How and when to ask questions in a job interview?

“So, do you have any questions?” That (awkward) moment at the end of the job interview, when you are not sure if you could be asking about the salary and benefits, and most of the time end up saying “Nope, I’m good, thanks!”, thinking you did the right thing.

Well, yes, but also, no.

Yes, it’s right, you should not start trying to negotiate your schedule, salary, benefits, advancement and evaluation process, right away in the interview. Unless the employer brings up those topics, don’t mention your reservations about them. There will be plenty of appropriate moments to do so when an offer is on the table. But in order to get that so-called offer, you should avoid looking like you are more interested in benefits than the job itself.

And also, no.

Not asking questions in a job interview is not the right attitude. The questions you ask are your moment as a candidate to lead the conversation, and you should use it to differentiate yourself from other applicants. Without the questions that you bring to the table, your interview consists of the same dialogue as everybody else.

Truth is, at the end of the interview, most of your questions should have already been asked. Keep in mind that, when the employer says “Do you have any questions?”, it means that he or she got all the information they wanted and are ready to end the interview.

Therefore, the goal is to ask questions and engage a dialogue… from the start. When you are doing all the talking and the interviewer just sits there, silently “listening”, you are not in a two-way involving conversation, and this is not what would be considered a good interview. For all you know, the interviewer could be thinking about a speeding ticket they just got on their way to work, or maybe they are daydreaming about what they will order for lunch. The best – and only – way to get them to be really present in the moment is to ask them questions too.

By asking questions during the interview, you ensure the interviewer’s full attention, but you also are shifting the balance of power in your favor. Never forget that you are interviewing the employer just as much as the employer is interviewing you. You also need to know if this is really the place for you. There is a way to know about your concerns without directly asking.

  1. Ask about the company culture. Without going into the details of the salary-schedule-benefits negotiation, this a super legitimate question to ask that will give you a lot of tangible pros (or cons) to figure out whether you have advantages to working there or not. Surely, the interviewer will start to try to sell you the place of work and you will probably feel more confident through the rest of the process.
  2. Ask about the person who was in the position before you. Again, it allows you to know about the advancement possibilities if the person was promoted, or about potential problems if the person left or was fired. Also, ask why. Why was the person fired, why have you added this position if it’s a new one? It will give you some seriously valuable pointers as to what they are or are not looking for, giving you a chance to respond.
  3. Use questions to show that you did your homework. Show that you know what you are talking about by asking questions about an upcoming project you know the organization has, or the result of one they recently had. Impress your future employer by your interest in the work they do, but be sure to be right! Don’t guess, because if you guess wrong, the results will be the exact opposite… and make you look not so impressive.

So, when you are finally asked about some remaining questions, if you have done a good interview, all you should end with is “what’s next?”. Ask about the next steps in the interview process, showing your desire to move forward.

Lots to take in, but will surely make a huge difference in your next interview. If we can leave you with one final easy tip: VISIT THEIR WEBSITE. It sounds simple but you can’t imagine how many people don’t put in the effort. It’s an easy way to try to stand out of the crowd.


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