Any Questions: The Importance of Asking Questions at Interview
You have breezed through your interview, shooting great, well-thought-out, concise answers from the hip. You and the interviewer have built rapport and then he asks, “So do you have any questions?” and after a moment that feels like an eternity you say, “No, no questions from me, Mr Interviewer.” After a handshake at the door, you go on your merry way thinking an offer will be along soon.
A week later you receive an email/letter/phone call/tweet saying in short “thanks, but no thanks”. Or deathly silence.
So what went wrong? For many people asking the right questions makes the difference between a career-changing yes and a mood-shattering, week-ruining no. So why are questions important and what are the right questions?
Why are questions important?
Questions at an interview are always very important. They really can make or break a round of interviews, especially if the selection process is competitive (when is it not these days?). There are three fundamental reasons why questions at interview are vital:
Building Rapport: Questions build rapport because they allow you to explore the interviewer’s career experience and background and to find common ground so that you can engage and discuss. Without questions, it is very hard to build effective rapport in the interview process.
Showing you are listening: Asking questions relevant to the discussion shows that you are engaged and listening to the interviewer. Listening is another great way of building rapport and trust. Also, listening can give you the edge in the decision-making process, because if two candidates are equal and one shows that they can listen to their potential boss it really can swing a decision.
Helping you make a decision: Asking questions is most important for this vital reason. By asking questions you can do research to see if this is the right place for you to make the next step in your career. Because whatever websites and reputation may tell you about an employer being face to face with them can make it a lot easier to say yes or no; especially if you have asked the right questions.
What questions to ask (and not to ask).
Instead of writing a long list of questions you can and cannot ask I have written a range of topics that are good to cover and those that are best to avoid. Remember neither of these lists is definitive, you will have to use your judgment come a real interview.
Good Topics: team or organization goals or strategy, the long-term progress of the organization, policy challenges, their take on policy/political development, skill- and career-progression opportunities, and their career experiences.
Bad Topics: pay and benefits, sickness policy, why the last person left the post, and anything of a personal nature. You should, of course, avoid highly controversial subjects (within reason: this is public affairs after all).
In short, if you keep the questions relevant and professional you should not go too wrong. Just remember to ask enough questions so you feel you are in with a shot of being offered the job, and so that once you get an offer in you can make the right decision.
I will leave this blog post with an old saying: “the quality of life we receive is based on the questions we ask”. So feel free to ask questions.
Joseph Henry is the Managing Partner of Westminster Search if you have any questions relating to job searching, careers or talent management please email firstname.lastname@example.org