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Job search: When interviewer asks whether you have any questions

For 45 minutes, your interview has been going well — better than well! You quickly built rapport with your interviewer. You gave concise answers that were on point and clearly articulated the ROI to be expected from hiring you. You’re in the “interview zone.” You’re thinking, “I got this!”

Then your interviewer asks: “Do you have any questions?”

Even though this question will inevitably be asked, most candidates end up stumbling around for what to ask. You don’t want to be such a candidate.

Furthermore, you do not want to be a candidate who asks questions that are clearly “off the cuff.” (e.g., “When does the position start?”, “Are there opportunities for advancement?”, “What’s parking like around here?”)

Worst is the candidate who says they have no questions. This shows a lack of interest in the position.

It’s fair to say candidates are concerned about their questions being acceptable. They’re afraid of appearing picky or demanding or worry their interviewer will judge them negatively. Yes, it can be nerve-racking to diplomatically elicit the information you really want (e.g., “What are you really like as a manager?”, “Does everyone secretly hate it here?”), however, it’s in your best interest to make an informed decision.

While I can’t speak for all hiring managers, there’s no question you can’t ask me. I want the candidate to have all the information they need to decide whether the job is right for them. Feel free to ask me anything!

A candidate once asked me what my pet peeves are. I replied my top two are lateness and poor communication skills. The candidate responded by telling me they lived close by and were the editor of their college newspaper. (Information that didn’t appear on their resume.) I hired the person.

The only questions you shouldn’t ask are self-serving questions, such as, “What does the position pay?”, “How many vacation days will I get?”, “What’s your sick-day policy?” You want to strategically ask questions that show you’re serious about contributing to the organization. You’re not looking for a paycheque, you’re looking for a long-term employer/employee relationship.

Here are 10 questions you can ask to gain further insight into whether the job and company are a match for you and show your interviewer you’re not just looking for a paycheque.

1. “How is success measured for this position?”

2. “What are some of the challenges a person in this position can expect to face?”

3. “Please describe a typical day or week in the job?”

4. “How long did the previous person in the role hold the position?”

5. “What are you hoping I will accomplish in my first six months and in my first year?”

6. “Thinking back to people who’ve held this position, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great?”

7. “How would you describe the culture here? What type of people tend to thrive, and what type seems to struggle?”

8. “Is there an employee performance review process? How often does that occur? Can you walk me through a typical one?”

9. “Is there anything else I can provide you with that would be helpful or additional questions I can answer?”

10. “What’s your management style like? How will you manage me?”

I always ask question number 10. Several times, my interviewer’s answer determined I wouldn’t be a good fit.

Of course, you won’t be able to ask all 10 questions. Have these questions and any others you can think of, ready to ask. Tailor the above questions and others you may think of, so your questions don’t come across generic. For example, “Can you describe a typical day or week in the job?” should be, “Please describe a typical day or week for an account manager at Zorin Industries.”

Prepare at least five questions to ask your interviewer. Don’t be put off if your questions are answered throughout the interview. (Never ask a question that was answered during the interview.) There’s a good chance questions will occur to you during the interview. That’s great! You want the interview to be a conversation between peers. Don’t wait for your interviewer to ask if you have any questions. Ask clarifying questions as needed, making the interview conversational. This shows you’re paying attention, and to a degree, you’re controlling the conversation.

During your next interview, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Should you receive a job offer you want to make an informed decision whether to accept or not.

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. Send him your questions at artoffindingwork@gmail.com.