RGJ.com RGJ.com Homepage RGJ.com Local News RGJ.com Neighborhoods RGJ.com Sports RGJ.com Business RGJ.com Entertainment RGJ.com Local Life RGJ.com Voices RGJ.com Obituaries RGJ.com Help

CareerBuilder Find Jobs My CareerBuilder Work & Life Tools & Advice Employers


Enter Keyword(s):  


Enter a City:


Select a State:



Create a Job Alert
Get your dream job...right in your inbox!

Hourly-Paid Jobs
Pre-apply for jobs that match YOUR interests.


Sign in now and access your saved searches, resumes and more!

Job Seeker Toolkit
Use these smart tools to land your next job.

SureCheck
See what's in your background records!
Questions every applicant should ask during an interview
 Career Advice


By
Elizabeth
McKinley

 

No matter where or how many times you interview for a new job, the same thing happens every time -- the hiring manager turns to you and asks "Do you have any questions?" If you want the job, you should have a long list ready to go.

What you ask during an interview is essential. Now is not the time for asking about benefits; instead you should be asking questions that can help sell yourself.

Your thoughtful questions will show that you're interested in the company and have done your homework -- both desirable traits to organizations. You also need to ask questions to determine whether the organization is the right fit for your career goals and personal style.

So what should you ask? Here are some ideas:

1. Start with the "secret recipe" question, says Larry Stunkel, author of "From Here to There" and founder of the outplacement firm Lawrence and Allen.

  • WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN A SUCCESSFUL CANDIDATE?

The answer to this question will tell "what the company is looking for and you know what to say" in highlighting your skills during the interview, Stunkel says.

For example, if a manager says he's looking for an applicant with five years in accounting, an appropriate response could be: "At the last two jobs, I've had experience working at two large accounting firms, handling major accounts." Then fill in you're your job accomplishments that match what the interviewer just told you.

You're aiming to reinforce what the company is looking for, he says. You can continue to formulate your answers during the rest of the interview to fit the organization's requirements.

2. Ask questions to assess more about the job.

"From the candidate's perspective, they want to find out if it's the right company for them. Is it a good fit from culture and career growth standpoint," says Jane Walton, operations director for the Human Resources Department of HNTB Companies, infrastructure firms known and respected for work in transportation, bridges, aviation, architecture and urban design and planning.

You also want to determine if there are opportunities for you to grow with the company and be promoted. Ask questions to find that out.

  • WHERE IS THE GREATEST ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
  • WHAT IS MOST PRESSING IN THE NEXT TWO TO THREE MONTHS?
  • IN WHAT WAYS WERE YOU PLEASED WITH THE LAST PERSON?
  • WHY IS THIS JOB OPEN?
  • WHY DID THE PERSON IN THE POSITION LEAVE THE JOB?
  • WHERE CAN A PERSON WHO IS SUCCESSFUL GO?

Take the answers to your questions and relate those to your past experience. You're essentially listening to their problem, and giving an answer that says what you fit the solutions, says Carole Martin, an interview coach and author of "Boost Your Interview IQ."

3. Find out about the company's culture and morale.

Martin stresses the best way to determine the culture and morale is to really listen. Read between the lines and find out if this culture will fit your values and create an atmosphere conducive to your work style.

  • WHAT IS YOUR MANAGEMENT STYLE?
  • WHAT'S THE BEST THING ABOUT WORKING FOR THIS COMPANY?
  • WHAT IS MORALE LIKE AT THE COMPANY?
  • HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE COMPANY CULTURE?
  • TELL ME THE BEST THING ABOUT WORKING FOR YOUR BOSS.

Remember that you should be taking these responses and then relating them to yourself, your work experience and accomplishments.

But be careful not to make it just about you. Think along the lines of what you can bring the company, Walton says. It's not just about what the company can do for you.

4. Show that you've done your homework by asking questions that reflect knowledge of the company and industry.

"With the Internet, there's no excuse not to know something about the organization," Walton says.

Find information on the company mission statement, growth reports, earnings and other statements. Use this to formulate questions. Interviewers want to have an intelligent conversation about the industry, and all the information you can find before entering the interview will give you a boost.

  • WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES FACING YOUR COMPANY AND INDUSTRY?
  • I SEE FROM DOING RESEARCH ON THE INDUSTRY THAT XYZ. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF GROWING WITH THIS TREND?
  • WHAT IS THE COMPANY'S GROWTH PLAN FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
  • I READ RECENTLY THAT XYZ. HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO YOUR ORGANIZATION?
  • I NOTICE ON YOUR WEB SITE THAT THE COMPANY MISSION STATES XYZ

These questions will give you the chance to be proactive about the position -- rather than becoming just another job applicant who is looking for a job, Walton says.

5. Close the interview and sell yourself.

This is the last chance to stress your accomplishments in the interview. If the interviewer expresses any doubts about your experience, come back with an example of how you've handled a similar situation and reinforce how your experience matches this. You can even use volunteer experience.

Stress that you have a proven track record and re-emphasize the five points that most relate to the position, Martin says.

  • DO YOU HAVE ANY DOUBTS I CAN DO THE JOB?
  • WHAT QUESTIONS HAVEN'T I ASKED?
  • IS THERE ANY ADDITIONAL INFORMATION I CAN PROVIDE TO CONVINCE YOU I'M RIGHT FOR THE JOB?
  • WHEN MAY I EXPECT TO HEAR FROM YOU AND WHEN MAY I FOLLOW UP?

Get specifics about when to follow up. This is a great way to get an idea of the hiring timeline -- and it creates an opportunity to follow up instead of pestering the interviewer, Stunkel says.

And remember, the interview is just as much about you finding out about the company as it is them learning about your skills.

(Questions taken from Stunkel, Martin and Walton.)


Elizabeth McKinley is a freelance journalist who writes about careers and workplace issues. E-mail her at elizmckinley@yahoo.com