Workplace Rights

Weekly (2/29/16)

Topic of the Week  Question Authority: Questions Every Job Applicant Should Ask

  • Prepare your questions in advance.
  • Show you've done your homework.
  • Focus on them.
  • Ask what it will take for them to hire you.

For many of us it's tough enough to just get a job interview, so once you get your foot in the door you want to be sure to make the best impression possible. One often overlooked strategy, asking great questions. Yes, you read that correctly. It's important to not just passively answer an interviewers questions, you should also be prepared to interview them. Which reminds me of a friend who recently nailed a job interview. They'd even begun to negotiate his starting dates and salary. He told me that the job was as good as in the bag, then everything suddenly came tumbling down after he asked a simple question. "Will this be your first child?" Yep, you guessed it, the interviewer wasn't pregnant. Oops.

Here are four more questions that you should never ask in an interview. How many warnings will I get before I'm fired? Can I see the break room? I hated my last boss, how are the bosses here? What does this company do? Now that you know the don'ts, here are a few questions that you should consider asking. What do you like about working here? How would you describe the ideal candidate for this position? What results would you like to see in the first 90 days? Do you have any reservations about hiring me? (Yes, there is a risk to ask this, but the chances of learning something that might help you outweigh the downside, at least to me.) Here are four more strategies to help you ace that next interview.

Prepare your questions in advance. Let's face it, you'll have enough on your mind during the interview. Don't put more pressure by having to think up questions, prepare a few in advance. Ask about the company, competitors, strategy. But don't only work off a script, listen to what they say and be prepared to come up with questions and comments in the moment.

Show you've done your homework. Don't ask obvious questions or anything that could be easily answered after five minutes on their company web site. Show that you've come to the interview prepared, you'll be surprised at how often that will distinguish you from the other applicants.

Focus on them. Most people go into an interview thinking, "Me, me, me." Sure you'll have to talk about yourself, where you've been and where you're going. But employers also like to hear about their needs too. How you can add value, reduce costs and fit in with their strategic direction. Be careful to not come across as arrogant or bossy, but do engage them in a dialogue.
Ask what it will take for them to hire you. Show them interest without arrogance.

Remember, an interview is just as much about your deciding if you want to work for them as it is them deciding if they want you to work for them. Learn the do's and don'ts of asking questions in a job interview and chances are that you'll be giving birth to a new job.

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him

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