Encourage Job Candidates to Ask Questions

A job interview often concludes with the interviewer asking, “Do you have any questions?” The job candidate then has an opportunity to ask about anything that wasn’t covered or to get clarification about something that was said. At least that’s the idea behind the format.

Not So Inquisitive

However, this assumes that a candidate is cool, calm, and collected—and can remember everything that was said, as well as what might have been confusing or omitted. For most candidates, an interview involves sitting on a hot seat. It can be difficult enough to answer questions, let alone come up with questions to ask once the interview is over.
Therefore, more often than not, a candidate has no questions, or one or two that he or she already had coming into the interview.

Why You Should Care

Yet, as a recruiter or hiring manager, you want a candidate to ask questions. Questions show the candidate is engaged in the conversation, and interested in the position and the company. The questions a candidate asks also provide insight into what the person values; indeed, candidate questions can help determine fit.

Mixing It Up

So, how do you prompt questions?
Before delving into a candidate’s background, skills, and experience, and asking your lengthy list of questions, provide a detailed overview of the company and the position. Divide this overview into segments:

  • Share information about the company
  • Describe the department where the candidate would work
  • Talk about the staff the candidate would work with or lead
  • Explain the reporting structure
  • Provide details about benefits offerings

After each segment, ask if the candidate has any questions.
For example, after you say the company has doubled in size every year for the past five years, a candidate may ask about the challenges of managing growth. If you’re hiring a department manager, he or she may also ask about challenges related to staffing.
After you describe the department, the candidate may ask questions about its location. For example, if the department operates from a satellite office, as opposed to the corporate headquarters, the candidate may ask if there are any plans to relocate.
Staff information will likely generate multiple questions. For example, after learning that he or she will lead a team of 15 people, the candidate may ask about the average tenure of staff members, as well as the background of more senior staff members. In addition, a candidate may ask if everyone works onsite. Does staff include any remote workers?
After you let the candidate know the reporting structure – for example, “This position reports to our VP of operations, Joe Jones. Joe is a great guy; he’s super smart and very friendly” – the candidate may have these kinds of questions: What other departments report to Joe? Where is Joe located?
Similarly, sharing benefits information typically leads to questions. If the candidate is being considered for a manager position, he or she may ask if all employees receive the same benefits package, as well as how much vacation time staff members get.

Leading Is Revealing

The questions a candidate asks when you follow this format will prove insightful.
As important, they result in a real conversation—one that will allow both parties to get to know each other, and make an informed decision about a future relationship.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.