10.4   Asking the Interviewer Questions Gets the Job!

Candidates often ask me how to prepare for a job interview. One often- overlooked element of preparation is developing a list of questions you can ask the interviewer. Candidates should have a few well-researched questions ready to ask the interviewer when it gets to that often-awkward "Now, do you have any questions for me?" part of the interview. Employers are always impressed when someone has something really intelligent to ask at that point (something that shows not only that they are interested, but also that they know enough about what the company does to be able to craft a good question).

Every now and then I work with someone who is clueless about their impact on others. This is particularly lethal in an interview situation. I once had reason to call an interviewer at Lawrence Livermore National Labs to find out what one of my students had done wrong in the interview. The student asked me how he could improve his interview skills, since he had received a call indicating that he had been rejected after the interview. He needed feedback from the interviewer. He really felt he had done well in the interview. He thought he had been right on with his answers and that an offer would be forthcoming. I made a call to the interviewer to get some frank information about how the interview had gone. There were a series of small mistakes (things that might have been overlooked for a geek candidate)- somewhat sloppy appearance, a bit of awkwardness but the biggest complaint from the interviewer was that the candidate didn't have any questions when it came to that stage of the interview. Very bad!

Asking questions demonstrates enthusiasm. You need to have questions to ask! It looks like you didn't do your homework or that you are not really interested in the position or the company if you don't have any questions. You have to have a question or two for each and every person who interviews you. In many instances, multiple people will interview you during a visit to a company that is considering you for employment. You can ask the same questions throughout the day to get different people's opinions. Human resources people will interview you early in the process. But as you make your way though the day, you will be interviewed by people you will work with and people you will work for. The manager frequently interviews you last.

When I discussed the feedback I had received with the candidate, he said he had asked questions of almost everyone, but that by the end of the day he felt he had enough information and that he just stopped asking questions of the last person or two. He was also tired. Well that didn't work too well did it? The last interviewers of the day frequently have the most influence. They are frequently the people who are the most powerful. They are also the people who remember best what occurred in the interview because the information is fresh in their minds. They are the last people to speak with you before they meet to decide whether you should be hired or not... And there you are, too tired and too worn out to make a good impression. Really!

Wake up! Make sure you are making a good impression on everyone you talk to throughout the entire interview process. Everyone you meet is important. Everyone who interviews you will weigh in on the decision. Answer the questions of the last interviewer with as much gusto as you showed the first person that interviewed you. If you feel yourself fatiguing during the interview day, hit the bathroom and throw cold water on your face. Say to yourself, "This is it! This is where all of that hard work pays off! I cannot afford to let up now! I have to be fresh and energized. I don't qualify to be permanently unemployed."

You are like a runner, or a swimmer, an Olympic athlete. You have to reach way down within yourself and find that inner strength to do your best for a longer period than you thought possible. You can do it! I know you can! You will be glad you did.