How to Not Botch the “Any Questions for Us?” Portion of the Interview

The job interview has been going along quite well so far.  Now, we are at the point where we ask the candidate, “Do you have any questions for us?”

Wait for it…

“No; no questions,” the candidate replies.  Really?  There is absolutely nothing this applicant wants to know?  This person is ready to quit his or her current job and come here to work, and yet doesn’t have any questions whatsoever about the job itself or the organization?

Perhaps no questions are being asked because:

  • The candidate does not have enough knowledge or depth of understanding regarding this position or line of work to even have any questions.
  • The candidate has decided the position is no longer of interest and is eager to end the interview and get the heck out of here.
  • The candidate feels he or she already knows everything there is to know about this job and the organization.
  • Maybe the candidate doesn’t even really particularly care about this specific job; he or she just wants a job, any job, or is desperately trying to escape their current one.

Ouch!  Do you really want to leave the interviewers with any of those impressions?

I have personally seen this situation play out time and time again.  Still, I always feel bad for the candidate, and invariably see the look of disappointment on the faces of the other interviewers.  Asking no questions at the end of the interview – or asking the wrong questions – is a missed opportunity to get in that one, last, positive punch and hopefully seal the deal.

First, what not to ask.  I once interviewed a person who had one, single question to ask: “I really like my vacation time.  What is the absolute soonest I could take a two-week paid vacation?”  I can’t make this stuff up…

Ok, I assume you are better than that, and if you are smart enough to be reading Career Lantern and looking to improve your interviewing skills, you would never ask anything so ridiculous.  Yet, applicants do sometimes ask goofy questions; just make sure you’re not one of them.

Second, unless the interviewers initiate a conversation about compensation and want to discuss it right then and there, which is rare, this is not really the time to ask about money or benefits.  If you are fortunate enough to be offered a position, there will be time later to discuss that; besides, once they have decided you are the one they want, you will be in a better bargaining position.  At this point in the interview your focus should be all about the job, not the money.

Additionally, interviewers will quite often defer questions regarding pay and benefits to their human resources (HR) professionals, as such matters can be complex.  Especially at large companies, pay and benefits packages may vary depending on the particular position, grade or level, union, or any host of other factors, and the typical interviewer may not know the details and certainly doesn’t want to make a mistake.  When it comes to dollars, not every interviewer necessarily has the official authority to negotiate or have final say on the actual pay grade you will be offered anyway.  Especially in larger organizations with HR departments, the hiring manager may need to request – or even justify to HR – why you should be hired at anything higher than the minimum base rate of pay for the position.

Note, however, the interviewer may inform you of the entry-level of rate of pay for this position during the course of the interview, but this may merely be a requirement or formality, and not necessarily an invitation to start wage negotiations at that time.  If you are already making more money at your present job, or have education, credentials, and experience which exceed the minimum required, the interviewer knows you probably expect more than an entry-level wage package.  If you are the chosen one, the manager will likely be willing to go to bat for you with HR to get approval to offer higher pay as an enticement for you to come to work for the organization.  As a manager, I would be embarrassed to try to offer a well-qualified and already highly paid candidate a position at nothing more than an entry-level rate.

Third, avoid the “canned” subjective or abstract interview questions such as “Could you describe the culture at this organization?”  Get real.  The interviewer is not going to tell you “It’s really bad here,” or “Backstabbing is the way to get promoted at our company.”  The interviewers have probably heard these same internet-suggested generic questions from the last three applicants.  Besides, you can and should develop questions which are much more relevant to the position at hand; take advantage of this opportunity to show you have a real interest in the job and know your stuff!

Obviously, the questions you ask will vary based on the career field, position, and position level; here are a few hypothetical samples which may help you to formulate your own:

  • “What bedside clinical charting software do you use at this hospital to enter orders, track patient data, and obtain test results?”
  • “How are facility maintenance work orders received at this organization? Do clients ask for work by telephone, e-mail, or by entering such requests into an enterprise-wide computer system?”
  • “What type of turnaround time do you provide to customers?”
  • “Are the materials used warehoused here or are they ordered from suppliers as needed?”
  • “I am curious about the testing equipment you use here.  Do you use an ACME 2000, GX-4000, or another device?”
  • “Could you describe the training process for new representatives?”
  • (For a management position) “If I am hired as the manager, what do you see as the top three priorities you would like addressed first?”

There is another benefit to asking solid, position-related questions; the answers provided by the interviewers will help you decide whether the organization is a good fit for you.  Interviewing is, after all, a two-way street.

Asking about topics which demonstrate you possess a deeper interest and knowledge of the work, a passion for good customer service, and concern for meeting the needs of the organization will likely do much more for you than the typical, old, garden variety questions.

Let’s try it again… “Do you have any questions for us?

 

Featured image courtesy of Alan Cleaver – flickr

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