How to respond to “Do you have any questions?” in your next interview
by Daniele Souza, Executive Legal Recruiter
With so many challenges facing today’s job seeker, I find it hard to narrow down my train of thought to one topic that takes precedence. Having been fortunate to coach some wonderfully skilled people in attaining the “next step” in their career, I am always wondering what separates the talented individual that gets the job from the talented individual that does not.
Once a hiring manager has weeded through “hundreds” of unqualified resumes and invited you to an interview, you are now in a select group of only a handful of individuals. At this phase, it is important to remember that you are starting on a level playing field. You, like everyone else, are invited because you have the desirable background. So, if everyone comes to the table with similar qualifications, how do you separate yourself out during the interview process? So often I have met people who have rehearsed (even memorized) the appropriate answers for the inevitable job history review; however, they stop there. They do not think about what questions they can ask of the interviewer, or, how about one of my personal favorites – “Why do they want to work there?”
An interview is as much about rapport as it is about verifying your background (remember most if not all applicants will have a very similar background to yours). Often the most important part of your interview is when the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions?” What do you say when this inevitable question comes up? Do you respond with a polite “No”? The truth is that hiring managers want you to ask questions; this is how they can find out what makes you tick. Unbeknownst to many, this is the critical time where you can separate yourself from the other equally qualified applicants in just a few minutes.
I believe knowing the opportunity ahead is the first step, and then making the best of the next few minutes can create real success. First, you want to avoid asking any of the “Me” questions; anything pertaining to, “What is in this for me?” Think about questions that look into the future; ask something like this, “What are some characteristics that have made a past person in this role successful?” (This question is specifically designed so you are not referring only to the last person, but you are asking the hiring manger to reflect on their most successful hire.) Another good question – “What are the most immediate challenges of the position that need to be addressed in the first three months?” Lastly, never be afraid to ask, “Why is the position available?” You now have the opportunity to find out what has caused the turnover. Posed legitimately this question is valid, but make sure you have led into it properly. It can sometimes come off intrusive or brash, and be a turn off to the hiring manager.
A purposeful and honest dialogue between you and the hiring manager will not only help you determine if you want to work there, but it will also make them remember you. Putting yourself out there to interview is nerve wracking, but you have control over making it an okay experience or an exceptional interview.