Interviewer: “So, do you have any questions for us?”
Candidate: “Yes, what questions should I ask at the end of an interview?”
I am often asked by my clients about the mystery surrounding what questions they should ask at the end of an interview. As an ex-corporate recruiter, people often think I’m privy to the secret code of ‘Good questions’ and ‘Bad questions’ that directly determine whether or not they will get offered the job.
While there are certain questions it might be best to avoid and others that can create a good impression, there aren’t strict rules about what you can and can’t ask at the end of an interview. A lot of it comes down to what you are genuinely interested to know.
Here are some guidelines to help you deal with this part of the interview:
1) Always ask SOMETHING
Even if you don’t have any burning questions, it’s a good idea to ask something to demonstrate your curiosity and interest in the company. You might think you’re saving the interviewer time by not asking any further questions, but the interviewer could interpret this as apathy for the organisation or for the role.
2) Don’t ask questions you could find the answer to online
Try to avoid asking about things that are readily available on their company website, or that you could find the answer to yourself through a bit of online research. This could be interpreted as lazy and might give the impression you haven’t really done much background research in order to prepare for your interview.
3) Ask about something you’re genuinely interested in
You don’t need to ask the most complicated or original question in the world. Ask a question that allows you to subtly display what you are passionate about or interested in. For example, if you’re really interested in diversity and inclusion, you might ask the interviewer what initiatives the company is working on (just be sure the answer to this isn’t readily available online!) If the person interviewing you works in the team you would be joining, you could ask them what their professional highlight within the team has been so far.
4) Don’t ask questions to deliberately aggravate the interviewer
Similar to the point above, don’t ‘show off’ by asking an extremely complicated or aggressively challenging question that could make the interviewer feel uncomfortable. Interviewers should be trained to handle such questions, but you could be seen as a deliberate trouble maker who doesn’t respect authority. If you do want to ask a complicated or controversial question, be sure to enquire in a friendly and polite way, explaining why you are interested to learn more about this. Also remember that any sensitive or risky question may get turned around to you – and they may ask you to articulate your own opinion or your motivation for asking the question in the first place.
5) Listen carefully to the response
It’s a common occurrence for interviewees to be so relieved they have asked an appropriate question to zone out and not listen carefully to the response given from your interviewer. Engage with the interviewer as they answer your question with eye contact and positive body language and if appropriate, ask a considered follow up question or simply add your comments to their response. This will demonstrate your listening and interpersonal skills, as well as your eagerness and interest in the job.
6) Avoid questions about compensation and benefits
If and when you get to the point of job offer, discussing the salary and benefits of the job is important. You need to understand what the deal is, and you may wish to negotiate on the details. The interview is generally not the best place to ask this, as it could give the impression that you are not that engaged or interested in the role itself. The questions you ask are an opportunity to learn more about the role or the company – save the questions about salary for a later conversation.
Hannah Salton worked in corporate HR & recruitment for 8 years, most recently looking after graduate recruitment for global law firm Allen & Overy. In 2017 she transitioned to become a career coach and consultant, delivering bespoke career coaching programmes for graduates looking to develop the skills and awareness needed to secure their dream job.