The questions candidates ask interviewers are important and the vast majority of interviewees fail to ask good ones. Asking good questions will set you apart from most other candidates and differentiating yourself from the competition is critical. Questions provide insights into the state of mind and thought processes of candidates and are an integral part of a good interview. It is highly likely that you will be asked if you have any questions in the interview and you should be prepared with some good ones.
- Bring a good, hard-covered notebook or portfolio. Bring it out at the beginning of the interview and keep it closed on the table in front of you or in your lap while you are answering their questions. When the interviewer asks you if you have any questions, open the notebook/portfolio and read the questions you have written there. Take notes. This will indicate that you are organized and professional by coming with prepared questions and, that, by writing down the interviewer’s answers you consider his/her responses as important.
- Do not ask questions the interviewer cannot answer – it is embarrassing. In general, ask questions related to their function in the organization. Human Resources is not likely going to be able to answer questions about business strategy. Ask HR questions about things they know about, the organization culture, career paths, development opportunities, etc. Ask line executives questions about strategy and operations.
- Do not ask questions that can be answered from information on the website, annual report or elsewhere in the public domain. Doing so indicates that you have not done your homework and/or are particularly dense.
- Do not ask the typical mundane questions about a day in the life, benefits, next steps (they will tell you), and certainly not about compensation.
The general framework you should follow for your question is (i) industry (ii) company (iii) role. The order of the questions indicates that you are a logical thinker. However, the questions may need to be tailored somewhat for each situation.
Ask questions that focus on trends and/or developments in the industry. Do some research and use it as the foundation for the question – “I recently read an article that indicated….. . Is that your experience? If you are interviewing with several companies in the same industry you can leverage what you learn “I understand that…. . Is that your experience? Of course, you would never disclosure any proprietary or confidential information provided to you by another organization.
Study the company’s website to see if there is information there you can use as the basis for your questions. Read the press releases. “I noticed on your website that there was a press release about a new operation would you tell me more about that?” By referencing the website, you have said that you are thoughtful, resourceful and take the initiative.
Ask questions about the company’s goals in the medium and long-term if they are not spelled out on the website, in the annual report or elsewhere. If the goals are clear, ask about strategies to achieve those goals and potential barriers to successful implementation. Ask about how those barriers can be overcome.
Ask how this role contributes to the achievement of the goals outlined above. This question says that you are focused on results, expect to contribute to the success of the organization and are a strategic thinker. You might also ask about the challenges facing the role.
Asking good, thoughtful questions in a logical order and taking notes will contribute to a successful interview.