It is far too common to see strong candidates barely being able to keep it together in the final stretch of the interview when presented with the opportunity to ask questions. I have heard everything from “I have no questions” to a barrage of follow-up queries on a narrow topic. Candidates who fare well on this question use the opportunity to assess if the role is a fit for them and seek answers about the company that no online search will provide them.
Why does this question matter?
Assessing fit for a role is a two-way street
No amount of research can replace first-hand information from an interviewer that the organization has entrusted the responsibility to hire future employees. This 5- or 10-minute window is your opportunity to fill the gaps in your assessment of whether the company and the role is a fit for you. This also shows the interviewer your level of interest and curiosity for the role and the company.
You run the final play
For the first time in the interview, you have the opportunity to fully control the topics and the pace of the conversation. When you prepare well, you can use it to your advantage no matter how well or not the interview has progressed thus far. If you think you have nailed the interview, this is the time to finish it strong. If you have been less stellar, you can use this time window to cut your losses.
Use it as a litmus test
Companies with a long term vision for sustainable growth understand that it is important to not only measure the candidate against the needs of the role but also help the candidate evaluate if they can grow in the role as a professional and as a person. If the interviewer skips this question, look out for similar patterns of disinterest in the hiring process to empathize with your needs.
How to prepare the questions for the question?
1. Prepare at least 10 to 15 questions
Chances are you would not have time to ask them all. But if you have a playbook of at least a dozen questions, it allows you the flexibility to run the best play depending on the situation. If you prepare for 4 or 5 questions, some of your questions may get answered throughout the interview. The last thing you would want is to leave time on the clock with no more questions to ask. That’s a lost opportunity.
2. Make it personal to your journey and aspirations
If you search in Google for “Best Questions to Ask the Interviewer”, you will get a plethora of generic questions. DO NOT use them as is. Be prepared to spend at least 2 to 3 hours before the interview to personalize your questions. For example, one of the common questions you stumble upon during online search is, “Tell me about the culture in your company”. Culture means different things to different people. Identify what aspects of culture are important to you and re-purpose the question. If you are a front-end engineer seeking a workplace that prioritizes innovation and community collaboration, then break the question into:
- “Frontend frameworks evolve every 6 months. How do you keep pace with evaluating and adopting the latest technology?”
- “I love to contribute to open-source projects. What avenues are available in the organization for contributing back to the community?”
3. Diversify your topics
There is no perfect workplace. Period. With so many attributes that will influence your engagement at your prospective workplace, you should try to spread your questions across a range of topics to explore with your interviewer based on their role. The organization’s history, work-culture, strategic focus areas, business model, career path, professional growth are a few of the many topics to chat about.
4. Be genuine
If there was only one suggestion that I could give anybody to prepare for a job interview, it would be this — be yourself. Prepare your list of questions on topics that you are genuinely curious about. If there was a theme that struck you in the interactions with others in the organization, bring it up. If there was something in the interviewer’s journey in the company that intrigued you, ask about it. Keep it natural.
5. Remember the last question
Sometimes, recruiting can become a thankless job. More often than not, the folks who interview you, do so by stretching additional hours to accommodate interview slots. Close your questions by asking the interviewer if they can share their work email or visiting card. If you had a good experience as a candidate, drop a short note thanking for their time and any topic that interested you most from the interview. Regardless of whether it helps your prospects or not, that’s just a human thing to do.
If you spend the time and effort to do your research, this last section of the interview can uniquely position you to differentiate yourself from the other candidates. Use it to showcase what truly matters to you in your professional journey and to get a step closer in determining if this is the right role for you.