if an interviewer invites me to contact them with any questions, does it look bad if I don’t?

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A reader writes:

I landed an interview for an awesome job last week. I pretty much killed it (not to toot my own horn) and they called me within a few hours to ask me to come back next week and to ask what my salary range was. The phone call was a little awkward…mostly because the hiring manager asked me right off the bat if I “had any more questions or issues for her.” I wasn’t prepared to ask any more questions about the job, seeing as how they’d told me in the interview they wouldn’t be calling their final choices back until the following day. I told her I had no issues at the time, we discussed my salary expectations and she gave me a run down of what the second interview will entail. She ended the call with “if you have anymore questions this week, please feel free to email me.”

Well, now I feel obligated to think up some questions. Do you think it would be a good idea to touch base sometime this week about something? I don’t want to look like I’m not thinking about the position all week.

I sort of hate the expectation that you, as an applicant, will have endless questions for the hiring manager. I do have a lot of questions, it just seemed as though none of them were prudent for the quick phone call we were having (I’d like to save most of them for the second interview). And of course it seems too early to be asking about benefits, vacation time, etc. etc. I have a feeling I’m majorly over thinking this, but I figured I would ask expert advice.

Please don’t come up with questions just for the sake of asking questions, especially if you’re going to email them to her rather than waiting for the second interview.

People say things like “if you have any questions, feel free to email me” because that’s polite. Half of them aren’t even thinking through what they’re saying, and the other half mean that if you truly have a burning question that you really need answered before your next interview, it’s fine to email and ask. But no one — no one — who says this means, “Good candidates will have questions before their interview, so I expect to receive yours soon!” They’re assuming that the vast majority of what you’re wondering can wait for the interview, because it can.

So no, you are not obligated to think up some questions. Moreover, if you do that, it will likely backfire because those types of questions almost always result in a transparently insincere attempt to look thoughtful and interested by asking questions that obviously aren’t crucial ones and that will be annoying because you’d be asking her to spend her time writing out answers to questions that she can tell aren’t genuine.

Yes, you do want to have substantive, thoughtful questions for the interview. But you can save them for that meeting.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Tony in HR

    In my mind, this is no different than calling immediately after submitting your resume. Good way to get your name crossed off the list unless you have something legit to ask about.

    Reply
  2. Cat

    I almost always tell people this after interviews. Partly because I really am fine with them contacting me and partly because – well, sometimes you just need a friendly closing line and that’s an easy one. I really, really do not mean that they should feel obligated to, though (and people virtually never take me up on it which is not an issue at all).

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Yes, it’s just a nice way to wrap up an interview. I’ve only had one person take me up on it, and it was the most awkward conversation because she didn’t actually have any questions for me. Like the OP, I think she thought it was obligatory.

      Reply
  3. Anonymous

    I once had an interview at a company where I met with two people: one fully detailed all aspects of the job to me; the second conducted the interview. When the interview was over, she asked me if I had any questions. I explained that they had all been covered by both her and the person I spoke with before her, and I expressed interest in the role.

    She told me to email her with my questions. I repeated that I didn’t have any, and I repeated my interest in the role.

    She said, “But you WILL have questions.” She implied that she wouldn’t be considering my application unless I came up with some questions.

    I was desperate for a job at the time, and actually considered inventing some questions for her. But then I realized that I really didn’t like her handling of the situation, and that I really didn’t want a person like her as my boss.

    Thankfully, I was never offered a position with them.

    Reply
    1. My 2 Cents

      This is my biggest pet peeve! I rarely have any real questions because I thoroughly research the company ahead of time, and any questions I do have get answered in the interview. But, that looks bad, so I get punished because I actually did my homework ahead of time and came prepared. It annoys the living crap out of me!

      Reply
      1. Jessa

        Yes, they’re probably used to people who do not do this. Which kind of penalises people who are smart and do their research.

        Reply
      2. Leslie Yep

        But you should be using that time to ask questions that can’t be answered on the website. I wouldn’t be impressed at all if a candidate asked me something they could easily google. I want to hear from candidates:

        - What does knocking it out of the park mean for this role?
        - When you talk about needing [skill] what does that mean to you?
        - What is the team structure like and where does this role fit in?
        - What are the team’s key priorities over the course of the next year and where does this role fit in?
        Etc…

        Reply
          1. jesicka309

            Sometimes these get answered in the course of the interview though, and when they then ask at the end of the interview “So, do you have any questions for us?” I feel really lame. They answered my questions, and I feel so put on the spot that I can’t think of anything else to say.
            EG. Recently I had a second interview for an internal role. Most of the position questions etc. had been answered in the first interview – the second interview was more about discussing my own fit and experience. They asked if I had any questions again…I was stumped. All my pressing questions had been answered in the first interview, and the second interview was more about me than the role. I’d already used “what are the qualities you are looking for in this role?” which went over really well…and as it was an internal interview, I have a really good idea about team structure and culture. :( I felt like an idiot, but I genuinely didn’t have any more questions!

