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When to ask questions in the Interview

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Diane SkullrI’m sure that you have heard it said that they are interviewing you AND you are interviewing them.  And in many respects, this is true.  It is equally as important that you are able to commit to the position as it is for the company to commit to you.

They are interviewing you to see if you are a going to be an asset to their company.  You are pointing out all the ways that you will benefit the company.  This is NOT about you and your needs.  The interview is about their needs. 
So, keep in mind while you are interviewing that both you and the potential employer are evaluating each other to see if you both are a good fit together.  

BUT, regardless of the circumstances, you should always interview at your best and try to get the offer.  If you later decide to turn down the position, then you decided.  It is far better to get the offer and have the power to decide, then to relinquish that power to the potential employer.

In a sense, you do have power over the interview, you have some control. What you say and do determines if you get eliminated from consideration.  That is what you have control over.  If you don’t want the position, you won’t get it.   

So, when interviewing the company, do not over-step your bounds.  Don’t ask questions that are all about what you get if they hire you.  Questions about salary, bonuses, vacation time, etc. should all be left out of the interview.  The questions you should be asking are about the position itself and what would make for a successful employee.  You want to be sure that this is a job that you could excel at.

They are interviewing you to see if you are a going to be an asset to their company.  You are pointing out all the ways that you will benefit the company.  This is NOT about you and your needs.  The interview is about their needs.

When to ask questions in the Interview

One of the biggest problems with traditional interviews is that your chance to ask questions usually comes at the end of the interview.   The trick is to get your questions answered throughout the interview.  Stop thinking that you are interviewing to get hired.  You are interviewing to get the job offer.  Start thinking about how you can show the interviewer that hiring you will be a benefit for both you and the company.   Understand that an interview is a conversation designed to determine whether it makes sense for you and the company to work together.  

How do I do that? How do I get the information I need without making the interviewer feel that I am taking control?  

Deciding exactly when to ask your questions can be tricky.  Timing is everything.  Does the interviewer seem comfortable or tense, soft spoken or forceful, formal or casual? These signals will help you to judge the best time to ask your questions.  I recommend that you wait until after the interviewer has described the position or the company.

  • Ask open ended questions
  • Ask position related questions, not questions about your needs
  • Ask about and resolve any questions the interviewer may have about you 
  • A great time to ask a questions is immediately after you have given a great answer

Always save a question for last.  Be ready with a question that shows that you have been paying attention, that you are a good fit and that you are interested in the position. 
Such as:

I am very interested in this position and I believe that I will be a good fit because __________, ___________& ________.  When do you expect to be making a decision?’   Fill in the __________, ___________& ________ with the skills or responsibilities the interviewer stressed as being very important.

Questions That You Can Ask

  • What are the day-to-day expectations and responsibilities?
  • Please describe a typical work day
  • What would make that person a "superstar"?
  • How can I help you to meet the goals that your manager expects from you?
  • What's the one thing I could do on the job that would benefit you the most?
  • I think the experience I have is the kind of experience you are looking for, isn't it?
  • What is the best thing and the worst thing about this position?
  • Find out what the next steps are in their interview process.
  • Is this a new position or am I replacing someone?
  • Can you tell me about the person who had this job before me?

Questions That You Should NOT Ask

  • What are the benefits?
  • How soon until the medical insurance kicks in?
  • Will you be able to pay me what I am asking?
  • What other jobs are you hiring for?



Diane Skullr, CTS, CSP, CERS is the Founder and Managing Director at Infoployment, a Job Search and Interview Information Services company. She is nationally recognized as a Certified Employee Retention Specialist and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Personnel Services (NAPS) where she is co-chair of the membership committee. She has over 20 years of successful staffing and recruiting experience and has owned and managed a health care staffing and search firm in California, until it sold in 2008. Diane Skullr can be reached at Infoployment.; 800-566-0953

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Growth in women's share of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations declined to 27% in 2011from a high of 34% in 1990. While women make up nearly half of the workforce, they were 26% of the STEM workforce in 2011.

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