Why Asking Good Questions on an Interview is Important

Being called for an interview is an exciting event, although preparing for it can sometimes be stressful. Most people focus on making sure their resumes are cleanly copied, attire is laid out and getting ready to answer questions. All good steps to take in the days leading up to an interview to ensure it goes smoothly.

One step applicants sometimes forget is preparing themselves to ask the employer a few questions of their own. Yet, it’s a key part of the interview process to remember. It is almost a given employers will pause towards the end of the meeting and say, "Do you have any questions for me?"


Questions show your level of interest in the organization

The questions you ask can underscore how interested you are and, if the job is one you are really enthusiastic about and truly want, through your questions you can show the employer just how much you want to become a part of the organization.

One big mistake is to say to the employer, "No, you've covered everything."

Susan P. Joyce, at Job-Hunt.org, points out employers are not interested in half-hearted candidates, stating "Typically, a job seeker with no questions is assumed to be either not really interested or not very bright." (http://www.job-hunt.org/onlinejobsearchguide/article_job_interview_questions.shtml)

Having no questions may also give the appearance you are indifferent toward the organization itself. Probably not exactly the attribute an employer is seeking.


Are you really a good fit for the job?

A job may or may not be a good fit. But you won't know unless you ask specific questions about the company. On the surface, the idea of working at a specific organization may sound great, but if you're miserable, none of that will matter in the long run. Think of questions that will help you dig beneath the surface and learn more about both the corporation and the position itself. This is particularly helpful if you wind up needing to choose between jobs. 

The purpose of asking questions is twofold, it provides you with more information about the organization and also shows the employer how and if you might fit in with them.

What you ask could give you the competitive edge
Asking a killer question may be the one thing that makes you stand out from other candidates. This point in the interview is an opportunity to wow your interviewer: try to demonstrate out-of-the-box thinking. You have a chance to make yourself shine and prove yourself to be thoughtful and proactive with the questions you ask. Some experts even say this is the "make-or-break" point of the interview, especially when available candidates outnumber the number of jobs. (http://info.theladders.com/career-advice/interview-questions-candidates-ask)

The kinds of questions you should ask
Avoid asking questions like "What does your company do?" This only illustrates you haven’t done your homework on the organization and shows the employer you aren't necessarily interested in the company itself. Years ago, before information was so easily available on the Internet, you could get away with this kind of question. These days, employers expect candidates will have, at the very least, a general understanding of the organization. Whatever questions you choose, stay away from obvious answers that can be found in a quick Google search. Employers are going to want to hire the person who wants to work for the company itself, not someone who blindly applies for jobs.

Seek answers to the questions you won't find anywhere else but from within the organization itself. Position-specific questions are always good—asking about day-to-day responsibilities and who your supervisor would be is appropriate. Other inquiries can include:

  •  How your work would contribute to the organization's mission.
  •  What are the organization's strengths and weaknesses? Successes and failures?
  •  Asking about the organization's management style, organizational structure or culture.
  •  Is there any specific training offered or required with the position?
  •  Are there professional organizations or professional development opportunities the employer encourages staff to get involved with?
  •  Clarification on anything you are not clear on - this way if the issue comes up later, you can confidently continue that part of the conversation.

Also, be sure your questions are open-ended to give the employer a chance to provide a thoughtful response, you want to avoid queries that encourage a "yes" or "no" type of response, notes Virginia Tech Career Services. (https://www.career.vt.edu/Interviewing/AskQuestions.html) These only illustrate your questions were not very forward-thinking. You also want to avoid asking non-relevant questions to use as filler. Salary and benefit questions are also a no-no unless the employer has already outlined these first. If you are brought back for follow-up interviews, these details will come up at that point.

Asking good questions during the interview helps promote positive dialogue and gives both the applicant and the employer a chance to get to know one another better. The questions you choose to ask can help determine the success level of your interview. Make them count.

Leigh Goessl (@LeighGoessl) is a freelance writer in the DC area who covers topics about business, technology, careers, education and regional travel. 

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