NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Job interviews usually close with the same five words: “Do you have any questions?” It may sound benign, but for a job applicant, it can feel like the moment of truth.
By this point, the employer has read your cover letter and resume, corresponded with you by e-mail and phone to learn more about you and has probably just finished lecturing you on the company and the position. It’s been a long process of showing your worth, and when they ask this final question, it may feel like it’s the last real opportunity to prove yourself to a potential employer before they decide if you are, in fact, the one.
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But according to several career experts we spoke with, job candidates should never feel pressured to make up questions.
“The biggest problem when asking questions during a job interview is that if the question isn’t something you genuinely need to know, it can be way worse than not asking anything at all,” said Penelope Trunk, a popular business blogger and CEO of the Brazen Careerist, a career management site. “Once you make it to the job interview, you’ve already passed the skills test, so it’s all about personality. And nobody becomes likeable by asking disingenuous questions.”
Trunk urges job applicants to change the way they think about the interview process. Rather than waiting until prompted to ask questions in the final moments of the interview, it’s crucial to take the initiative to get your questions out during the course of the conversation.
“Don’t wait til the end if you have questions you want answered. It screams, ‘I’m not a self-starter,’” she said. “As soon as it’s time for you to talk in the interview, start asking questions and engage with the person interviewing you.”
As Trunk and other experts point out, when the interviewer asks if you have any questions, it’s generally a formality, but a formality that may hurt you if you don’t take advantage of it.
“You absolutely must ask at least two questions. Staying silent shows you haven’t done enough homework to know what to ask,” said Alexandra Levit, a career expert and author of New Job, New You: A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career.