A client recently called to say she had just returned from an interview with a company where she really wanted to work, and that she felt her interview went very well.  I asked why she felt so confident that she had a good interview, and she said, “I had no trouble answering all their questions, and they really seemed to like me!”
I then asked if the employer had given her a chance to ask any questions of her own, and she said, “yes, they did ask if I had any questions, but I didn’t ask any because I thought the interviewer had provided all the information I needed during our conversation.”
My client and I spoke again about a week later, and she told me she didn’t get the job.
At my encouragement, I suggested that the client get back in touch with her interviewer and ask why the company decided on another candidate.  While many employers do not respond to this kind of inquiry, her interviewer accepted her call and provided the feedback I suspected might be the reason she was overlooked.  She didn’t ask any questions!
No matter how much detail is provided by an employer during an interview, there are always things to ask.  The questions you ask the interviewer help demonstrate your passion for, and knowledge of, the company and industry they’re in.  Your questions can help convey your understanding of and interest in the challenges, trends, priorities, growth, competition, etc. faced by the employer, all factors that indicate your real interest in the job and company.
I encourage you to make a list of about 20 questions of the things you really want the employer to share with you. It is unlikely you’ll get to ask more than a handful so prioritize them.  The predominant questions should always be specifically about the job, some about working for the company, and some about the company itself, or the industry.  But Do Not ask about the benefits or perks that may be offered!  Particularly not on a first interview!  Try not to ask any questions that show you are thinking about yourself in front of the employer!
Some basic queries include:

  • What’s a typical day like?
  • How many people in the department?
  • Who will I be reporting to?
  • What happened to the person who previously occupied this position, or is this a newly created position?

More advanced questions include:

  • What are the challenges you hope to overcome this fiscal year?
  • What are the biggest obstacles faced by your department?
  • How tight or flexible are deadlines?
  • What kind of reports and documentation will I be responsible for?

And, if time permits, you might want to learn more about your interviewer:

  • How long have you been with this company?
  • In what position did you start when you first came to this company?
  • What do you like most about working here?

If you use, are most familiar with, or require a particular or specialized set of tools to do your job effectively, ask your interviewer if those tools are available!  If not, ask what they do use and try to demonstrate your flexibility and familiarity of those tools.
If possible, ask questions that demonstrate your awareness of the company and its competition, like: “What strategies are being initiated to boost market share?”  Or, “With the failure of one of your major competitors, does this company have the resources to handle the additional business that could be brought in?”
The stronger your questions, the easier it is to convince an employer that you are passionate about what they do and who their customers are.  Yes, some of your questions will indeed be answered during the course of your interview, but certainly not all.  Try committing your questions to memory.  But it is ok to keep your question list handy, on a small notepad or single sheet of paper.   Either method will minimize any difficulty recalling what to ask.
So, what do you really want to know?
Here’s hoping you get the answers you seek!
 
And if you need help creating some of those questions or improving your interviewing skills, get in touch!  hanklondon.com

By Hank

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