We’ve all been there: you’re at a job interview, and you think you’re doing well. As the interview winds down, the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?”
Because you feel unprepared, perhaps because you don’t want to waste the interviewer’s time, or maybe because you’re still nervous… you say “no”.
According to Jennifer McGarr, director of professional development at the University of Missouri School of Law, failing to strategically ask questions that demonstrate your value and curiosity about the company and role is a big mistake.
“If you don’t ask the right questions,” she says, “you come across as not being very interested in the position, or you seem like the kind of person who just doesn’t have a lot of intellectual curiosity. To me, it’s a wasted opportunity.”
Recent University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Caroline Radaj, likes to use her question time to highlight information she wanted to convey in the interview. “I ask about the hiring timeline and what they seek in a candidate, Radaj, 23, says. “That way, if you think you fit something they mention and you weren’t given the opportunity to talk about that part, you can.”
Like Radaj, McGarr thinks that asking questions is another chance to promote yourself.
“There are ways you can use that time when you ask interview questions so you can score points in your favor for getting that job,” McGarr says. “You can bring up anything you wanted to come out during the interview that didn’t come out. So if you wanted to have the chance to talk about a judicial clerkship you did over the summer, and they didn’t ask you about it at all, under the guise of asking a question, you can say, ‘When I did my judicial clerkship last summer, I noticed some situation in a case we reviewed. Is that something you’ve experienced in your practice area?’”
That gives the interviewer a chance to talk about herself and connect with the interviewee, McGarr says. The important thing is to form questions in a way that highlight relevant experience while showing your interest in the interviewer and her company.
Bringing up shared connections is another way to maximize the question period of the interview. If you know, for example, that your interviewer went to your college, asking her about that would be appropriate.
McGarr urges prospective hires to reword stock questions in a way that make the interviewer feel like the question was posed for her specifically.
“For a while I had a bunch of students during mock interviews asking, ‘What do you have on your desk right now?’ You can still ask a question about what the current projects the interviewer is working on without having that canned, ‘I read this in a book’ feel to it,” McGarr says.
Questions like that don’t feel specific or genuine to the person interviewing you, McGarr says. She instead suggests finding out about a current project the interviewer is working on and asking about the status of the project.
“You’ve impressed him because he feels like you’re asking specifically about him,” McGarr says. “It’s shows you’ve researched the company, the interviewer, and are genuinely interested in him or her. It’s the same exact question as what’s on your desk right now, but it doesn’t sound like a stock question made for anyone.”
What Not to Ask
During the initial interview, don’t ask about pay or benefits.
“One piece of feedback I’ve had recently from employers is that everybody knows this current job market is tough,” McGarr said. “In general, it’s a bad idea to ask about how many hours you have to work, how much you’re going to get paid, how much vacation time you’re going to get, or how much maternity leave they offer. To the employer, it sounds like before you’ve even been offered the job you’re asking for time off or more money.”
McGarr thinks it’s more prudent to let the interviewer bring it up. If you’ve been offered a position, then it’s appropriate to bring up the issue.
But during the interview the important thing is to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework about the company, McGarr says. There are safe questions you can ask: anything about what it’s like to work at the company or how assignments are doled out are in-bounds. However, if you can easily get your answer off the web, don’t ask the question.
“Then you just look lazy,” she says.
“You want the questions to demonstrate that you’ve read the stuff on the website, but then you’ve thought, ‘Hmmm, that raises more questions for me.’”
Own the interview. Promote yourself, your values and your curiosity. Ask good questions, at every job interview!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Levo League!
About the Author: Rita Flórez is a freelance writer in her third year of law school.