"What questions do you have for me?” This very question will be heard at almost every job interview you ever go on. And when you answer, “Nope, I think I'm good!” it's not really a great indication that you're thinking about if this company is a good fit for you. Because, it's not just about them liking you—for a successful job, you need to feel comfortable at this company.
But what questions should you ask? It's not always easy to ask the right question but asking the wrong question is surprisingly easy. Here are some ideas to get you started (or tell you to shut your mouth)!
Do Ask:“Thinking back to people who have been in this position previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great?” Management Guru Alison Green calls this a “magic question.” It truly is. It indicates that you are not only interested in doing a good job, you're interested in doing a great job. It also gives you a chance to find out what you're going to be measured against—plenty of jobs have someone who did it 6 years ago who everyone loved. Finding out at this stage what made her fantastic really helps you decide if this is a job you're capable of exceeding in.
What is the biggest problem the department/division/company is having right now? Now, if you are really on top of things, you will have asked this question prior to the interview and come prepared to answer how you are going to solve this problem. But, it's not too late to ask it at the actual interview. If the problem is too big picture for someone in this particular role to tackle alone, a great follow up is, “How do you see this position's role in that?” Don't just ask this question and then fall silent. This is your chance to shine. People want to hire someone who can solve their problems.
I understand that [something about the company] how do you think this will affect the company's future? I can't give you a specific question to ask here because you have to do the research. You need to read up on the company as much as possible and inquire of your network connections, if you have some. Then you need ask questions based around your research. This indicates that you have done your work and it also indicates that you are being thoughtful about this particular job and this particular company. Hiring managers don't want to hire people who want “any” job, they want to hire people who want “this” job. If you've done your work, it indicates that you have a strong interest in this job.
Why is this position open? Knowing whether this is a new position or not, and what happened to the previous incumbent is very helpful for you. Don't expect them to give you the dirty details, but you do want to know if you'll be battling for resources as a new position, or filling in the shoes of the person who is now interviewing you, but used to hold this job.
Do Not Ask:Can I work from home if my kids are sick? You definitely need to know the answer to this before you accept the job, but the job interview is not the place to ask it. When do you ask it? After you receive an offer and before you accept. Asking it too early indicates that you are already planning to have to miss work and/or take off early. If you wait until after they've decided that they want you, they are likely to be much more flexible.
So, how much does this pay? Salary is one of those touchy subjects. In an ideal world, the job posting would have given you a ballpark range for the salary. But, it's generally not. It's certainly fine to discuss salary, but bringing it up this way makes you sound a bit naïve. Wait until the topic comes up.
I need special accommodations due to my medical problem. Is [insert accommodation] possible? By law, if your medical condition qualifies under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) the company is required to make reasonable accommodations for you, so why is this a bad question? Because people with disabilities are less likely to get hired and people will start panicking over if you're going to sue if you're rejected, or disciplined or terminated. Unless your disability is obvious (it's hard to hide the wheel chair, for instance), it's best to ask this question after you've received the job offer.
Is it okay if I take this call? First of all, your cell phone should be off and stowed in your bag or pocket. If, for some reason you forgot and it rings or beeps, the correct response is, “Oh my word! How embarrassing that I forgot to turn my phone off. Please forgive me!” And then you turn it off.