Always be ready with a few good questions to ask at the job interview. Strategic questions are helpful for a number of reasons:
- They keep the conversation going and help eliminate any awkwardness during your interview, thereby ensuring a smooth exchange.
- Questions help take the pressure off the interviewer, which they will greatly appreciate.
- Asking questions will show your interest in the company and the position.
- Asking questions will help you take control of the interview and gain the knowledge that you need to make an informed decision about whether the job is the right fit for you.
Before you can ask good questions, you need to do your research. Check out the company’s website, products or services, press releases and any other pertinent information. You will also want to research the industry, if you haven’t already done so. Make sure you have a grasp for who the company’s main competitors are, challenges that the company is facing, recent newsworthy stories, etc.
Most questions should revolve around these common themes: the company, the position and the expectations.
- When asking about the company, you can try ascertaining its divisional structure, the company hierarchy, etc. You can interject with relevant comments, such as “I noticed the Vice President of your Plastics Division went to University of Michigan, my alma mater” or “It is interesting that your Marketing Department is considered separate from sales. I used to work in marketing, so I am very good at communicating to the creative types and getting what I need.”
- When asking about the position and the expectations, find out information that will help you decide whether the position is the right fit for you, such as what is the expected percentage of travel time, what are the main responsibilities, what are the possibilities for advancement, etc.
Another important aspect of asking questions is making sure you are asking the right questions to the right people. Most job candidates interview with several people before they are finally given an offer. You may meet with executives, managers, potential co-workers and HR. It is important that you ask the right questions to the right people. For example, if you asked an executive what a typical day would look like for the position, they would probably stare at you with a blank expression because they probably have no idea what a typical day is like.
- For executives, ask them questions about company strategy, their outlook on the industry, where the biggest areas for potential growth are, where they see the company in five to ten years, how they think they stand against the competition. Executives are big picture people, so ask them big picture questions.
- For managers, ask them about the position requirements and expectations, what the department needs are as a whole, what challenges they face, etc.
- For potential co-workers, ask them what they like about the company, the company culture, or what their typical day consists of. Although co-workers aren’t usually decision-makers, the fact that you are interviewing with them means that their opinion matters. You want to ask questions that show you can relate to them, and are eager to learn more about what they do.
- For HR, ask them questions about the interview process, employment benefits, etc.
Questions are your opportunity to create your own path to a successful interview. It is a well-known fact that most people are not very skilled at interviewing others. If you take control and ask the right questions, you can put the interviewer at ease while gaining valuable knowledge for yourself. Always be ready with key questions to ask during the interview and you will find yourself ready to accept a job offer in the not too distant future.