Asking questions during an interview

In my role as career counselor, I frequently help students prepare for interviews.  I am continually surprised at how many of these bright individuals, some of whom are wholly prepared in every other way, do not give solid consideration of what questions they will ask the employer during the interview.  In fact, many inform me that they were not aware that they need to have questions prepared at all.

So, to everyone doing any type of interviewing, take note:  YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST ASK QUESTIONS! Failing to do so can absolutely be a reason you don’t get offered the job or called back for a second round.

Why is that?  Asking good, probing questions can demonstrate that you are motivated and excited about the opportunity.  The right question can show that you are savvy and have done your research.  So, think of “question development” as a fundamental part of your company research.

Step 1:  Start with the company website.  Learn all you can about projects and programs, as well as organizational history and structure.  From this information you should be able to develop several questions that go beyond the surface.  If the information is readily available, you should not be asking that question.

For example, if the  “about us” page (like this example from vmware) has information that tells you the company was founded in 1998, acquired by EMC in 2004 and had an IPO in August 2007, you should certainly not ask about when the company was founded.  Instead, you might ask about their IPO experience or if any changes were made when the company was acquired by EMC.

Step 2:  Using google’s news search, do research to see if the company has appeared in any news stories recently.  If so, develop several questions about the particular news item.

Step 3:  Using twitter and blog searches, explore the types of conversations that are being had about the company on the web, then develop several questions about those conversations if they seem appropriate (using caution and good judgment, of course).

Other topics for potential questions include: Office/company culture; management style; strengths and opportunities of the organization, along with potential weaknesses; etc.

Prepare a minimum of five questions and as many as ten, recognizing that you will likely not have the time or opportunity to ask that many.  Pay attention to the conversation over the course of the interview, then select the questions that you feel will best fit the climate of the interview.  Then be prepared to use the information you obtain in any follow-up conversations or second interviews.

Gary Alan Miller

Leave a comment


  1. Helpful article. Many struggle with questions to ask.


    • Lorena

       /  November 6, 2009

      Right! Great tips. At first, I thought it was impolite to ask questions to interviewers but then I realized it is advantageous since it shows that you really are interested with the company and the position you are applying. I also got some tips from sites on the net that give job interviewing tips and career advices. It also helped a lot.


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