In most job interviews, at some point (usually toward the end) the interviewer asks what is basically a closing question. Something like “Is there anything you want to know about the company or job?” Or simply “What do you want to ask us?”
What you probably need to know is that, by this point, they pretty much have decided whether to bring you back or not. Or maybe even hire you., barring any surprises. So odds are, whatever you choose to ask them, you are mostly just helping to leave the interview on a good note. Although there’s always a chance!
“What do you want to ask” impact
As an interviewer for many years, when I asked job candidates “What do you want to ask us?” I was looking for any final clues about who they are as a person. Or what they might be like to work with. Well, and giving them a chance to clarify anything they were wondering about.
But I also realized, in many cases, by that time candidates felt like they had been through a war and were just looking to get out of there in one piece. 🙂 So, barring any major surprises, I tried not to let their performance at that point weigh too heavily.
That said, some interviewers may give your “what do you want to know” questions a lot more weight than I did. And for any of us, even the last question can turn things around — in either direction. So try to keep your energy and focus strong until you actually leave the building!
What NOT to ask in an interview
Obviously I can’t think of every single thing that you should not ask a potential employer. But the general rule is think about what you’re telling them about you with your question. And how it reflects upon you as a potential fit to their company and needs.
- Don’t ask questions whose answers can easily be found on their website. If you do, you show you were either too lazy to do your research or you’re just tossing a question their way to ask something.
- But you CAN use info on their website to formulate a question related to the company or job.
- Best not to focus on things like vacation time or other things that show you’re already thinking about NOT being on the job. Or your personal comfort needs. At least not in a first interview. You can always ask questions later on.
- One exception might be if it’s a deal breaker. Such as you have a child and one day a week you might need to leave early or work from home. They may not like it, but if that’s something you must have, then you might as well get that out in the open. Still, might be wise to save that for the next interview also.
- Also, you can ask about you as an employee within the job … what might a typical day at work be for me? … if I do well (which I plan on doing!) is there room for growth?
Chance to knock it out of the park?
If they already like you, this is a chance to leave them with an extra strong impression of you. And a sense of who they might be lucky enough to hire.
And, if they’re leaning away from you or maybe on the fence, this last impression can go a long way to help your chances. So please don’t just ask anything to get the interview over with.
Your questions may not turn them around, but since you have no idea what they’re really thinking, give it your best shot. Still, you also need to respect their time. So two or three good questions should be enough.. And, if you can interact naturally, in a way that feels right and conversational as they answer, go ahead.
Just watch their body language and gauge if they are ready to stop. Are they leaning forward and maybe nodding in agreement or recognition as you speak? Or are they gently signaling time’s up? It’s not necessarily a bad thing. They do have other interviews and regular business. And they may already know they want to bring you back.
A few more thoughts
Interviewing people is about the whole package. So don’t get thrown by a fumbled answer — or what you think wasn’t your best response. Bring your best energy and sincerity to the interview.
Stay fully engaged and, above all, make sure you listen carefully to them, rather than already anticipating your next answer. Or the last one you gave. And when they ask what you want to ask us, come prepared with questions that show you thought about it ahead of time — and put some energy into not asking the obvious.
Your interviewer wants to see if you can (1) think on your feet (nerves ok); (2) do the job; and (3) fit well with the company and team. As much as you may want to show them your brilliance and fascinating life history, remain focused on what they actually ask. And stay as natural and likable as possible.
Aim your interview answers at showing them the match for what they said they want in the job description. And what they are telling you in the interview. And do your best to leave them feeling good about the person they just met.
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