The opportunity for you to ask a question usually comes only near the end of the interview. In fact, you are often directly offered the chance when the interview itself is over: "Are there any questions that I can answer for you?" However, there is a question you should ask of every interviewer as early as possible during the course of the interview: "Can you tell me about the position and the type of person you are seeking to hire?"
Properly positioned, this question can provide you with your single greatest opportunity for understanding more about the job and your ability to fill the role. The key to the question is the second part, which can show you the specific areas of need you should then address during the course of the interview. So it is important to inject this question into the interview as early as possible. You can do this with an out-take question. As you finish an answer, use this as a lead to your question. Be careful not to use this technique as an attempt to take control the interview. You merely need to use this technique to inject this critical question early in the interview.
For example, in answering a "What do you know about our company?" question, you can answer directly with what you know about the company (since you have done your research in advance, right?), then state that you do not know as much about the specific position. Turn your answer into the out-take question: "Can you tell me more about the position and the type of person you are seeking to hire?"
Find the strategic opportunity to inject this question as early as possible in the process. Then, as appropriate, frame your answers around what they are seeking in the person to fill the position. Stay within practical bounds in directing your answers, yet keep in mind the perspective of the interviewer and seek to meet their needs for the position. You will be further ahead in the interview than if you merely take shots in the dark, hoping for your answers to magically hit the mark.
Following are additional questions you may want to consider asking at an appropriate point in the interview:
"What are the key deliverables for the first year in this role?"
"What are the most important attributes for success in this position?"
"What are the opportunities for future growth/advancement with this position?"
"How is your company responding to competition in the _____ area?"
"What is the anticipated company growth rate over the next three years?"
"Why did you personally decide to work for this company?"
Limit yourself to no more than one or two questions during an on-campus interview and no more than two or three questions during each company-site interview. Even if you are not able to get answers to all of your open questions before the offer is made, you will have one final opportunity at that point.
Following are lists of the Top Five Questions to ask in each type of interview:
OK, that last one isn't a question. But if you haven't said it yet, you had better say it at the end of the interview!
Are there any questions you would like to suggest for adding to this list? If so, please send them to our attention.