Dear New Shrink,

I have an interview scheduled for next week and I have been busy preparing for the potential questions I might receive. Several resources I have reviewed have also recommended that I prepare questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview. What types of questions should I prepare to ask? How many questions should I prepare for and what are they looking for in the questions I do ask?

Thanks for your help,

Interviewee

Dear Interviewee,

Congratulations on your interview offer, in a tough job market securing an interview is half the battle. Spending time preparing for potential interview questions is an important part of the preparation process, but it is also equally important for you to consider what you’d like to know from the interviewer. The interview should be considered a two-way street. Not only is the firm considering you for their opening, but you should also be interviewing the firm to determine if the company will truly meet your career goals.

Employers make judgments based on the types of questions you ask, so take time to get prepared and ask questions that are meaningful. The best questions are ones that are open-ended and allow the interviewer to provide a comprehensive answer rather than a “yes” or “no”.

The questions you choose to ask should show that you’ve done your research. Asking questions that you could easily find the answers to by searching online might show the employer that you have not taken the time necessary to research the company or the position. Instead, show your research in the way you ask and frame your questions.

For instance, perhaps you have done considerable research to better understand a particular component of the position, but you have a question about the specifics of how they do something. A strong question would frame what you do know and end with a question about particular details. For instance, one might say, “I see from the job description that this person will be responsible for leading the product development team, could you tell me more about the people who serve on this team and their length of service with the company?” This shows that you have an understanding of the responsibilities of the new role, but want to learn more about the people you will be managing.

Although the questions you ask at the end of your interview should be specific and directly related to the position, here are a few basic questions that will help should you get stuck:

How does upper management view the importance of the department and this role?; Could you tell me more about the organizational structure of the firm?; What do you enjoy most about working for this company?

There is no set number of questions that you should plan to ask, it really depends on the flow of the interview and what you need to know from the interviewer. I would encourage you to prepare at least five to seven questions. Some of the questions you prepare might be answered throughout the interview so it is always helpful to have a few extra questions stored in your arsenal. If you are interviewing with multiple people throughout the day or if you have a group interview, you will want to prepare a greater number of potential questions and think more strategically about who will be best able to answer each of the questions on your list.

Keep in mind that you might only have time for three or four questions. Therefore, once you determine the list of questions you’d like to ask, prioritize the list so you are prepared to ask the most important questions first. For an initial interview most of your questions will probably be more exploratory and focused on gathering additional facts and information. For a second or later round interview, the questions should be much deeper and probe into challenges of the position, key stakeholders involved, and other key details. The first round interview is not the time to ask about salary, bonuses, vacation time, or other perks. Save this question for a later conversation once you’ve shown the company that you have what it takes to succeed in the open position.

Good luck with your interview!

KATRINA DAVY, M.A., Ed.M, is a Santa Monica-based professional career counselor who has worked in university and private settings. She holds degrees from Columbia and Cornell universities. Visit her online at www.kdcareer.com. Send your questions to newshrink@gmail.com. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!