This isn’t your first job search. So, you already know that it’s essential to ask questions along the way. Quite obviously, they help you clear up any confusion and learn additional information.
But that’s not all: The right questions can also help you make a good impression.
That’s because most job seekers have blinders on. Their sole focus is landing the job, and so they only ask questions toward that end. But, if you take the time to pose those that are thoughtful, and don’t just seem like you’re checking a box, you’ll impress the other person.
So, ask the questions below at the appropriate stage, and you’ll be memorable for the right reasons.
1. During a Networking Meeting: “Can I Help You Meet Any of Your Career Goals?”
It’s called an “informational interview” because it’s your chance to get the scoop on the other person’s role, company, and career trajectory.
And so, you already know it’s an opportunity to ask your contact about the company culture, and if they have any advice for someone in your shoes.
While you may feel like you’ve been asking the other person about themselves the entire time, many job seekers often overlook asking how you can help, too.
You might not think of it, since you’re coming to the other person for expertise. But there could be someone in your network they’d love to meet; or maybe you excel at something at which they’re a beginner.
By offering to help, you instantly make the conversation less one-sided, which makes the impression that you’re someone who thinks about others.
2. During the Application Process: “I Had a Question Regarding [Area of Confusion]. Could You Clarify/ Explain/Resend [Whatever’s Needed]?”
There’s a lot on your mind as a job applicant. And so, in an ideal world, every part of the application process would be straightforward. It’d be clear where you should submit all of your materials, and the email exchange between you and the hiring manager would make total sense.
But application pages can be confusing. And hiring managers are people, too, and sometimes we rush through an email. Which is why we understand when we’re contacted with questions. Keeping it simple and brief, like the question above is the way to go.
This may seem pretty obvious, but when I was reviewing applications, emails with questions always made an impression on me. If someone wrote out multiple paragraphs so I had to hunt for what they were asking, or if they took a harsh tone, than that impression (longwinded, rude) stuck. Conversely, if someone asked something that was polite and to-the-point, I made a mental note. I imagined that’s how they’d respond to an issue that arose on the job, as well.
Not to mention, it sets you up to be more successful than if you were confused and didn’t say anything at all.
While you shouldn’t make up a question just to contact the hiring manager (We can see through that!), should you need additional information, use the opportunity to impress with your communication skills.
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3. During Your Interview: “What’s a Challenge You’re Currently Facing in Your Role?”
When it’s your turn to ask questions, you might lead off with greatest hits like: “What would the person in this role be expected to achieve in the first 30 days?” and “Are there opportunities for professional development?” After all, they’re popular because they help you glean valuable information. (If you’d like a refresher, here’s a list of common ways to reply to “Any questions?”)
But, remember, your goal is to learn more—and make a good impression. That’s why Muse Career Coach Al Dea suggests asking about challenges. Interviewers generally emphasize all of the good aspects of working at a company, and then most candidates stay in that lane by asking about their best moments there.
Dea suggests flipping the script with the question above.
It’s a jumping off point to take the discussion in a fresh direction, but beyond that, it gives you insight into the interviewer’s pain point. Use this information when crafting your thank you note (by tossing out an idea or two), and impress them with your problem-solving and creative thinking.
Truth talk: Your days of asking questions won’t be over once you land the job. You’ll have a slew of new ones as you begin your new position. So, carry this approach through and realize questions can do a lot more than help you find answers on how to do things. If you continue to use them to build rapport and show off your thoughtfulness, you’ll be on your way to building strong relationships in your new role.
Photo of person asking question courtesy of Jakob Helbig/Getty Images.
Sara McCord is a freelance writer and editor, who most frequently covers the career beat. For nearly three years, she was an editor at The Muse, and she's regularly contributed career advice to Mashable. Her advice has been published across the web (Forbes, Newsweek, Fast Company,TIME, Inc., Business Insider, CNBC and more). Sara has experience managing programs; recruiting, interviewing, and referring job applicants; building strategic partnerships; advising executive directors; and supporting a national network of volunteers. Learn more and send her a note through her website, or follow her on Twitter @sarajmccord.More from this Author