At this point, you probably know that when your interviewer asks you, “Do you have any questions for me?” the answer is always “yes.”
But what comes after the “yes” is a little less clear.
I know it’s tempting to just print out one of those lists of questions-you-can-ask-your-interviewer, but for your own sake, don’t. I’m not saying using predictable questions will make or break your candidacy (or that you shouldn’t get answers to many of those questions at some point during the interview process), but why would you bore your interviewer by being the 13th person who asks him or her about day-to-day responsibilities when you could actively be working to leave a positive impression?
After all, just because your interviewer isn’t asking you questions, doesn’t mean he or she isn’t still evaluating you. In fact, some recruiters find that the questions candidates ask reveal more about their values than a direct question would.
So, what should you ask if not, “What is a typical day at Google like?”
Show Off What You Know
Since your interviewer is still gauging whether or not you’re a good fit, it’s important to keep presenting yourself as not just technically qualified, but also enthusiastic about the company or industry.
A great way to do this is by prefacing your questions with some research you’ve done. Something like, “It’s so exciting to see Google acquire companies like Nest. It seems like the need to stay on top of innovation is really important here. Can you tell me more about how this value plays out in other areas of the company beyond acquisitions?” shows that you’d be excited to hit the ground running (much more than asking, “What’s your favorite thing about working at Google?” would).
Align Your Priorities
Unfortunately, not all companies have a Wikipedia page of their most recent acquisitions. So, another good strategy is focusing on your cultural fit with the company.
Through your research and conversations, see if you can uncover what’s really important to the team—its values, culture, or the type of people they seem to like hiring. Then, use your questions to show how your priorities align. For example, lets say your future co-workers all seem to be driven, ambitious, and focused on self-improvement. To present this image, say, “As I mentioned before when I was telling you about my work with the Society of Women Engineers, professional development is very important to me. I would love to hear a bit more about any training or mentorship programs that your company has for new employees.”
Reinforce the Connection
Beyond researching the company and the latest news in the industry, it’s also worthwhile to check your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile to find common ground. This is particularly useful for on-site interviews, after you’ve passed the phone interview hurdle—this is where the hiring manager really screens for cultural fit and whether he or she will actually like working with you.
Then, weave what you’ve learned into a question. For instance, “As I was preparing for this interview, I noticed on your LinkedIn profile that you’re part of an educational nonprofit board. I personally do a lot of work with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Boston. In your experience, have you felt that the company has been supportive or encouraging of volunteering outside of work?” Questions like this help you build a connection with the hiring manager and show him or her that you value the same things. Just definitely make sure to explain where you found this information—it can be a little creepy if you neglect this step!
Doing your research (and, more importantly, showing that you did your research) will not only project how thorough you are when you set your mind to something, but also your general enthusiasm for the position. Aside from leaving a stronger impression with your interviewer, there is the added bonus of this feeling more like a genuine conversation than a rapid-fire Q&A session. So throw away that list of stale questions—and start doing your homework.
Photo of interview courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author