You Must Be Ready to Answer this Question

The interview has gone well. You’ve connected with the interviewer, you were smart and on your game. You’re already imagining that this is place you could be working, the coffee smells a little better and all is right in your career world. Only a few minutes left, shake hands and smile and you are out the door, the dream job offer is in the mail. Your friend, the interviewer says there is just one more question before you leave and you think there is nothing that can stop you now.

Do you have any questions for me?

If you are not prepared for this question you might relax or think that the interviewer is just being polite or trying to wrap up the meeting. If you are prepared, your ears perk up; this is your chance to show that you’ve done your homework on the company and the position, and that you’re a savvy candidate who actually knows that this is one of the most important parts of the interview.

Let’s start with the basics: the worst possible answer to this question is, “No, thanks, I think I have everything I need.” This is a sign that you are either not interested, not prepared, not hungry, or worse yet, all of the above. For some interviewers, this can be a red light green light moment. If you are prepared, this moment is when you have the most control of the interview and is a chance for you to seal the deal. So, prepare for this question ahead of time, and be ready to ask a series of questions that support your narrative.

You have a lot of options here, so do your homework and make some decisions prior to the meeting. If you really want this career, this effort should be interesting and help you as you move forward. Your choices here are many, consider the pros and cons of each one in this particular situation. Assuming you’ve done your homework, it is acceptable—and actually to your advantage—to ask tough questions about the company’s strategy and culture. Demonstrate that you’re thoughtful and well informed, but don’t cross the line into being insulting or overly personal. Here are just a few examples of the kind of questions you might ask:

1) You Can Ask About the Culture
How would you describe the kinds of people who thrive in the company, versus those who don’t? In my first job, the company culture was all about collaboration, teamwork, and never using the word ‘I’; in my second, the people who stood out were individual stars. Where does your organization fall on that spectrum?

2) You Can Ask About the Position
What would success look like in this job? If I were offered this position, what would I need to accomplish in the next year for you to look back and say, ‘What an amazing year you’ve had!’?

3) You Can Ask About the Company
In the most recent earnings call, the chief financial officer said that the company is projecting flat revenue for the year, even though the market is growing by double digits. Are you concerned about the company’s strategy?

4) You Can Ask About the Interviewer
Could you tell me about your story? How did you find your way to the company? How does it compare to your prior organization? What have you enjoyed most, and what has been most frustrating? Remember: people love to be asked about themselves. Ideally, you will know ahead of time the name of the person who will be interviewing you, and you can research them on Google and LinkedIn to form questions about their individual career path and professional achievements.

5) You Can Ask Questions of General Advice
In the retail field, what are the advantages and disadvantages of starting out on the sales floor versus starting at the company headquarters? How often do employees start in one department of the company and move into another? What is the process for that to happen? I love international cultures and am at a point in my life where I am completely mobile geographically. How does the company go about creating business leaders with global experience?

Warning: In an interview, bad questions do exist.

Try not to ask questions about facts that are readily available in the public domain. Even if you’re genuinely interested to know the answer, these kinds of questions risk making it look like you haven’t done your homework. A good rule of thumb is that if you can get an answer from a Google search, you should already know it ahead of the interview.

Your goal for is for the interviewer to describe you later as being “very sharp and asking great questions.” Asking great questions is one of the most sure-fire ways to succeed in an interview and ultimately get the job. Remember, no fist pumps on the way out.

What are the best questions you’ve ever asked in an interview?

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