WASHINGTON First, let's start with what NOT to ask in a job interview. THE biggest faux pas one can make is asking: "What does your company do?" If you've not done your homework and researched the company, you don't deserve a seat at the table.
But let's assume you've done your homework. The best way to approach the interview is to think of it like a first date. While a job interview is in a professional setting and the outcomes are different, the intentions are the same. You've exchanged information because you think there might be a connection, and now you're ready to figure out if you want to pursue things further.
Like a successful first date, there should be a good balance of give and take. Neither person should dominate the conversation and ask all the questions. While the employer will ask about your experience and goals, you should ask questions that help you understand why you should commit to working there.
Plus, questions are a great way to demonstrate you understand the company's goals and challenges, highlight your qualifications and work ethic, and, most importantly, make an impression that moves you to the top of the list of potential candidates.
Here are ten questions that will provide you with insight into the company while making a favorable impression.
1. I've been told that I work well as a team member. What are some of the ways your company encourages teamwork?
2. Long-term job satisfaction is important to me. Is the company committed to growing talent from within, whenever possible?
3. I enjoyed your published mission and values. How are these reflected in day-to-day life? Can you share some examples that would help me understand your corporate culture?
4. If your son, daughter or a friend was looking for a job, would you recommend working for your company? Why?
5. What do you think distinguishes your company from its competitors, both from a public and employee perspective?
6. (if speaking to a potential direct supervisor) How often do you speak with your C-level officers? When you do, what do they normally ask you? Do they ask for your opinion?
7. How does your company demonstrate a sense of pride in its employees? Can you help me understand what it looks for in return?
8. Are there paid, ongoing learning opportunities offered at my level of job responsibility? What obligations do I have if I take advantage of them?
9. What does your company expect in the way of personal and professional growth for a person hired into this position?
10. Does your company have a code of conduct covering work ethic and appropriate attire?
Not every question will be appropriate for every job interview. Choose the ones that best address your career and personal goals and don't be shy about delving deeper into areas of particular interest. For example, if you're thinking of starting a family, you may want to explore the company's commitment to work/life balance.
Preparing a list of thoughtful questions before the interview is a great way to boost your confidence and make a great impression. Plus, you'll gain greater insight into the company and the potential fit. Who knows? That first interview might just be the start of something beautiful.
(Pamela Eyring is the president of The Protocol School of Washington (PSOW), which provides professional business etiquette and international protocol training. Founded in 1988, PSOW is the only school of its kind in the U.S. to become accredited. Any opinions expressed are her own. PSOW's website is: www.psow.edu.)
(Editing by Paul Casciato)