            Reply
            1. Cat

              Was it the same interviewer? If not, I don’t think there’s any harm in repeating some of the questions, and, in fact, you can get useful data from comparing the responses. You can also fall back on “preference” questions – what’s your favorite and least favorite thing about this job; can you tell me about what you’re working on that is most interesting/exciting to you; etc.

              Reply
              1. jesicka309

                One was the same, one was different. And it’s in the same department – I see what the person in this role does every day! I interviewed for this role a year ago too…so I had some of my more basic questions answered then. My friend did the role up until a year ago, so I picked her brain about the job back then too!
                I am literally at the point where I know everything I felt I needed to know…but I felt stupid not having any questions.

                Reply
            2. Lori

              When I interviewed for my current position, it was internal. I went into the interview with a notepad with questions written down and the interviewer was impressed that I had prepared beforehand. We sat down and it was a chat with two old friends (which is how I knew this one was going to be easy). They gave me a summary of what the job entailed, etc. and I filled in some of the questions from this. Then I asked what was left. I was obviously taking notes filling in the answers as we went so they would not have been totally surprised if I didn’t have any remaining questions (but I did still have some questions left such as working hours, etc.).

              Reply
        1. Tony in HR

          I read an article about 18 months ago that I loved about 10 questions to help you get the job. None of those questions were ones that research would get answers for you or would likely come up in the course of the interview.

          I always made an effort to ask at least three good thoughtful questions.

          Reply
  4. WWWONKA

    I recently had an interview at a Fortune 100 company. In closing I was told I would hear something by the next Tuesday and to feel free to make contact if I had any questions. Well a week after the next Tuesday I emailed a polite inquiry as to the status and to reinforce my interest. I am still waiting for a reply. HOW UNPROFESSIONAL can a company be?

    Reply
    1. K

      I’ve had that happen more times than I care to count. I once had someone send an email six months after an initial phone interview, saying these went with someone else. I’m also still waiting to here about a position I interviewed for last month.

      Reply
    2. Anonymous

      Yeah, I’ve learned not to hold my breath even if I do get a definitive “you’ll hear by X date” comment. As rude as it is, you learn to expect it if you’ve been interviewing for enough jobs.

      Reply
      1. WWWONKA

        I just find it to be so rude to leave you hanging. I have had this actually happen a few times by top grade well known companies. I wonder what kind of people they have working in their HR department and IF anyone of authority knows what is going on.

        Reply
    3. Felicia

      It’s super rude when they say they’ll get back to you by x date and you never hear from them again, but it’s unfortunately super common. Though hearing they went with someone else about 3 months after they said (which happened to me once) was somehow worse

      Reply
  5. jesicka309

    Last time an interviewer said “feel free to ask me any questions if you think of any later”, I took them up on the offer. Day after the interview, I emailed a thank you note, and a quick question about how they evaluated performance. They called me back within 20 minutes to tell me I hadn’t gotten the job. :(
    If anything, the email reminded them to reject me. Boo.

    Reply
    1. WWWONKA

      I Just got the notification I did not get the job from the interview I wrote about. I too think I reminded them to let me know.

      Reply
  6. Not So NewReader

    I am not good at developing questions on the spot. The questions pop into my head with great clarity about 2 AM. sigh.

    I did tell one interviewer that they had done such a thorough job of explaining things, I had no immediate questions. (Which was true.) Then I added that I had specific questions about the various tasks but those questions would only be appropriate in the course of my work day.
    As others are saying here, I felt that if I did not ask a “thinking person’s question” I failed. Luckily, this seemed to satisfy the interviewer and I got the job.

    Reply
  7. Debbie Christofferson

    Questions help to have them ahead of time, and write them down.
    Then if you do have the opportunity, and there is time, ask the ones that matter most to you, if they have not yet been answered, or if something more was uncovered during the interview:
    Why is this position open? What caused the last person to leave?
    What kind of turnover does the group have (and why?)?
    What matters most in the first 90 days?
    What are the skills that most matter to successfully executing this role (some matter more than others)?

    These are not in order, but some of the questions I have on my list.
    Think about the factors that create your success (or failure) in a role, and what you need to know to feed that. Think of it from your hiring organization’s perspective, and couch the question that way.
    How will my success be measured over the course of a year?
    What is the culture of the workgroup?
    What is the management style of the organization (or the hiring manager if that’s who you’re talking to)?
    What would constitute a failure?
    Etc.
    This helps you think of questions ahead of time, that matter to them, and matter to you, for getting the right fit for the job–for you and for the hiring organization.

    Reply
  8. no questions!

    An interviewer from a first round interview called me just to ask if i had any questions. I have a second interview scheduled in a few days, and I feel obligated to come up with a question since he went out of his way to call. I was at work (where I don’t have good cell reception) and missed his call, so now I’m trying to figure out a good response to email back with – any ideas?

    Reply

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