shows the interviewer that you are truly interested in the position and that you are a thoughtful person.
The easiest thing to do is jot down at least three questions (five is better) on a notepad that you bring along. Do this before coming to the interview when you are researching the company and the people with whom you will be meeting. If you get to the end and find that all of your prepared questions have been answered, here are a few good questions that I like to ask and like to be asked as an interviewer:
- How long was the person who held this position previously in the job and what are they doing now?
- What is one thing you like about working here and one thing you would like to change?
- How do you define success for someone in this position (for example, what qualities and accomplishments are most important)?
If you feel that the interview did not go very well and you are still interested in the job, you may want to ask “do you have any reservations about hiring me for this position?” If they say yes and are willing to tell you what those reservations are, you have an opportunity to address their concerns and turn the interview around. However, this could be a risky question if you’re not prepared to assuage their apprehensions.
The most important thing you can do is to prepare. Too many people go into an interview thinking, “I am perfect for this job!” and don’t prepare. Don’t get caught! An interviewer can easily tell the difference between someone who has thoughtfully prepped and someone who has not. What else can you do to practice besides thinking of questions to ask the interviewer? Think of questions the interviewer might ask you and brainstorm your answers. Answers with specific examples from your experience are always best because they demonstrate to an employer how you operate in an office setting, which is very hard to gauge when you’re sitting in an interview. Questions will vary greatly based on the type of interview, industry, company culture and number of interviewers. Try to get as much information as possible before the interview about how the interview will be structured and who will be present. General questions that could be asked include:
- What is your greatest strength and weakness?
- Describe a failure you’ve encountered and how you handled it.
- With what kind of people do you work best?
- What motivates you?
Practice your answers, jot down notes and bring them along. Review them right before you go in. It’s just like studying for an exam. You need to take it that seriously. Think about it. You’ve been invited there – given the opportunity to present yourself in person – while many other candidates do not have that chance. Don’t blow it. Preparing well for the interview shows an employer that you are organized, smart, capable, thoughtful, insightful, determined – and just the kind of person they want on their team.
About the Author: Marcelle Yeager is president of Career Valet, where she helps people transition their career through recognizing skills and job possibilities they didn’t know they had. She has worked for over 10 years as a strategic communications consultant in the private sector and federal government, including overseas.