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The Most Important Question
The most important question asked by a hiring manager may be: "Do you have any questions?" Answered thoughtfully, it may give a candidate the edge by demonstrating initiative, knowledge and interest. Equally important, this segment of the interview offers the candidate an opportunity to gain insight about the job or company by mining information that might not otherwise be presented by a potential employer.
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The Interviewer's Perspective
When the interviewer opens the discussion with this routine question, don't sigh with relief because the interview is almost over. The hiring manager will glean important information from your choice of questions to ask during the job interview. Each query provides insight about:
- How much research the candidate has performed. The questions should extend beyond information that is readily available on the company website or in the media.
- How interested the candidate is in the position. If you have no questions, then you may not really want the job.
- The candidate's work ethic. Questions about breaks, work hours and vacation may signal a focus on personal objectives at the expense of company priorities.
- The intelligence of the candidate. Well-researched, insightful questions will point to a smart candidate. Poor questions prompt the opposite opinion.
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An Opportunity to Assess the Job and Company
The employer generally has the upper hand in an interview setting. The interview is generally located on company turf and the structure of the meeting is often pre-determined. The potential employer will discuss details that present the company in the best possible light. As a result, it can be difficult to gain an accurate assessment of the working environment and company culture. It is perfectly acceptable and expected that questions will be asked about:
- The history of the job
- The job responsibilities and duties
- How performance will be evaluated
- The department where the position resides
- The company and prospects for the future
- Next steps in the interview process.
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Examples of Questions
Following are some examples of questions to ask during a job interview. Ask questions you are interested in and tailor them to your specific situation. It is helpful to have a clear understanding of your career goals. If a question has already been answered during the interview, cross it off your list to avoid the impression that you have not been listening. Also, be sure to ask follow-up questions. The conversation should follow a natural flow. Be mindful of the time and ask the most important questions first.
- Why did the last person leave this job?
- How many people have held this position over the last 2 years?
- What skill was most helpful to the last person that held this job?
- What departments or people will I work most closely with?
- Why do you enjoy working with this company?
- Does the company support employees in professional development?
- What is the first project that I would be assigned to?
- What are your plans for expansion?
- How do you compare with your competitors?
- What are the next steps in the interview process?
- Would you like a copy of my references?
Once the interview has concluded be sure to send a follow-up letter that highlights your interest and competencies for the job. It's also the perfect opportunity to ask a question you may have forgotten!
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