An Interview is a Two Way Street

The job interview can be a nervewracking, harrowing process. It is a necessary one. It doesn't matter if you are new to the workforce or are a seasoned veteran. The job interview is a thing you are going to have to get through.


While you are preparing, keep in mind that the "Job Interview" should be an exchange of information between you and your prospective employer. The interview is not just a simple question and answer session, whereby you are an inactive participant. When asked by the interviewer whether you have any questions for them, your answer should never be, "No, I have no questions." Asking questions is an opportunity for you, the job seeker, to determine if this is the right position and company for you. In addition to answering the pertinent questions YOU may have, the questions you ask and how you ask them can tell an employer a good deal about you.


1.   What exactly are the typical workaday responsibilities of the position? By asking this question, you are determining if you can do the advertised job. You can then ask yourself, is this something I want to be doing? Asking about responsibilities also allows the interviewer to gather that you are serious about fulfilling the technical aspects of this post.


2.   What is the overall company culture? For many people, this can be a real influencer on whether they take a job and whether they will be considered to work within a company. Gone are the days when a suit and tie are the absolute uniform of the interview. Some companies allow pets at work?! Some have taken casual Fridays to a whole new level of flip-flops and board shorts. By asking this question, you are discerning whether you will be able to work in the conditions described. For instance, if you are terrified of dogs, you probably won't want to work in an environment where people are allowed to have them on the job. However, by opening this line of discussion, you can also offer ways in which you might enhance that culture if hired. Notice a ping pong table in the break room? Ask if there are tournaments at lunch and volunteer to play. Remember, you will be spending more time with these people than most of your loved ones. It would be nice to not only be comfortable but happy and excited to go to work!


3.   What do you consider the best part of the company and working here? These questions allow the interviewer to provide you with some insight into their experiences within the company. What they do or don't say is often just as informative as asking any of the other questions outright. If you ask what a person's favorite part of a job is, and they say the dental plan, what does that tell you? Maybe they are struggling to find other good things to say about their workplace. That could be a red flag. If they completely dodge the question, that is its own answer.


4.   What are the opportunities for advancement and growth for a person starting in this position? Employers want to hear that you are looking to stay and evolve within that company if they are going to hire and train you. The answer to this question may let you know whether you will continue to be challenged and rewarded for proficiency. The question also lets the employer know that you hope to stick around and become an integral member of their team.


There are several questions you should avoid asking at the interview if you don't want to give the wrong impression. According to a 2012 article in Forbes Magazine, "10 Job Interview Questions You Should Never Ask", the number one question that you should avoid asking is anything related to salary or benefits. It's just proper etiquette not to bring up pay, sick and vacation days, and company benefits until after they extend an offer. Otherwise, it seems presumptuous, as if you consider that you already have the job.


By having those questions at the ready before the interview, you will find yourself more relaxed doing your part of the Q&A. By asking the right questions, you provide your prospective employer with insight as to your professionalism and interest in the position. You also find out if this is a place that you want to be involved with for the long term.