What to say when a job interviewer asks “any questions for me?”

Raising your hand—and your voice.
Raising your hand—and your voice.
Image: Reuters/Rick Wilking
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So you managed to get through a phone screen, ten resume revisions, and a lot of anxious moments when you were convinced they were ignoring you. Or at least playing hard to get so that you’d be grateful if they ever did offer you an interview.

And now those infamous words have just come out of the mouth of the person who is sitting across the desk from you. And you desperately wish you had something to ask. 

This is a good time to remember what interviews are really all about.

It can be easy to forget that interviews aren’t about you. They’re about your ability to do something for the people interviewing you.

There’s so much else going on in your work, your life, and in your job search, that you can forget to look at the interview from the interviewer’s point of view. They’re somebody with a job, too, and a whole slew of tasks and accomplishments that they need to get done this year.

So for professionals in the first ten years of their career, these 14 questions—which focus on the needs, traits, and preferences of your future boss and future employer—demonstrate that you are somebody who is genuinely interested in their well-being, and in the success of the company you’re joining. And the more interest we show in others, the more interest they’re going to have in seeing you get the job.

With that in mind, here are fourteen questions for your next interview:

  1. What’s the biggest change your team has gone through in the last year? Does your team feel like things are getting better in the economy and for your business?
  2. If I get the job, how do I earn a “gold star” on my performance review? What are the key accomplishments you’d like to see in this role over the next year?
  3. What’s your (or my future boss’) leadership style?
  4. About which competitor are you most worried?
  5. How does sales/operations/technology/marketing/finance work around here? (i.e., groups other than the one you’re interviewing for)
  6. What type of people are successful here? What type of people are not?
  7. What’s one thing that’s key to this company’s success that somebody from outside the company wouldn’t know about?
  8. How did you get your start in this industry? Why do you stay?
  9. What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest worry these days?
  10. What’s the timeline for making a decision on this position? When should I get back in touch with you?
  11. What is your reward system? Is it a star system/team-oriented/equity-based/bonus-based/golf-clap-based? Why is that your reward system? If you could change any one thing about it, what would it be?
  12. What information is shared with the employees (revenues, costs, operating metrics)? Is this an “open book” shop, or do you play it closer to the vest? How is information shared? How do I get access to the information I need to be successful in this job?
  13. What is the rhythm to the work around here? Is there a time of year that it’s “all hands on deck” and we’re pulling all-nighters, or is it pretty consistent throughout the year? How about during the week/month? Is it pretty evenly spread throughout the week/month, or are there crunch days?
  14. Who are the heroes at your company? What characteristics do the people who are most celebrated have in common with each other? Conversely, what are the characteristics that are common to the promising people you hired, but who then flamed out and failed or left?

Good luck with all your interviews! I’m rooting for you…