There are two moments jobseekers dread during the interview process – when the interviewer asks, “what would you consider your weaknesses?” and “do you have any questions?” The latter is the most cringe-worthy question, because it catches many jobseekers off guard.
Many do not expect to have to ask questions and never prepare for this aspect of the job interview. Questions like, “how much will I be paid?” or “how many vacation days will I get?” are what usually come out of the applicant’s mouth. These are not good questions at all and might just put you out of the running for the job.
In truth, the question, “do you have any questions?” is asked to test your genuine interest in the company and the position to which you are applying. Here are several questions that will advance your opportunities in the job search process:
1. What's a typical day like for someone in this position?
This is a twist on the standard, "So, what will I be doing?" question. The companies will likely have given you reams of material on what the entry-level program is like. The idea behind this question is to see how the program is structured on a day-to-day basis. You'll learn more about the mix of education and work experience, whether you'll be working on your own or with other new hires, part of a larger team within the company, etc. You're looking for how you'll fit in and what you can expect.
2. What are the opportunities for advancement?
This is a delicate question, since you're looking past this position to, potentially, the next couple. But it shows that you're interested in having a future with this company as well. Hopefully, you'll get a sense of not only what other entry-level hires have gone on to do, but also whether there's a lot of turnover there. Companies that stress patience and a long haul may be very popular places to work, though the flip side is that they could also be stagnant. Likewise, if there's the promise of rapid advancement, are they bleeding people or just growing fast and improving their fortunes? On this particular question, it is best to ask follow-ups as much as you can. Find out why things are the way they are.
3. How is compensation structured?
This is a nice way of asking, "How much will I get paid?" without asking. Some companies have gone to a base salary plus bonus system like major Wall Street firms -- especially those employers that are actually part of a major banking company. Others retain a basic salary format with some kind of performance bonus -- much smaller than those on Wall Street, but the overall salary is bigger. This is also a good opportunity to ask about benefits? Be sure you don't ask repetitive questions if the information can be found elsewhere.
4. How does the company handle continuing education?
This question highlights your desire to continually grow as a person and coupled with the earlier question on advancement, drives the point home that you are looking to grow within the company. People like loyalty and that’s rare in this day and age where employees change jobs after only a year at a firm. This question also allows you to plan ahead. You may not have thought about continuing your education in the past, but a possible free ride or reimbursement of any kind might change your mind. It should.
5. What do you like about working here?
This question is asked for two reasons. First, it turns the focus onto the interviewer. Everyone has an ego. They like to talk about themselves and they like to express their opinion. It also feels good when it seems their opinion matters. It creates a friendly dialogue and allows an opportunity for you to become a little closer to the interviewer. This will be helpful in the future when choices are made between candidates. Second, it allows you to get a real idea of the company culture and what you can expect when working there. Read between the lines. The way the interviewer words her answer might be just as important as the answer itself.
These are five questions to get you going, but research is important. Check company profiles and find out as much as you can about a company you are looking to apply to. If you find yourself asking questions out loud while doing the research, those questions might be important to ask. Just make sure they are positively worded and proactive to your job search.