While working on this post, I happened to be sitting at a restaurant where the manager was using the table right next to me to conduct a series of job interviews. Of course, I was trying not to eavesdrop, but I also simply could not help myself in one of the interactions when he asked the candidate three times and in three different ways “do you have any questions for me?” The candidate had no questions for him, and after the third attempt, the interviewer stopped trying and shifted the frame into a something of a sales pitch for the job. As he started describing all of the changes in the neighborhood and all of the developments that they were making to the restaurant that were going to make this a really great place of work, I wondered whether the interviewee had cued into the shift in frame or knew what it meant. Of course I cannot pretend to know what was actually going on in the mind of the interviewer, but there was a shift in frame from dialogic to monologic after this moment of the third attempt.
I say it’s better to stay in dialogue by having something to ask!!
Having questions at the ready not only it makes you look good, but it likely makes them feel good which we can understand from a facework perspective. Questions for THEM do positive facework because they show that what they care about is what you care about. It makes it seem like you are excited to be there, and that you take equal responsibility for the interaction going smoothly. And after you have prepared some questions, have another look at the job description. Be sure that there is nothing there which has already been answered.
Ask questions which help you demonstrate that you have done your homework: “I read in Forbes that your organization has recently been positioning itself to move into the Latin American market, can you tell me more about how that is impacting your day-to-day workflow in this department?” Do avoid questions that are face-threatening (to you or to your interviewers). Focus on things that make both of you look good. As part of your research, you likely uncovered bad bits of press. Only bring these up if you can feel like this is consonant with your interactional style, you have something productive to offer, and you really feel that you have read the interaction well enough to know that it will not backfire.
Definately ask questions that get at the day-to-day of office culture. For example, students who are moving into the work world for the first time might not have much experience working independently, and might initially be very interested in having a boss who gives lots of regular feedback. However, this preference may change over time, especially as the employer and employee both get to know one another better, and the employee gains experience and confidence. So really, the question is not “do you give regular feedback?” but “what is your interactional style when it comes to feedback?” “what are your expectations for an employee in soliciting feedback?” “how will expectations around things like the regularity of feedback be discussed and negotiated?”
Use events like networking, informational interviews, and even your mock interview (with friends and family that you do to help you prepare) as opportunities for brainstorming and for getting feedback on questions that might be good for your particular organizational or interactional context.