Carol Hacker is the former Director of Human Resources for the North American Division of a European manufacturing company, Employee Relations Manager for the Miller Brewing Company, and County Office Director for the US Department of Labor. Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Carol has been the President and CEO of Hacker & Associates since January 1989. She specializes in teaching managers, supervisors, team leaders, HR professionals, and executives how to meet the leadership challenge. Carol is the author of over 400 published articles and 14 books including the bestseller, Hiring Top Performers-350 Great Interview Questions For People Who Need People. She earned her BS and MS with honors from the University of Wisconsin. She can be reached at www.carolahacker.com or 770-410-0517.
Questions Job Seekers Should Ask
You will want to be ready with good questions at the end of the interview when you are asked if you have any questions. The type of questions you ask will depend upon what stage you have reached in the interview process.
What you ask and when is up to you. The answers to your questions are important and will help you decide whether or not to accept the position. Some questions you might want to ask, provided you are not already expected to know the answer because of your research, include:
Questions about the organization:
- What position does the company have in the industry? Is it the market leader, in the middle, or does it have to market through other avenues?
- How does the business market its products or services to clients or customers?
- Does the company have a policy of promotion from within or does it generally look outside for talent?
Questions about job duties and responsibilities:
- What kind of authority does the position have?
- Can you describe a typical day for me?
- Does this position involve any travel?
Questions about the department:
- What is the current status of the department? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
- What is different about this department that sets it apart from other similar departments in the company?
- What is the rate of turnover in this department?
Questions about compensation and benefits (don’t get into this unless you have a job offer):
- What part of the compensation plan is tied to performance?
- What kinds of benefits are available in terms of medical, dental, life insurance, etc.?
- Would I have to sign an employment contract? If so, what are the terms?
Questions about relocation (if you have to move):
- What moving expenses does the company pay?
- Will they pay for one or more trips for my spouse to see the community and look for housing?
- If the move is delayed for any reason, will the company provide transportation for me to visit my family regularly?
These sample questions are a good place to start, provided of course that you are not expected to know the answers as a result of your company research. You do not want to ever give the impression that you do not know anything about the company that is interviewing you, or ask a question to which you should know the answer.
Take notes during the interview, but ask permission to do so. The person conducting the interview will not refuse your request. Have a pen and paper ready to jot down important items. This will help you make a good impression and will provide you with the information you need for your interview summary later and for the follow-up letter.
In addition, there are questions you can ask to help you determine in a diplomatic way whether someone higher than the interviewer will make the final choice. Example:
- Who would supervise the person in this position?
- Is there someone else who will be involved in the final hiring decision for this job?
Another question you may ask the interviewer is how he or she would rate your qualifications for the job. The reply should help you learn whether or not you are in the running for the job. It may also give you information about a point the interviewer saw as a problem, but would not have discussed with you otherwise. This then gives you the opportunity to explain, defend or clarify the point of concern. If there is concern over a perceived weakness, you could assure the interviewer of your willingness to work to overcome it. The interviewer may, of course, tell you she is not ready to give you feedback at that time. Even this reply can set the stage for you to briefly summarize the strengths and weaknesses you could bring to the job.
There is one final question that candidates often overlook: ask for the job. Ask in a pleasant and confident manner, and you will not appear “overly aggressive.” This does not mean that you should say, “May I have the job?” However, do let the interviewer know that you feel you are a good candidate and why, that you are very interested in the job and hope you will be the selected candidate to fill the position. You may also ask when she will be making a decision.
Asking questions may be difficult for some candidates, either because of a lack of interview experience or because they have difficulty feeling it’s appropriate. However, the interviewer expects you to have questions. A candidate who has no questions might cause as much concern in the interviewer’s mind as the candidate who goes overboard and asks too many questions.
Before you leave the interviewer’s office, ask about the next step in the selection process. When can you expect to hear from the interviewer? Job seekers often neglect to get this information. They wait and wonder when and if they will hear back from the person with whom they interviewed. (If no one contacts you by the date given, do not hesitate to follow up by telephone. It demonstrates a sincere interest in the job and shows that you know how to take initiative).