Do you have any Questions?

This question is asked at the end of most interviews, and it gives the candidate a chance to shine and stand out from the pack. Do you come loaded with questions, or do you end an interview saying that all your questions were answered?

Most candidates clam up at this point, giving the impression that they are uninterested or unprepared. It’s a huge mistake.

A more effective strategy is to come loaded with questions, so you’ll always have a few left for the end of each interview. You’ll want different questions for different individuals, depending on their job function.

What kinds of questions should you ask?

Don’t use the questions part of your interview to find out more about the company….you can do that later. Use questions to further sell yourself. Use questions to show your knowledge of the company, its strategy, to uncover problems (that you can solve).

The best questions to ask are ones where you already know ½ of the answer. Why? You can show your insight, research, and preparedness more effectively through insightful questions, than by directly stating your knowledge. Insightful questions show a higher level of thinking than memorization and regurgitation of facts.

The best questions to ask are open ended. Use implication questions that uncover what happens if problems aren’t fixed, to increase the perception that you understand the problem. Questions that start with How, Why, What impact, What implications, are much stronger than questions that start with Who, What, When, or Where.

Don’t use the questions section to ask about career advancement, average raises, vacation policy, or HR type questions. These questions don’t help you sell yourself. Instead, ask questions about strategy, corporate goals, corporate problems or issues, business opportunities, industry issues or problems.

Where can you find information to ask about? It’s all over, especially if you are interviewing with a public company. If a public company, review the management comment section of the Annual report and 10Q. Review press releases, recent articles on Yahoo Finance, company blogs, blogs about the company. For private companies, check out blogs, Google search, and industry information. From these resources, could you ask “Your industry is projected to increase by 25% in the next 3 years. How is (insert company name) preparing to capitalize on this opportunity?”

If your interview is with HR, you might not wish to ask strategic questions, but broader questions like “Can you describe the company’s culture?” or “How do you see the company’s culture changing as you capitalize on industry trends that project 25% growth over the next 3 years?”. Other good HR questions are “Can you describe the personality types of people who are successful at your company?”

Don’t be afraid to ask the same question to different people who interview you. You’ll likely find that different people at different levels have different answers.

What can you gain from these questions? The specific answers you get aren’t so important. What’s important is that you are asking tough questions. Are you getting truthful answers? If you know all or part of the answer before you ask the question, you’ll know. If you’re not being told the truth during an interview, what does that tell you about the work environment and management?

So spend a good part of your interview preparation time, coming up with 10-20 insightful questions, and you’ll find your interview process to be much more successful.