“Any questions for me?” is a trap. Here’s how to answer the dreaded interview question

Interviewing for a job would be far less stressful if we had a copy of the questions beforehand. But what you can do to reclaim some control over your interview is ask questions yourself. Not only will this provide valuable insight into the position, but depending on what you ask, it could signal to the hiring manager that you’re a serious candidate.

LinkedIn research shows that 41 percent of all interviewers say that asking well-informed questions is one of their top qualifications for a candidate, so you’ll definitely want to be thoughtfully inquisitive during your interview,” said Blair Decembrele, career expert at LinkedIn.

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What to ask

Whether you need clarification on a certain point, or the hiring manager asks if there’s anything you’d like to add toward the end, here’s a sample of some appropriate yet impressive questions to ask, according to Decembrele:

· Can you tell me what the company’s most important values are?

· Where do you see the company in the next year? What about the next five?

· What is the work environment like? Is it more autonomous, or collaborative?

· What was a recent challenge the company faced, and what did management or employees learn?

· How do you measure success?  

· What continued learning is offered, if any, for employees?

If this all sounds daunting, think of it this way: as much as they’re interviewing you, you’re interviewing them to determine whether the position is the right fit. “Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions about the role,” said Decembrele. “Make sure you aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions like your hiring manager’s longterm vision for the role or areas of opportunity for the team.”

Where to tread lightly

Old wisdom suggests staying far away from the salary conversation during your first interview, but Decembrele recommended a more take-charge approach. “Ask for what you want and need, and don’t be afraid to negotiate,” she said.

To give you some frame of reference on what to ask for, consult Glassdoor, which offers a ballpark salary range on most positions, as well as the LinkedIn Salary tool, which discloses thousands of compensation and benefits packages in similar roles.

You may want to avoid asking anything straight off the bat that could hint at a weak work ethic, like how much paid time off or work-from-home opportunities you’ll get. But according to Decembrele, you should discuss benefits at some point early in the hiring process.

Though there’s no guarantee that asking smart questions will get you the job, it could be what makes the difference between you and any other applicant.