A job interview is an opportunity for the organization to find out what it wants to know about finalists for a position, but it is also an opportunity for each finalist to find out what he or she wants to know as well. Interviewing is a two-way street.
As much as the hiring manager wants to know more about the individual they hire, the individual wants to know about the hiring manager, future coworkers, and the organization. A finalist that neglects to prepare and ask questions during an interview misses opportunities to impress the hiring manager and to gather more information that will inform the decision to accept a job offer.
When to Ask Your Prospective Employer Questions
The finalist’s questions are usually reserved for the end of the interview process. Any questions you have may be answered naturally during the course of the interview. For example, an interviewer may set up a question about a candidate’s willingness to work long hours by saying that long hours are sometimes required. If the finalist had prepared a question about whether long hours are required, that question does not need to be asked at the end of the interview.
In panel interviews, most questions should be directed to the hiring manager. Other panelists may provide their opinions if appropriate. It is very important to ask questions at the end of an interview.
Show You’re Interested
Asking questions shows that you’re truly interested in the job. Someone who is uninterested in the job would not take the time to develop questions. Such a person would sit for the interview and leave as soon as possible. Your questions tell the hiring manager that you have considered the position to the extent that you have exhausted the resources that you can find.
Show You’ve Researched the Organization
Good questions show that you have done your research. A warning here is to make sure have done your research. If you ask an agency overseeing state parks how many parks the state has, that shows that you did not do your research. The number of state parks is an easy piece of information to find.
You have to dig deeper. If you look at the agency’s website and find that the most visited state park has four times as many annual visitors than the least visited park, good questions would ask why this is, what does the most visited state park have or do that brings them so many visitors, and what can the least visited park do that the most visited park does.
While the examples above are good questions in isolation, you must make sure that the questions you ask are relevant to the job’s role in the organization.
Show You’re Intelligent
If you have a genuine interest in the position and ask well-research questions, you will show the hiring manager that you are intelligent. Intelligence is a positive trait no matter what the position.
Good questions reveal a finalist’s thought processes. Hiring managers want people who are able to think independently. Policies and procedures can only take an organization so far. These are minimums. In order for an organization to thrive, it needs people who can take the organization’s mission, policies, and procedures and apply the underlying principles to any work situation.
Informs Your Decision to Accept a Job Offer
In the most basic sense, questions are designed to gather information. While it is nice to impress a hiring manager, the overall goal of a finalist’s questions is to inform the decision to accept a job offer if it is extended. Questions about salary, benefits and other such topics are best saved for after a job offer is secured, but questions about organizational culture, management expectations, and goodness of fit between the finalist and the position are fair game during the interview.
For an external finalist, the interview is usually the only time to ask questions face-to-face. The finalist can see the hiring manager’s body language while answering the question which can help the finalist judge how truthful the hiring manager is in his or her answers.