When it comes to job interview prep, much emphasis is put on having the right answers. But while you're struggling to come up with responses to queries on your biggest weakness and why you should be hired, don't forget to craft some smart questions, too.
You will be judged, after all, by what you ask (or fail to ask).
[See our list of the 50 Best Careers.]
"Candidates should always have questions prepared to ask during the interview," says Tom Gimbel of the Chicago-based staffing firm The LaSalle Network. "A lack of questions demonstrates a disinterest in the position and lack of preparation for the interview."
The questions you ask during an interview should give you a deeper understanding of the company and the job—and that information can help you better sell yourself as the right person for the position. Smart questions also show a prospective employer that you care about where you work, that you have some knowledge about the company, and that you understand the industry overall.
"Ask a few relevant questions that demonstrate you've done your research and that you're enthusiastic, and that will help you to make an informed decision as to whether or not this is the right opportunity for you," says Melanie Benwell of the Toronto-based recruiting firm PathWorks.
For your next interview, consider adding the following questions to your repertoire:
1. What happened to the last guy? "Candidates should always ask what happened to the previous person who had the job," says etiquette expert Jodi R. R. Smith. "You are trying to tell if the job holder is promoted up into the company or if the company uses the person, burns them out and then they leave."
2. What do you like about working here? "This question will give you further insight into the company's corporate culture and will give the interviewer a chance to talk about themselves for a change—and who doesn't like to talk about themselves?" Benwell says.
3. How do people typically work together here? "Even if the pay and job content sound good, it's important to understand the environment that you would be going into," says career coach Dorothy Tannahill-Moran. "Job seekers too often forget that this process is as much about them picking you and it is you picking them. You want to ensure the highest potential for success and eventually growth."
4. How can someone succeed at this job? "This tells you exactly what they're looking for in a candidate and allows you to reiterate your relevant strengths," Benwell says.
5. What's next in the hiring process? "Too many interviewees forget this easy question and are left wondering when to follow up later on," says Anthony Morrison of the career networking site Cachinko.
Not all questions, however, are good. Avoid the following:
1. What do you do? "That general question makes me cringe every time I hear it asked. How can the person prove they are right for job if they don't even know what they would be doing?" says Ryan Mack, a partner at the career website TruYuu.
2. How much is the pay? "Don't ask about money too early in the interview process," says career coach Roy Cohen. "It's a distraction and will draw attention to you as a dollar amount before they may be ready to evaluate your potential to add real and meaningful value."
Likewise, don't ask about vacation days and paid holidays—wait for a job offer before you tackle compensation and benefits. This is a time to show what you can offer the prospective employer.
[See When to Talk About Salary.]
3. What are the hours? "This question makes candidates look more like clock-watchers on the first interview rather than serious professionals," says Rod Hughes of Oxford Communications.
4. Do you have other open positions? "This offers the perception that the job you are interviewing for is of little or no interest to you," Hughes says.
5. Will there be a drug test? If you have to ask, it means you're concerned about your ability to pass.
Luke Roney is content manager for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, salary information and a free career happiness assessment.