Land the Perfect Job! How to Ask Questions Like a Pro and Close the Deal
You’ve found a job that you think you could love, applied for it, and an interview is on the calendar–congratulations! As you prepare for your interview, don’t neglect two crucial and often overlooked steps–creating the questions you want to ask and developing a plan to follow up after the interview.
While these steps may seem unnecessary at first glance, asking questions about the job and the company are critical pieces of the interview process. And, having a solid follow-up plan helps show employers that you are a serious candidate. Here are my tips to help you ask the right questions and follow up in the smartest ways.
Always ask questions
An interview is an essential mutual assessment of an applicant and the job. Asking the right questions can help you make the most of the opportunity and decide if you want to move further along in the interview cycle. When you ask questions, you show that you are interested in the job and clarify details about the position and the core responsibilities. The answers can give you a better sense of whether or not this is the right job for you.
For example, imagine you are looking for a job that lets you use and develop graphic design skills, and you are interviewing for a graphic design role. In the interview, you ask about a typical day and learn that most of the work does not include the type of design that interests you. Armed with that information, you can decide if you want to continue pursuing the role or look elsewhere. Self-selecting out early in the process can save time and hassle for both parties.
What’s more, asking smart, probing questions offers an opportunity for you to show off core skills. As you ask questions, you have a chance to showcase your preparation, your personality, and your ability to engage.
What to ask about the job
Generally, your questions will fall along two distinct lines:
- Questions about the job.
- Questions about the company.
During the interview, it’s tough to think of the right questions. Make the process easier on yourself by planning ahead and creating queries to keep in your notes and ask throughout the interview.
As you create your list, aim to ask open-ended questions that allow the interviewer a chance to respond fully. Be prepared to ask additional questions based on the answers you hear. Here are some sample questions to help you get started:
- How does a typical day unfold? Ask about the percentage of the day typically spent on a particular task. Inquire about the company’s deadline philosophy. Does a deadline at the end of the day mean 5 p.m., midnight, or before people log in the following day?
- What are the communication preferences of the office? This line of questioning is essential, particularly when you are working remotely. Ask what tools they use for communication or if team huddles happen frequently. Ask if any project management platforms, like Trello, are part of the job.
- What’s your experience working with contract employees and virtual teams? If you are applying to work remotely, you’ll want to know more about how this company operates. If the employer says this is new ground for them or just started the practice last year due to COVID-19, ask how things are going. Inquire about the challenges they’ve faced and how they overcame them. Ask about the benefits that surprised them when they switched to virtual teams.
- What should I plan to accomplish in the first 30 days on the job? You want to get off to a good start, and having a roadmap of expectations will help you get a sense of the learning curve involved with the job.
- Why is this role important to the business? This question will help give you a sense of how this role interacts with others at the company and why it’s crucial. There’s no right or wrong answer, but knowing if the position is more behind-the-scenes or front-and-center is an important distinction.
- How does the growth trajectory look for this role? It’s fair to ask if the position has the potential to grow into something new and different over time. Again, there’s no right or wrong answer to the question–some people and employers want the consistency of an employee with deep expertise doing a particular job, and others are looking to fill an entry-level job for quick promotion. The key is knowing which applies and what you prefer.
- Is this a new role or an established role that’s open due to a vacancy? This question can help you learn more about the role and the company. An opening due to a vacancy often means a more established job with well-defined tasks and expectations. A new role can mean an opportunity to put your stamp on a job.
What to ask about the company
Asking questions about the company offers essential insights and highlights vital skills that you can showcase. You get a better sense of the business, how it operates, and the office culture.
In addition, it’s another way to show interest in the position. Asking questions about the company indicates that you are curious and interested. Most of the jobs available on HireMyMom are with small businesses that don’t share business background information online. So, the traditional Google search for business information is not likely to turn up much beyond customer-facing information.
But, with the right questions, you can learn a lot about the business and what makes the company tick. Good questions include:
- How did this business come to be? Asking about the idea and circumstances that led to business formation can yield a trove of information. Don’t be shy here–most business owners enjoy discussing the journey that led them to their current position.
- How has the business changed over time? This line of questioning can tell you how long the business has been operating and give clues about the future.
- What are the factors that make this business successful? Asking about the secret sauce can give you important clues about office culture and help you understand the hard and soft skills valued in the office.
- What’s the office culture like? Asking how people describe the work environment can help you decide if it’s the environment you are seeking. For example, do people chat around a virtual water cooler, celebrate birthdays and share kid stories or is it a strictly business environment? Knowing what to expect in advance can help you assess if the office is the right fit for you or if you might find the environment uncomfortable or unappealing.
Plan for a strong close
With your questions in hand, it’s time to think about the close of the interview. A strong finish can distinguish you from the crowd. Set yourself up for success with these steps:
- Thank the interviewer for her time and explain why you enjoyed talking with her. For example, you could say: Thank you for meeting with me today. I enjoyed learning about your business and this role. Then, mention something specific from the conversation that you found interesting.
- Express your level of interest. If you are interested in the job, say so. Explain that knowing more about the job and the company has increased your level of interest in the role and that you’d love to join the team. If you are not interested in moving forward and are ready to say so, do so delicately. Something like: Thank you for meeting with me today. It sounds like the job opening you have is an excellent opportunity for the right person. But, based on our discussions and your need for skill X and hours Y, I don’t think I’m the right fit at this time.
- Summarize why you are a great candidate. If you are interested in the job, briefly highlight the reasons you are a good fit for the role. Mention the specific skills you possess and how they could fill specific needs discussed during the interview.
- Ask about the next steps and timing. Establishing a timeline can help make your wait for news easier.
- Send a follow-up email. Whether you are interested in the job or not, send the interviewer a follow-up email within 48 hours of the interview. In your message, thank the interviewer for her time and information, briefly recap your conversation and highlight your qualifications. End with a short pitch explaining why you are the best candidate for the job. Keep the message short, friendly, and focused. If you aren’t interested in the job, eliminate the pitch for hiring you. But, still, send the note as this person could become a valuable contact in the future.
Job hunting can feel like a roller coaster, and the interview is a pivotal step along the process. But, with a bit of preparation and some know-how, you’ll be well on your way to success. You’ve got this! If you’d like to connect with other job seekers for support and camaraderie, head over to our FB Community for a great group of new friends!