What do employers look for when they ask “Do you have any questions for us?”
Congratulations, you have an interview! Whether it is an in-person or phone interview, you need to prepare thoroughly for any questions that the interviewer(s) might ask – or that you want to ask them.
Job interviewing is a two-way street. In this competitive job market many candidates feel lucky to have “any” job, or even just an interview. However, if you take a job that is not the right fit for your personality or technical strengths you are doing both yourself and your employers a big disservice. Employers invest a lot of time and money into the hiring process, and if they hire someone who does not have the right set of skills or personality, they will need to start the search all over again – and you do too.
Most candidates are well-prepared to answer questions about their technical backgrounds, but it is common for some very bright interviewees to stumble when it is their turn to ask questions. They either have not thought about any questions to ask, they ask questions that suggest that they have not done their homework about the company/position, or they inquire about benefits, which is a real turn-off for most employers before you are offered a job. How can employers answer questions about benefits or salary if they have not even put an offer together for you?
When employers ask: “Do you have any questions for us?” they are not interested in how taking this job will affect your personal life (commute or ability to buy a new house). When it is your turn to ask questions, employers want to see:
1. Are you interested in this job/company?
2. Are you looking to add value to this company to help them be more profitable?
3. Did you do your due diligence about this company and their mission?
4. Do you have the right personality for this job?
The worst possible answer is to say that you have no questions at all, because then the interviewer will assume that you have no interest in the position. If you have done your homework and have a sincere interest in this position, you probably will have questions about the position, your responsibilities, and interactions with other groups in the company. Instead of being relieved that the interview is nearly over, this is the time to show energy and enthusiasm, so you leave a great impression on your interviewer(s).
12 Questions You Should NEVER Ask at a Job Interview
At the end of this article, I will share with you some questions that will help you to stand out from the crowd and actually improve your chances of landing a job – but let’s begin with the basics. Remember, that when you are asked “Do you have any questions for us?” you still need to show that you have the right personality and qualifications for this job. It is not a time to relax and have a casual conversation.
The best strategy is to ask questions related to the job or company, and not about salary or benefits. The list of questions that you should NOT to ask is infinite, of course, (e.g. Are nose-rings allowed? – no kidding, some candidates actually are concerned about this), but this list will give you a general idea of what types of questions to not bring up at all, or to bring up after the offer has been made, or perhaps after you have been working for the company for a while.
When it is your turn to interview the employer (phone or in-person) NEVER ask:
1. Information about the company that you could have easily found with a quick Google search.You really need to do your research about their product/service, so you can show how you can bring value to the company with your skill set.
2. What is a typical salary for this position? This is a tricky one, as some companies will ask you about salary expectations even before you apply. In most cases, it usually the HR person or recruiter who will bring up salary before they bring you in for an interview. They might ask: “What are you looking for in terms of salary?” Discussions about salary are beyond the scope of the article, but a general recommendation is to avoid giving a specific number and instead emphasize that you want to be compensated according to your experience level. If they keep probing, as them what their range is for this position. Most of the time, this question will not come up during a technical interview, so do not bring it up.
3. How much vacation do your employees get? or What types of health insurance/benefits do you offer? Save any questions about benefits until after you have been offered a job. Most companies will actually send you a benefits package when you get an offer. I probably don’t need to tell you that Americans get a lot less vacation than Europeans, so even if they answer this question, it will not cheer you up. Most companies start with 2-3 weeks, and then gradually increase it as you spend more time with the company. Another common one in this category is What is your maternity/paternity leave policy? Most people love babies, but this is question is a real turn-off. When you are trying to show that you are bringing value to the company, nobody wants to hear that you might go MIA (Missing in Action) for several weeks or months.
4. Can I work at another job part-time? or I am starting my own company and I am curious whether I will have the opportunity to continue if I am hired? Most employers are concerned if you have another job, or are starting your own company because: (1) you cannot commit as much time to their company and (2) there might be a conflict of interest in your own line of business. If you do have another part-time job (or your own company), you might need to answer questions about it either during the interview or after you are hired. Some companies also require you to sign paper-work indicating that there is no conflict of interest. In summary, do not bring it up during your initial interview. You will have the opportunity to handle it after you are hired.
5. How many hours am I expected to work? or Am I expected to work on the weekends? Most corporate jobs (especially at the PhD level) require more than a 9-5 commitment. In order to be promoted, you will need to go the extra mile, and probably work overtime at least occasionally.
