The most important question in any interview with a prospective employer isn’t the most difficult to answer. In fact, it only requires a simple yes or no response. But countless job candidates still reply incorrectly.
The all-important query? “Do you have any questions for me?”
When the hiring manager gets to this question, don’t just smile and say no. Consider it your opportunity to interview the company. If you ask pointed questions and listen closely to the answers, you’ll gain insight that will help you decide if the position is right for you. Along the way, you’ll also set yourself apart as an intelligent candidate who’s eager to learn more about the job.
Here are seven key questions to ask before you shake hands and head out the door.
1. ‘What would my average day be like?’
Help-wanted ads usually describe general duties and responsibilities, but they don’t often get in to the day-to-day specifics of the job. This question can give you a more concrete view of the position. Maybe there’s more late-night work than you expect or less opportunity to collaborate with teammates.
2. ‘While doing some research about your firm, I found out that the company recently [fill in the blank]. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?’
Before your interview, scan the company’s website and other news outlets for information about the firm and industry. Then show off your knowledge with a question that goes beyond the basics. Your interviewer will be impressed.
3. ‘What happened to the last person who had this job?’ Or, if it’s a new position: ‘How have the tasks involved in this job been handled in the past?’
You’ll want to know if the position is a black hole or a stepping stone. If many people have cycled through the job in a short period of time, it may mean the role can lead to burnout or that the department is poorly run. On the other hand, if the last person in the job was promoted, that could be a sign the position provides avenues for growth.
4. ‘What kind of training does the company offer?’
This question can give you insight into how much the company will invest in you. Can the firm help you enhance your skill set and develop professionally? If not, this might not be a place where you can continue to grow. An added bonus: You’ll score points with the hiring manager by showing your willingness to adapt and learn new things on the job, a good thing in any industry, but particularly in the technology sector.
5. ‘What’s the company’s long-term outlook?’
This is particularly important in the wake of the Great Recession. Is the company stable, and is the new position secure? Is the organization looking to grow, or is it still struggling to survive? You’ll get the answers to these questions, plus you’ll find out what the company’s plans are for the future and how this role will figure in to those plans.
6. ‘Why did you choose to work here? What keeps you here?’
Pay attention to how enthusiastic the hiring manager is with his or her response. People who love their jobs don’t have to think about it when they’re asked why. If the interviewer hesitates, or can’t come up with anything more than the great restaurant down the street, the company might not be the best place for you.
7. ‘What are the next steps in the hiring process?’
With this question, you can show the hiring manager that you remain excited about the company and job. The response also will help you determine how and when to follow up with the interviewer so the lines of communication stay open, as well as give you a sense of how interested he or she is in hiring you.
Asking smart questions like these will show the hiring manager that you’re an enthusiastic, informed candidate.
But Don’t Ask…
This is not the time, however, to ask questions about salary, benefits or vacation days, which could give a potential employer the impression that you’re more interested in the perks of the job than you are in the job itself. Wait until the person has shown serious interest in hiring you before discussing these types of specifics.
Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.