Job applicants are asked many questions in an interview, but that does not mean they shouldn't be ready to ask more than a few of their own.

QI'm beginning the process of looking for a new job after four years at the current one, and I'm most concerned about the interview process. I do fine talking about my own skills and talents, but I always seem to get stumped when a prospective employer asks, "Do you have any questions for us?" Besides the obvious "What benefits do you have?" or "What would my work hours be?" what sorts of questions should I be asking that give me good information about the job and that might impress them as well?

ADeborah Keary, who regularly answers employers' questions about workplace issues for the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, said this applicant should not start out asking about benefits and work hours, although she could in the course of an interview or even wait until a job offer is made.

"She should be a little strategic," Keary said. "She should ask questions about their business, about their profitability, about their stability. Who are their competitors and how do they stack up against them?

"This shows you care about the job and how you'd fit in," Keary said. "You ask what their biggest challenges are, what their business cycle is, what their planning process is. How can employees make suggestions? In the course of it, you find out whether they are thoughtful, cautious, entrepreneurial."

Keary said that by asking these questions "it shows you care about the job, how you'd fit in, and not just about your own welfare."

Moreover, Keary said the applicant should ask if she can talk privately with someone she might be working with, "to see if they're happy, tense, mad. Find out what the workers really think."

-- Kenneth Bredemeier

E-mail your workplace questions to Kenneth Bredemeier at Discuss workplace issues with him at 11 a.m. Wednesday at