“Do you have any questions for me?”
This is a favourite question I normally ask at the end of mock interviews with my clients. The majority of the time, I hear “No”. Some people will admit that they do not know what to ask. By providing youth with job search assistance on a daily basis, I have learnt that job seekers do not yet see asking questions at the end of an interview as an opportunity for them to leave a positive and lasting impression. We know that people tend to remember their first and the last impressions more than what they might see or hear in the middle. Therefore, even if you have a feeling that the interview has not been going that well, this is an excellent last chance to turn it around You just need to grab this easy opportunity to “wow” the interviewer by asking some stunning job-related questions.
Why should you ask questions?
It is imperative to view a job interview as a mutually beneficial conversation. On the one hand, the interview is designed for the employer to find the best possible candidate, but on the other, it is also a chance for you to decide if that job will make you excited to go to work every day and if it will be an environment where you can make a long-term commitment. By asking questions of the interviewer, you are showing a strong interest in the organization and the position. What is more, smart and specific questions will help you to gain insight into the role and the company culture. That's why it is doubly important to take this last chance to shine and prove your worth.
What to avoid asking
1. Money/benefits: You should avoid asking about pay or benefits in the first meeting, as this might indicate that what you are most concerned about is the paycheque. Keep in mind that an interview is more about what you can do for your potential employer than what they can do for you. If a salary wasn't mentioned in the job ad, here are some ways you might be able to figure out what salary range they may be offering.
2. Day-to-day responsibilities of the job: Why? Because everything you want to know should be in the job description. Do your homework (read and understand the job posting and research the job title to get an idea of what is generally expected in the role) to make sure you have an inside-out understanding of the position you are applying for and if it is the right fit for you.
3. Information about the organization that you can easily find online: You are expected to show up for your interview with good knowledge of what the organization does and who its clients are.
What to ask
Ask open questions when you want to engage the interviewer and learn more about your company and the position. They generally begin with Who, What, When, Where, Why, How. Be advised that asking open questions will not only impress the interviewer by making you look professional, thoughtful and enthusiastic, but will also allow you to clarify any questions you have about the position or the company. Be prepared with at least three smart questions that will put you in the most favourable position. You can choose your three questions from the four areas suggested below.
Job specific – to gain an in-depth knowledge of the position and also show you are thinking ahead about the job and getting yourself prepared to make a positive contribution to the organization.
- What are some challenges in this position?
- What are some of the first projects I would be involved in?
- How could I impress you in my first three months?
A good fit – to determine whether or not you’re a good fit for the organization and if you want the job.
- Can you tell me about the team I will be working with?
- How would you describe the work environment here?
- Can you tell me about the management style of the organization?
Performance management – to demonstrate your interest in continuously developing your skills and your commitment to improving your value to the organization.
- How will my performance be evaluated and how frequently?
- What training possibilities are there in your organization?
- What possibilities are there for career advancement?
Wrap-up – to reinforce your interest in working for the organization and your eagerness to move on with the hiring process.
- Is there anything else I can provide to help with your decision?
- What are the next steps in the interview process?
Last but not least, it is more important to demonstrate enthusiasm and interest than it is to ask all of your three questions. It's possible that asking your first question will lead to a lengthy side conversation, or that you may have one of your questions answered in the interview itself.
Remember, this is your last opportunity in the interview to impress the employer with your interest and insight, and also for you to get a better sense of the organization's culture and expectations. Don't miss out on this opportunity to leave a lasting impression and to get your questions answered - be prepared to make it count!
Huyen Pham is an Employment Facilitator with Youth Employment Services (Manitoba), which provides free and inclusive employment services to youth ages 16 – 29.