How to Prepare Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

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(Angelina Casarez/U.S. Air Force photo)

You arrived on time, brought clean copies of your resume and the interview is going well. Congratulations!

You're answering the recruiter's questions succinctly and with authenticity. Your prospects of getting this job are looking great.

Then, the interviewer asks you, "Do you have any questions for me?"

What if you don't have any questions? What does that say about your level of preparedness? Here's how you should prepare for this situation.

What to Research

With so much information available at the click of a keyboard, your research should be robust and thorough before the interview. Pay attention to:

  • The interviewer: Look at their LinkedIn profile. What groups do they belong to? Where did they go to school? Where do they volunteer? Look for commonalities: Do you share a passion for international relations and policy? Did they serve in the military too? Are you both from small towns?
  • The company: Look at the company website, articles it posts or are written about it, and its position in the market. Is it known to be a market leader? New to the market? Is there anything negative written about the company or its culture online? Familiarize yourself with the company history, product or service line, and work environment.
  • Its competitors: What do the competitors do better/worse than the company? Are its competitors growing?
  • The industry: Is the industry thriving or barely surviving? What new trends or technology are emerging? How is the company responding to changes in the industry?

Preparing Your Questions

No matter how thorough and long the interview is, it's important to have questions for the interviewer. It's expected that you will. To say, "You answered all my questions already," is impossible.

As you research the company, interviewer, projects, team and industry as part of your interview preparation, look for clues about the questions you can ask. Here are some sample questions:

  • What are the critical skills the ideal candidate will bring?
  • What challenges do you think the person hired into this role will face?
  • Why is the position open?
  • How will the manager assess success for this position in the first 12 to 18 months?
  • What do you (the interviewer) like about working here?
  • Why do you believe people stay at the company?
  • Does the company expect to see growth in the next year? In what sectors? What's driving that growth?
  • How does the company position itself against its competition?
  • What does a typical day look like for this position?
  • I've read about the company culture. How would you describe it (in your words)?
  • What are the next steps in the hiring process?

How to Ask Questions During an Interview

It might seem obvious that, to ask a question, you just speak. But here are some things that can go wrong:

  • You rapid-fire questions at the interviewer, reminding them more of an interrogation than a job interview.
  • You ask questions that have already been answered in the interview.
  • The interviewer doesn't understand your question, tries to clarify, and you repeat the original question -- over and over.

When the time comes for you to ask your questions of the interviewer, remember to:

  • Speak clearly. If the answer you receive doesn't address your question, reframe or rephrase the question and ask it again. You might offer, "Let me ask it a different way ..." and not make the interviewer feel ignorant for not understanding the first time.
  • Be patient. Listen to their reply. You might ask a question they haven't considered before. Give them time to formulate a response.
  • Pause. Look at your notes before asking the next question or a follow-up question. To avoid sounding like an interrogation, offer confirmation that their response satisfied your inquiry. You might say, "Thank you for that. Makes perfect sense to me." Then proceed to the next question.
  • Keep it conversational. If you can, reframe the questions based on the tone of the interview. If the interviewer's style is more conversational, ask your questions that way. You don't want to ruin any camaraderie you've established by asking questions in a too-formal manner.

Asking questions is an important part of any job interview. Even as you progress through the interview process, have relevant questions ready for the person with whom you're meeting.

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