We all know the job-hunting process can’t exactly be described as “fun.” You spend hours customizing your resume and cover letter to the position (or positions) you’re going to apply for, days waiting for an e-mail or a call to see if you’ve made it to the next stage, and maybe a few awkward moments via telephone for your initial screening by a recruiter. If you’re lucky enough to land the in-person interview, you have the painstaking decision of what to wear and the sleepless night beforehand wondering what kinds of questions you’ll be asked. And then, before you know it, you’re sitting in front of a manager or HR representative with sweaty palms, a dry mouth, and an overwhelming awareness of the fact that you’re being judged.
Too many job seekers let the stress of the moment get to them – they sit there like a deer in the headlights, nervously answering questions around the worry in their throats, and unfortunately come off as immature or even insincere. The final question is asked, and when the interviewee finishes his answer, he realizes he’s been subconsciously digging his nails into his palms and practically holding his breath. He’s so ready to be done with the whole thing that when the interviewer asks the standard, “So, do you have any questions for me?” he’s inclined to shake his head and get the hell out of there.
Your “final answer” to the question of “Questions?” should never, ever, be “no.” You aren’t inconveniencing anyone by asking questions – you’re expected to have some. If you have ever shied away from a few pointed inquiries of your own at the end of a job interview, then read on to take note of the top ten reasons why you should show up for your next one with an arsenal of intelligent questions.
10. You’ll Get a Quick Hint
If you’re given a chance to ask any questions before the interview begins, you may get a better sense of what the company is looking for in their top candidate. Say that you’re brought into the office and given a chance to review the job description before the interview begins, but it’s a bit generic or overwhelming. If you’re asked, “Do you have any questions before we get started?” feel free to question what a typical day or week might be like. If you hear a routine heavy with a specific focus, like teambuilding, you can make a mental note to pepper your answers with facts that show your skills in that area. If what you hear sounds like wearing a lot of different hats, then you can highlight your versatility or ability to multitask.
9. The Competition Asks Questions
For every intelligent question that you ask, someone else is asking a mediocre one. Your mom or your high school teacher may have told you there are no stupid questions. In the interview process, this simply isn’t true. There are still individuals who go into the interview asking questions that they could have found out beforehand (“how many locations do you have open?” or “what will my schedule be like?”). Asking intelligent, well thought-out questions sets you apart from this bracket. Note: While asking, “When can I start?” doesn’t automatically eliminate you, it’s overused enough to make recruiters roll their eyes. Proceed with caution.
8. Good Questions, Good Money
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but good questions can often end up giving you wagering power later, during the negotiating stage. You should know by now that the best time to get more money from a company is when they make an initial offer. If you asked intelligent questions during your interview that demonstrated your knowledge, competency, and passion for the work, they’ll probably help you get a bit larger salary – and you’ll be more comfortable asking for it if you’ve already had some good dialogue with your recruiter.
7. Fill in the Blanks
Good questions allow you to sell qualities about yourself that may not have been covered in the interview. If you weren’t asked a question that allowed you to talk about something specific from your career history that you’re proud of, then tie it into a question: “In my last sales job, I created and managed an incentive plan to consistently lead teams to higher numbers.” Describe it. “Would there be room for me to create something like that here?”
6. Show What You Know
Good questions can highlight your knowledge of the organization. “One of the things that impresses me the most about your company is its commitment to giving back to the community. Can you tell me some of the things this local branch has been involved in?” Questions like this not only show that you have done your research, but that you share similar values.
5. Interviewers Are People Too
And people like to feel valued in conversations. Do you have one of those friends that goes on and on about herself to the point where you can barely get a word in edgewise? Well, your recruiter spends all day speaking with “friends” like that! Of course, the whole point of an interview is to sell yourself. But we as human beings naturally enjoy situations where we feel we add value. Answering questions – and getting some time to speak after listening to you go on about yourself for an hour – will leave the interviewer thinking more fondly of the time he or she spent with you.
4. Positive Mental Imagery
When you ask questions that foreshadow you in the role, you subconsciously make the interviewer see you in it. Your confidence can transfer to the person you’re speaking with. And if you say something like, “Assuming I get the position, what would you like me to accomplish in the first six months?” the response will be full of “you” doing this and “you” doing that. It forces the interviewer to visualize you in the position.
3. Showing You Care
Good questions can show that you’re thinking of the company and its growth – not just yourself. Think of it like this: While you’re asking, “How would my team contribute to the upcoming expansion to the West Coast market?” someone else is asking, “So, what might my salary be?” Who do you think comes across as the more favorable candidate?
2. You’re a Person, Too
If your recruiter didn’t yet tell you how the hiring process works, or you don’t have any idea of when the company is hoping to make an offer, feel free to ask. This will make the next few days (or weeks) less of an emotional roller coaster. You deserve your sanity.
1. Your Happiness Matters
Even when the job market favors the employer, you deserve a job with a culture that fits you. You don’t want to land a job that will just have you going through the whole process again six months down the road because you’re miserable in your new position, even if you are making a lot more money. You’re entitled to ask about company culture, and your interviewer should have a good answer – and be excited to share it. Some companies may offer flexible schedules, extracurricular activities, or healthy vacation packages to accompany a focus on the importance of a healthy work-life balance. As much time as you spend before your interview thinking about what you’ll be asked, you should think about what you want. Every application you turn in might not be for your dream job, but you should always be searching for the best of what’s available. You’re worth it!
Remember, the next time you’re getting ready for a job interview – doing your research of the company and Googling commonly asked interview questions – jot down some queries of your own. You don’t have to use them all every time, but being prepared with five to ten excellent questions that will increase dialogue, sell your skills, and help you leave a better impression than if you didn’t ask anything at all.
So… do you have any questions for me?