(Last Updated On: 20/03/2017)

Why You Should Also Be Thinking About ASKING Questions During Your Interview

Last week, I attended a speech on campus featuring a Fortune 100 executive. During the exchange with the audience, one student asked “Aside from basic qualifications, what might candidates do to stand out during the interview process?”

The speaker immediately responded (and I’m paraphrasing here):

“You need to be able to ask good questions during the interview….asking good questions shows that you are thinking ahead, thinking about the future and thinking strategically. Questions like ‘What is the typical career path for someone in this position?’ or ‘How long does it usually take for someone to advance to the next level?’ are a great way to demonstrate that you are thinking about your own career path five years down the road.”

I thought this feedback was excellent, and it certainly aligns with what we teach to our students and clients every day. You have to view the interview as a two-way street – it’s not just an opportunity for you to demonstrate what you know, but it’s also a time for you to learn more about the company and determine if it’s the right fit for you. Plus, as mentioned above, the questions you choose to ask also communicate important messages about your priorities and values.

It’s important to be prepared at the end of the interview with 3-5 relevant questions about the scope of the position, the potential career path, and the company culture. Here are some pointers about what to ask and what NOT to ask:

DO Ask…

1. Questions that clarify points from the posting or the interview. Example: “I noticed the job posting mentioned annual performance reviews – how does that process work?”

2. Questions that will help you understand company culture. Example: “What are some of things that make your company (or working for your company) unique from your competitors?”

3. Questions about training or professional development opportunities. Example: “What kind of training is provided for this role?”

4. Questions related to your overall career path. “What is the typical career path for someone starting out in this position?”

5. Rapport-building questions based upon the interviewer’s own experience: “What is your favorite thing (and/or the most challenging thing) about working for this company?”

Tip: State a fact, then ask a question. This is a great way to demonstrate some of your research. For example, when asking the training question above, you might say something more like: “I noticed on your website that you have a 2-month training process and a mentorship program. Could you tell me a little more about that?”

DON’T Ask…

1. Questions about salary. You should typically let the employer be the one to introduce the topic of salary – doing so yourself may be viewed as tacky or presumptuous. However, make sure you research appropriate salary figures in case the topic arises (Salary.com is one great resource).

2. Questions about vacation time or other benefits. You don’t want to make it sound like you are thinking about time off before you’ve even started! If you have questions related to this topic, I would hold them until you receive an offer. At that point, it would be appropriate to ask: “Could you tell me a little about some of the benefits associated with this position?”

3. Overly personal questions, such as anything pertaining to family life, religion, or politics. If you have concerns related to your personal life or work/life balance, ask them in a more generalized way, such as “Can you tell me a little bit about what it is like to live in XYZ City?” or “What is the culture of your office like? Is it diverse?”

4. If you do have personal concerns that you want to make sure are addressed (i.e. you have children, and you want to know that the company will be accommodating in times of emergency), research your specific concern online or speak to a career counselor in order to figure out the best approach.

5. “So, how did I do?” Sometimes it can be tempting to ask for feedback after the interview, and I know that some experts may recommend this practice. Personally, I think it comes off as a little unprofessional. A formal job interview is not the place to gather feedback, although if you do not receive an offer you could potentially follow up with the recruiter at a later time. Instead, try getting a career counselor or a mentor in the field to administer some mock interview questions – that will allow you gain feedback and practice in a controlled environment.

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Andrew Crain
Andrew Crain is a career development consultant at The University of Georgia. He works with business students and conducts trainings on LinkedIn, Personal Branding, Prezi, and Job Search Strategies. Contact Andrew at andrewcr85 at gmail.com, connect on LinkedIn or visit his Prezi portfolio to learn more. The views represented here belong to Andrew Crain and do not represent The University of Georgia or the UGA Career Center. He wrote career advice articles for CareerThoughts.com. Check his profile here.