asking questions in your post-interview thank-you note

A reader writes:

If I have additional questions that I’d like to ask after an interview has concluded, would it be appropriate to ask them in my thank-you note?

I had a second interview for a civil service position. The first interview (a panel interview) was to determine my ranking for the position. The second interview was to actually fill the position. Much to my surprise, the questions in the second interview were exactly the same as the ones in the first interview. The only difference is that I was interviewed by three different individuals. The interview was 10 questions. I tried to make it conversational when possible, but it was hard because it was very structured. The immediate supervisor was one of the interviewers. Looking back, I wish I would have asked the following:

How would you describe your leadership style?
How would you or other people here describe the culture here?
What are some recent accomplishments in the department that you’re most proud of?

I did ask in the interview if there were any reservations about my fit for the position and the immediate supervisor replied that that’s what he and the other interviewers are going to discuss.

He did say that they want to make a hiring decision within the next few days because they’re really in need of someone. I just feel that I’d like to know these questions beforehand if I end up getting an offer. Any thoughts or suggestions?

I would not ask these questions in a follow-up note, because they’re not quick ones to answer.

It’s perfectly reasonable to ask things in a thank-you note that someone can easily type out a quick reply to, like what their timeline is for making a decision. But the questions you have here are more in-depth ones, and very few employers are going to want to type out the lengthy answers they’d require. These are questions for when you’re already having a discussion.

But if you’d like to discuss these things before you’d feel comfortable accepting the job, wait until they make you an offer. At that point, say that you have some questions and ask them — or ask if there’s a time you can set up to talk with the person who would be your manager.

But wait for that at this point — don’t use the thank-you note for it.

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous

    The only thing I wanted to say is that, from what I read, it sounds like OP was given the opportunity to ask questions during the interview , which is where she/he asked the question about reservations for fit. It sounds like these are questions that were thought of after the interview had already wrapped up. OP I feel your pain. I think we’ve all been there.

  2. Dee

    Hello! Thanks for responding. I’m the OP. Yes, I was given the opportunity at the end to ask questions. My first question was who does the position report to and who makes up the department that the position is in. I asked because I could not find this info on the company website or anywhere else. That’s when one of the interviewers told me that he is the supervisor and that there is only him and the position that make up the department. This kind of threw me off. He then mentioned how much work there is because the previous person retired and that they need someone right away. The interview was only for a set amount of time and I didn’t want to go over the time limit. When I left, I realized that accepting this position probably means jumping in and working on several outstanding issues (which I can do because I have a lot of experience in the field) and little efforts for appropriate onboarding. With that impression, I felt that I should have really tried to find more out about the supervisor’s style and accomplishments, as he stated the position works very closely with him. I hope this helps! I like Alison’s suggestion about waiting to ask the questions if I’m offered the job.

  3. Joey

    Gosh, having worked in the civil service arena i’m embarrassed for those interviewers. Civil service interviews are traditionally dry, rigid, and frankly not very effective which sounds like what you’re describing. They have usually been scared into asking everyone the exact same questions regardless of experience and hardly ever ask follow up questions. They’re usually too busy trying to write down every word that comes out of your mouth to interact with you in an effective way. If youve never been in a civil service position before the lack of flexibility in the interview should be a red flag for you. It might be worth asking some questions that focus on how rigid/ flexible the boss/ org is. It sounds like they’re very traditional and beauracratic which isn’t the environment for everyone.

    1. Anonymous

      I’m not in civil service, but this sounds exactly how we interview candidates and how the do thing around here.

      You’re right, it’s not for everyone.

  4. JBP

    Out of curiousity, what are the thoughts about the question that was asked—e.g. “[Are] there any reservations about my fit for the position?”

    On the one hand, this seems to be a perfect “soft close,” or a way to resolve or at least respond to anything that’s keeping them from choosing you at the end of the requisite two to three days.

    On the other hand, it seems to be a perfect “soft close,” or the way a sleazy car salesman who is too pushy would interview.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Dan Ruiz

      I don’t like this closing at all. When you ask this sort of question as a “close”, you end up walking away when the last thing on your interviewer’s mind was a list of things that make you a poor fit.

      It seems like a better closer would be some comment about how your experience and skills in A, B, & C will enable you to hit the ground running and solve their problems with X, Y, & Z.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        That actually seems more salesy to me and rubs me the wrong way as a result. Whereas “are there reservations I can address” is more of a dialogue.

  5. Elizabeth West

    “What are some recent accomplishments in the department that you’re most proud of?”

    Ooh, I’m borrowing this one. That’s a goodie.

    AAM, I’ve asked your “how do you differentiate someone really good from really great” question a few times. It does seem to impress them, but sometimes they seem not too sure why I’m asking. Could my timing be off? It’s usually one of the later questions I ask. (Although with some dry interviewers, like with the OP, it’s usually like pulling hens’ teeth to get an answer on anything.)

    Anybody else, too. have any ideas? :|

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