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"Any Questions?" What you should ask your Potential Employer during the Interview

Candidates are encouraged to ask questions at the conclusion of their interviews. How they respond to such requests may leave strong impressions on the interviewers, especially considering that these questions and answeres are often the final words exchanged at the very end of the interviews.  Read on for some sound advice on what to ask and what not to.

As a candidate, your questions should come from two sources: questions that you've prepared before the interview and questions that you develop during the interview. It's a good idea to mix in both types of questions, helping to show that you are both prepared (by asking prepared questions) and engaged in the interview (by developing new ones based on the conversation).

When researching a company, start with the organization's web site.  Most companies have an About Us (or similarly named) link- this information can be very helpful.  Also, browse for press releases on the firm's site, search Yahoo News, and use company background resources like Hoovers.com or local newspapers.

Quite often, questions you plan to ask at the end of the interview are answered during it. Anticipate this happening! Draft more questions than you'd ever actually ask so that you'll have plenty of extras should some of them be spoiled.

If you are genuinely interested in a particular prepared question, but it's answered during the main part of the interview, you can still use it! You can communicate your interest in the topic and salvage the question by offering to the interviewer the question along with the answer you learned during the interview. This technique not only gives you the opportunity to present your favorite question, but also lets the interviewer know that you were listening to him or her during the interview as you were able to repeat the answer.

What to ask your Potential Employer

1. The Company
Sample question: "I'm familiar with your company's overall goals and unique services, but would you mind giving me additional information?"
Although you should have the basics covered (e.g. history of the company, main divisions, products/services) asking questions about the goals and objectives of the organization are key. Most companies spend a great deal of time and money developing them and are eager to explain them to anyone who'll listen. You can follow this question up with more questions about departmental objectives, which will often lead into a discussion about the objectives for the individual position for which you are applying.

2. Vacancy of position
Sample question: "How long has the position been open and what are you looking for in the right candidate?"
Inquire as to how the position came to be vacant and how long they have been looking. This interesting question can also be followed with an inquiry as to what the employer is looking for if it's been open for sometime. Additionally, this can spur numerous points of conversation (and subsequent questions) about departmental hierarchy, career paths and other topics of interest.

3. Environment
Sample question: "How would you describe this company's work environment?"
Ask about the organizational culture and its affect on the work performed there. This multifaceted question can lead to many successive discussions about workflow, employee satisfaction, job empowerment and enrichment and dozens of other areas.

4. Performance Evaluations
Sample questions: "Can I expect to be evaluated periodically? On what? By whom?"
Request information on performance reviews. Ask how performance is appraised, how often, and by whom. These questions imply that you are confident in your performance and that you welcome the opportunity to have it evaluated.

5. Objectives of the Position
Sample question: "Can you describe an average day for the individual who holds the position?"
Ask about the day-to-day responsibilities of the job for which you're applying. Inquire specifically about the tools you'll be using, the other employees with whom you'll be interacting, and the detail to which your work will be predefined. You'll need this information to help you decide whether or not to accept the position if it is offered to you. The failure to ask these questions may set forth an air of desperation.

Types of Questions to Avoid

1. Salary and Benefits
It's difficult (and often frustrating) but shy away from questions best left for human resources, such as specific salary and benefit questions or general office policies. Not only might your interviewer not be able to answer these types of questions, but also you may send the message that you are more concerned about yourself than about the organization with which you are applying.

2. Simplistic Questions
Avoid questions to which you should already know the answers! It is expected that professional job applicants do at least some organizational research before their interviews. While it's okay to ask for commentary or additional information about an organizational event (such as a recent merger or a major product launch), never ask a question that indicates that you haven't done your homework. For instance, you wouldn't interview with America Online and ask something like, "So you guys merged with a cable company. Time Warner, right?" Simplistic questions like this could hurt you! In a nutshell, don't ask questions just for the sake of asking something. Do your homework. Walk into the interview prepared and confident!

Chris Alfe is a staff writer for thingamajob.com.  He has ten years of experience in staffing and human resources and currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland.

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