How often have you come to the end of an interview and drawn a blank when it was your time to ask the questions? The interview has proceeded like a pleasant conversation in which you’ve asked questions throughout, but now you’re stumped. Hopefully this hasn’t happened too often or not at all. But even the most qualified candidates have a moment of letdown and lose the interview because they were unprepared.
It’s extremely important that you have insightful questions to ask at the end of an interview. It shows your interest in the job and the company, and it shows that you’re prepared, all of which the employer likes to know.
So what types of questions do you want to ask? What is the employer hoping to hear? Not “How much time do I get for lunch?” nor “What are the work hours?” nor “What’s the salary for this position?” In other words, no stupid question that will reflect poorly on you.
Arrive prepared for the interview. Before the interview write 10-15 questions on a sheet of paper or note cards. If you think you can remember them, simply tuck them in your leather binder for safekeeping. However, you may need assistance when your nerves are rattled and you’ve reached the point of exhaustion, in which case you can ask if you can refer to your written questions. Interviewers will generally allow you to read your answers off your sheet or note cards.
There are three general areas on which to focus your questioning: the position, the company, and the competition.
The position. Don’t ask questions you could find by reading the job description; rather ask questions that demonstrate your advanced knowledge. For example, the ad says you’ll be required to manage a supervisor and 10 employees. You realize that a start-up company might not have the resources to train its supervisors in Lean Six Sigma, and you want to highlight your certificate as a Black Belt.
“I’d be curious to know if the current supervisor is certified in Lean Six Sigma, and if not would your company consider having me give him a basic course in LSS?” The answer is yes to your question, so you follow with another question that could lead to further conversation. “Would you like to talk further about how I can save your company money by training your supervisor?”
This question shows a legitimate concern for quality performance but also demonstrates your willingness to improve the supervisor’s knowledge, your ability to solve problems, and your desire to save the company money. Always ask questions that indicate you’re concerned most with what the company needs, not what you need.
The company. Like the questions you’ll ask about the position, research is essential for this area of questioning. Your research should entail more than visiting the company’s website and reading its marketing material—everything written will extol its superior products or services. In addition, talk to people in the company who can give you the good, bad, and ugly of the company.
“I’ve read on your website and spoken with some of the people here who verify that your customer satisfaction rate is very high. Could you tell me if there are issues your customers have that need to be addressed immediately?”
The interviewers are happy to hear that you’re thinking about satisfying customers and indicate there have been some complaints about late shipments.
“In that case, I can assure you that late shipments will dramatically decrease. We may have failed to talk about the role I had at my previous company which had me oversee shiping and create a system that decreased late shipments by 35%, thereby saving the company thousands of dollars in returns. Would you like to talk about how I can help your company improve shipping processes?”
The competition. The company has one company that is giving it headaches. It’s a sore topic, but you want to make the interviewers aware that you are coming in with your eyes wide open. Your research has told you that the other company is competing for some market share in the widget product.
“I’m aware of company XYZ’s movement in its widget. What are your concerns, if any, Company XYZ poses in this market? I have ideas of how to market your similar product to your customers. Would you like to hear them?”
After a great conversation, where you’ve answered the interviewers’ questions and asked some of your own, it’s your turn to ask more questions. Don’t go to the interview unprepared to ask the interviewers illuminating questions of your own. Failing to ask quality questions can mean he difference between getting or not getting the job.