In every interview, there comes a time when you’re asked if you have any questions. I’ve watched many people in this situation shake their head “no” or worse, ask a question that could be answered by Google in .0002 seconds.
The invitation to ask a question in an interview, like every other part of an interview, demands a quality response. Word to the wise: prepare yourself with meaty questions that will make the interviewer remember you. It’s the only question you are guaranteed to get in an interview: you have no reason to screw it up.
Before an interview, you should first do research on the company — pore over their website, research their employees on LinkedIn, review the comments onGlassdoor (but take them with a grain of salt), check out their social profiles and any recent press about them. Once you have a good sense for the company, start coming up with questions that you genuinely are curious about. The interview is as much for you as it is for them – you need to establish whether or not this company and role are a fit for you and your goals.
Practice asking your interview questions. Think about when might be a good time to bring them up. You don’t have to save all of your questions for the end of the interview. Asking questions throughout will make you seem engaged, invested, and curious. It’ll also keep the interview like a conversation as opposed to an interrogation.
Write your questions down. Bring them with you. It’s OK to scan through them and pick out the most appropriate ones. You’ll make sure to get them right, and it makes you look more prepared and thorough.
As for the questions themselves, here are my seven rules:
Do NOT ask a question that can be answered by Google. It’ll look like you haven’t done your research.
DO contextualize your questions to show you’ve done your homework. For instance, don’t ask, “What’s your company’s strategy?” Instead ask, “I read an interview by your CEO about your international expansions, how much of your company’s strategy is focused internationally as opposed to domestically?”
DO ask questions that will give you a sense of company culture. In an interview, employers are trying to determine whether or not you’re a cultural fit. Take it upon yourself to get the conversation around culture going. Example: “I read that your CEO said your culture is a key to your success. How have you managed to grow so quickly while maintaining that culture?”
DO ask questions about the goals for the role. Use a specific time frame. Example: “How would you define success for this role in the first 90 days on the job?”
DO ask a question about where the company wants to be in 5 years. Don’t just ask about the goals of the position, ask about the goals of the company as a whole. It’ll show that you are ready to add value.
Do NOT ask a question about salary or paid time off. This can be discussed after a formal or verbal offer.
DO ask a question about any concerns they may have about you or your qualifications. It’s bold, but it will give you a chance to address anything they might think you’re lacking. Example: “You’ve had a chance to get to know me a little bit, and obviously, know the role well. Is there anything about my qualifications that concerns you or any gaps we haven’t had a chance to cover today?”
Josh Jarrett started his career with McKinsey as a business analyst. He has since led higher education innovation at the Gates Foundation, launched a tech startup in the bay area in the late 90’s, and most recently, co-founded Koru.