As a job candidate, you probably prepare for answering tough job interview questions. However, do you also prepare for what you ask the job interviewer? Your questions can be just as much of a "fit" indicator to potential employers as your answers are to their questions.
Never ask the interviewer anything about their company that you could have learned through research, e.g., the company's website, LinkedIn, your library's resources, etc. Companies want to feel special – that you have taken the time to determine if you are pursuing their opening because your interest is piqued based on your research, or if you're just desperate for a job. Do your due diligence!
Here are three good questions to ask:
1) Why is this position open? (Is it a new one, or did someone leave? Why did they leave? Is there an internal candidate?)
This question tells the company that you're serious about wanting this position. It also tells them that you are trying to assess your fit for the position, which you are. It's important for you to know who the ideal candidate is for this job, based on who's held the job before. If it's a new position, then you may have some input into how the job is defined, if you're hired. If there's an internal candidate, then that raises many more questions in your mind, e.g., will the internal person have an edge among the competition? (Not good news for you.)
2) What is the most important (or biggest) problem you have that you want someone in this position to tackle?
This question tells the company that you're already processing how you may contribute value to them. This is good! The answer you get can help you evaluate whether or not you're up to the task, whether or not you want to do the job, and whether or not you still have an interest in pursuing this position. Do you feel challenged by the problem or overwhelmed at the idea of being responsible for solving it? Be honest with yourself. Don't set up yourself to fail.
3) How will my performance be evaluated in this position? By whom?
This question tells the company that you are thinking about how you'll be doing your new job, another sign that you are interested in the position. It also tells them that you are ambitious and not just a time-clock puncher. Your answer will help you better understand the reporting structure of this company. It also helps sheds light on how your job tasks should be prioritized.
A good, solid job interview is a give-and-take. If you ever leave an interview relieved because you didn't have to talk much, know that this was NOT a good interview. You will NOT get this job. Interviews are rarely about you, only what you can do to meet an employer's needs, solve his problems, and contribute high value to this company. You are on stage at a job interview – perform well!
For more information on this topic, check out Amy Levin-Epstein's CBS Money Watch column, "6 great questions to ask on a job interview," featuring my contributions. "Asking for a job? Ask good questions" by Diane Stafford of The Kansas City Star lists some other good questions to ask an interviewer.
Wishing you career success in 2012!