On the Job

End an Interview With Your Own Questions

By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, August 17, 2007; 9:00 AM

Many job applicants spend substantial amounts of time preparing for interview questions -- and yet, at the end of the interview, have little to say when an interviewer gives them a chance to ask questions themselves.

One such job seeker, who wants to improve this area of his interview technique, asks:

At the end of a recent interview, a hiring manager asked "do you have any questions for me?" What is an appropriate answer for this question?

I think this is the weakest part of my interviewing skills. Please help.

Not asking follow-up questions can send the message that an applicant isn't interested in what could be their new workplace, says Karen Usher, chairman of Falls Church, Va.-based human resources firm TPO Inc.

As a result, she continues, being an active participant is important. At this point in the interview, according to Usher, hiring managers are looking for two things: interest in the job and evidence of an inquiring mind. These attributes, she says, show you can think while working and won't be just another place holder.

To prepare, she suggests doing some background research beforehand. Look at the company's web site and take note of things that pique your interest, such as the firm's expansion plans. Doing this should help the job seeker come up with a few intelligent questions.

Save another question for a topic directly related to the job opening, she suggests, such as "How does this position fit in with the company's overall goals?"

If the organization has been in the news recently in an unfavorable way, says Usher, tread lightly. If it's applicable to the job, however, then it may make sense to ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Some topics may be better left unmentioned. Benefits, vacation leave and paid holidays should never be brought up in the first interview, Usher advises. Inquire about it in a later interview or after an offer has been made.

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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