6. Where do people usually eat lunch? or How long is the lunch break? This could be a concern if you have dietary restrictions, or are considering going out to eat during your lunch hour. However, it is best to stay away from any questions related to you diet.
7. Do you have a gym? or Are there options to work out here? While it is important to stay healthy, and some employers have a gym and offer fitness classes, a job interview is not the time to inquire about options that will help you stay in shape. Many employers will actually show you the gym during a tour, but even then just show that you are impressed and stay away from specific questions such as gym hours and fitness classes.
8. Do you allow telecommuting? or Do you have flexible hours? If you live far, and your employers inquires whether you would be willing to drive 1.5-2 hrs in each direction, let them know why this position is a good opportunity for you, and worth the 3-4 hour daily commute. Long commutes are unfortunately common, but once you have established trust with your supervisor, they might allow you to work from home occasionally, especially in inclement weather. The interview is not the time to ask about telecommuting – you will have opportunities to find out about job flexibility after you get an offer.
9. What do you think are my chances of getting this job? Any indication that you are not 100% confident that you are the perfect candidate for the job, will leave the employer with a poor impression of you.
10. Do you run a background check? or Will you call my references? These questions are asking for trouble, and will make you sound very insecure. The answer is definitely yes to the first question, and a “probably yes” to the second question
11. Questions about the interviewer’s background, which are not related to the current company. For example: “Why did you leave your last job?” is an inappropriate question during your interview, as it does not pertain to why this job would be a good fit for you.
And my all-time favorite:
12. Can I bring my dog to work? Before I became a dog owner, I didn’t understand the relevance of this question. Now that I own a dog, I realize that dogs are very high maintenance. They need multiple walks a day and interaction with people and other dogs,. If you work 12 hour days and have a long commute, you will probably need to find a dogwalker or doggie-daycare. I have seen dogs in some office jobs and university campuses, and have even heard of graduate students who bring their dogs to work. It is possible that your company will allow you to do that, but the initial interview is not the time to ask. In fact, if no one else is bringing their dog to work, I would wait several months after starting your job, before bringing this question up. Of course, if you work in a laboratory environment, the answer is most likely “No.”
The list of questions NOT to ask is endless. I just listed the most common ones that people ask, because they don’t realize that the point of the interview is to establish what you bring to the company, and not how the job will affect your lifestyle.
Top 12 Questions Employers WANT You To Ask
Hopefully you have done your homework, and you have collected enough questions to fill in any extra time that you might have during the interview. Appropriate questions include inquiring about (1) the nature of the job itself, (2) career advancement in the company, (3) interactions with other groups in the company, (4) company culture, (5) technical details of their product or service.
Here are some ways to demonstrate your interest in the company, and find out if they are a good fit for you:
1) How would you describe the primary responsibilities of the position?
2) What’s the most important thing I can accomplish in the first 60 days?
3)What are the most important qualities you are looking for in a successful candidate?
4) How would you describe a typical week/day in this position?
5)What are the prospects for growth and advancement?
6) What do you enjoy most about working in this company?
7) How would you describe the company’s culture?
8) What do you think are the biggest challenges in this position?
9) Do you offer opportunities for training to advance my skill sets in …(be specific to demonstrate how you would like to advance your career and add more value to the company). Be sure that you are not asking for training in a skill set that is required for your current job.
10) What is your interaction with other groups in your company? (or other sites of the same company?)
11) What is the company’s management style?
12) Are there any additional questions I can answer for you about my background or qualifications? Save this one for last, after you have demonstrated interest in the company, position, and that you have the right qualifications. This question give the interviewer one more opportunity to discuss any reservations they may have about you.
Additional appropriate questions for HR:
1)If I am extended a job offer, how soon would you like me to start?
2)When can I expect to hear from you?
3)Would you like a list of references?
In summary, when you ask the right questions, you demonstrate why you are the right person for this job. Second, this is your opportunity to find out if this is position is the best match for your skills, talents, and professional development – it might not be the best for your lifestyle but you can handle those issues after you have an actual paycheck.
I would like to close with a quote that helped me overcome fears and take on challenges:
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevert
If you want that job, go for it. Most of the time none of the candidates have all the qualifications on the list. Even if you don’t get the job, you will still get valuable interviewing experience that will help you shine in upcoming interviews.
If you have interviewed at a company, or have interviewed other candidates what do you think are the BEST and WORST questions to ask? Please be specific as our readers are hungry for job searching advice!