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Boomers: Questions for the employer YOU should ask in an interview

Curious George asked questions, so should you

Do you have questions for the employer?

I just went to a panel discussion for job seekers where I was on the panel.  Afterwards panel members joined small groups to conduct Q&A.

We went through a mock interview where I was the recruiter and conducted a “mock” interview with a volunteer. After a few of the standard interview questions, I asked the candidate “What questions do you have for me? I got blank stares. Participants in the group weren’t prepared for the question. It was quickly mentioned that in the past when this generation was looking for a job, it was considered “rude” to ask questions of the interviewer. This came from the folks that were from an older generation, early baby boomers.

Dating Analogy

I posed the question: “If you were on a first date with someone you were really interested in, would you consider it rude to ask questions?”  Would you just be a passive fish and only speak when spoken to?  Or would you SHOW SOME INTEREST in the person by asking the question about them (their position) and their family (manager or company)?  Make moves son!

Would you think about going on a second date (interview) or marry someone (accept a job) if they didn’t ask you any questions during the first date?  This isn’t a shotgun or arranged marriage folks this is a date!

Bad first day

If I am on a first date and my date doesn’t ask any questions about me, I would jump to the conclusion that they aren’t interested in me. I can only conclude that they consider me to be boring.  Regardless, I am thinking one of us is a dud. If I am the recruiter, and you are the candidate that isn’t asking questions, trust me there is a dude in this relationship and I don’t think it is me. 

If a recruiter or hiring manager asks you “What questions can I answer for you about Acme Publishing?” and you don’t have any, I can only assume you are not interested in the position. In the least, I will assume you are not as interested in the last candidate who enthusiastically asked me the following questions:

  • Why did you come to Acme Publishing? 
  • What attracted you to Acme Publishing?
  • What do you like about Acme Publishing as a company?

Wasted interview questions

Asking questions that sound like the following are not helping the candidate.

  • “What keeps you up at night?”
  • “What challenges is your team facing?”

As a candidate, the last thing I want to do is put the interviewer in a frustrated mood. Answering the above questions will run this risk. Let’s face it, the company has teams of employees very familiar with the challenges facing the company. A candidate off the street is probably not going to have solutions to these problems in the next few minutes. As the candidate, we are in a much better place if we ask questions that keep our interviewer in a great mood.

Let’s face it, no matter how ugly the answer is to the above questions, we are probably NOT going to let that keep us from accepting the position if it is offered. 

Best interview question 

One of the most strategic interview questions you can ask the employer sounds like:
“I am sure you had a lot of applicants, can I ask what is it about my resume that piqued your interest in me as a candidate”?
With the answer to this question, you know EXACTLY what you need to focus on, and what they liked about your skill set. Just make sure you follow up with an elaboration on whatever they find interesting.  You just set yourself up for a home from with a softball. Let’s not strike out with an “OK, that is cool” or “good to know”.

Always ask questions

If you have already had your questions for the employer answered in prior interviews, it DOES NOT MEAN YOU DON’T HAVE MORE QUESTIONS.  You need to have questions for every person that interviews you.  In the least, ask the same questions you asked in the first interview and check for consistent answers.  The person in your 3rd interview doesn’t know what questions you asked in the first interview.  Consider each interview with a different persona “first date” and you need to prove your worthiness all over again.

If you think you are “showing respect” by not having any questions for the employer you will be wrong and the interview will be short. You will be perceived as disinterested or worse, arrogant.  

Balance your interview questions

I want to caution against asking too many questions. Many answers to our questions for the employer won’t make a difference to our decision to take the job. Take the time to ask the interview questions that will take the appropriate amount of time-based on where you are in the interview process. We don’t need an org chart in your first interview. Do we REALLY care about where we are going to sit? You need the second and third interview!

First interview: just ask a few questions and concentrate on landing the second interview. Spend the time showcasing examples of your skill set. Avoid wasting valuable time with your selfish questions (yes, selfish Jackson, who is joining who here?).  Worry about proving what you can do for the company.  There will be plenty of time to ask questions later on in the process. (A good recruiter will ask about salary early in the process so they don’t have to worry about these expectations.)

What your interview questions say about you

I can get a good idea of what the person is about based on the questions they ask, and will sometimes just ask the candidate to ask me questions.  This is a “set up”.  If they start asking questions that benefit them vs. the company, this is a red flag to me.  Ask questions that show interest in the company and the person conducting the interview.

You should be able to figure out what the interview process is like from the first interview.  Hopefully, you will have done some research and talked with people in your network about the company.  At the beginning of the interview process, you should keep your questions to a minimum and spend the times proving your worth to the company.

When the tide shifts

If you are getting deep into the interview process (3rd or 4th visit to the company), the company is interested in you, and they will be worried about proving to you that they are the company of choice.  When you are talking with the hiring manager make sure your questions count. 

Come in with notes and come in with a list of a few questions for the employer.  It doesn’t give me any pause to think twice if someone pulls out their notes and starts asking questions.  It shows interest, it shows someone did research, and it shows you give a damn.

Good luck,


nasty:  an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something.  “He has a nasty forkball”.

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