Interviewing the Employer: Wrapping up the Interview Dance with Questions

by Sandi Ohman

InterviewingInterviewing is a complex process.  Really, it is likened to dancing with a partner.  With dancing, both partners have to know the right steps (answers to the questions) even though they are not always the same steps, and having good chemistry with your partner (employer) is helpful.  It takes practice to dance well, a lot of practice, as does interviewing.  Being a good dancer also takes good form, rhythm and finesse to make the moves look fluid and natural, especially when put to music.  A good interview also has elements that make the interview itself “fluid and natural” for an employer.  These elements include:

  • candidate being dressed appropriately for the interview
  • good eye contact and hand shake
  • properly prepared with a resume, other required documentation, and for interview questions
  • confidence in yourself and your abilities and have a good attitude
  • prepared questions from the candidate to the employer
  • an after-the-interview thank you follow up

Today, we are going to discuss the part of the “dance” that the candidate facilitates – questions to employers from the candidate.

Not every interview is the same – recruiters, HR and hiring managers all have different approaches with interviewing.  Some like the formal process in which they ask questions first, and then the candidate asks questions at the end of the interview.  Others like more of a conversation style interview, where there is give and take between the candidate and the employer throughout the interview.  Regardless of the style, you need to know when to ask questions and the kind of questions to ask during different interviews.  Make sure the questions to the employer are logical and related to the job; this shows you have listened during the interview/conversation and can form intelligent follow up questions.

Usually an interview is at minimum two steps – a phone/screening interview and then a more in-depth interview, sometimes face-to-face, though not always.  During a phone/screening interview, the employer will typically ask some basic questions lasting approximately 20 minutes.  At the end of this time, they will usually ask if you have questions for them.  This is a good time to ask some basic follow up questions, including:

  • What specific skills/attributes are you looking for in the candidate you want to hire for this position?
  • Why is this position currently available?
  • I am very interested in this opportunity. What is the next step in this process?

If you are selected to move on to the next interview, you will have a longer interview and be asked questions that require more in-depth answers.  This interview could be a panel or one-on-one session.  This could be the final interview, or you might have to interview again.  Regardless of the step, you want to ask questions that clarify concerns/questions you might have about the position, or that will allow you to reiterate your fit for the position and give you a chance to sell/close the interview.  Here are some examples, though you wouldn’t typically have time to ask more than a few questions:

  • What will be the top priorities, or the first project, that will need attention for this position?
  • What is a typical day like for this position?
  • What are your expectations for this role, within the first 30 days (or 60 days, or a specified time frame)?
  • Can you tell me about your training program?
  • What is a typical career path for people starting in this position with your company?
  • After meeting with me today, are there any reservations you have about my candidacy?
  • How soon do you plan on making a final decision regarding this position?  May I follow up with you?
  • What would you share with a new employee about living in this area/working for this company?

In addition to these questions, you also want to ask a question or two that gives the recruiter an opportunity to share about themselves and their experiences, such as:

  • What do you like best about working for ZYX company?
  • What do you enjoy the most about your current position?
  • What position did you start with at ZYX company, and how did you rise to your current position?

Typically you will want to have written down a selection of 3-5 questions prior to the interview.  Your questions could be answered in the course of the interview, so you want to have a few spare questions available to ask.  Also, you might think of additional questions, from the interview, that are more pertinent to making a decision regarding if this is the right company for you, than the original planned questions.  Be flexible during this time of the interview, since you might not have the time to ask all the questions you intend.  However, do make sure at some point that you do ask the questions necessary to help you decide if this is the company/position for you, if offered the position.

Finally, you want to close the interview.  Take into consideration the information they have shared with you and emphasize your interest in the position and why you are the candidate for the position, possibly restating skills and specifics that make you the right candidate.  The closing can occur when you are done with questions or when it seems the interview is coming to an end.

Some experienced career professionals will tell you to ask for the job when you close the interview.  Not every candidate is comfortable with this approach, and not every recruiter/employer is comfortable with you asking for the job.  Whether you are comfortable or not, it doesn’t make asking for the job right or wrong.  If you really want the position, and you can ask for the job with confidence, you might be surprised at the positive response you receive.

During the course of interviews, there are bound to be candidates that do not ask questions.  How does this impact their interview?  Ultimately, it can indicate that those candidates did not research the company/position or maybe are not ready for this position.

Questions for employers will vary based on the type of interview:  internship/co-op, full-time position, professional, or part-time/pay-the-bills kind of job.  However, asking a few questions at all interviews shows you are interested in the employer enough to ask about the company/position.   It shows you want to dance….

There are numerous websites and resources about questions to ask an employer.  Check out the ERAU Career Services website for additional sample questions, along with other resources to assist in further career/job research preparation.

Sandi Ohman is the Senior Program Manager in the Career Services Office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  She has been with the university for over 9 years and has advised students in most all degree areas while in Career Services.  Sandi brings additional experience having worked in the finance industry for over 6 years in her previous career.  She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida, and her Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Central Florida. 

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