The first few times I interviewed for a job, I found myself mute when the tables were turned and the interviewer asked me if I had any questions.
My silence was partly due to the fact that the question was unexpected. But sometimes I didn't have any questions because I clarified points during the interview and had all my questions answered already. And, I admit, sometimes I just wanted the interview to be over so I could go to my car and breathe again.
But the truth is, interviewers want you to ask questions and they want to see what kinds of questions you ask. Here are the kinds of questions you shouldn't ask and the kinds that you should:
Don't ask about salary, vacation time, employee benefits, time allowed for lunch, etc., in the first interview. Even though these areas are totally relevant to the job, you don't want to come across as being concerned first and foremost with them.
Don't ask how soon you can ditch the job at hand and move into a position with clout. You might be thinking that but there's a better way to ask. Ask how success will be measured. Ask the interviewer what he sees you doing in six months or a year if you join the company. Ask about training opportunities or professional development.
Be careful that your nerves don't make you ask a question whose answer has already been provided earlier in the interview. There's nothing worse than explaining the history of a company and then having a job candidate ask exactly what the company does. Listen to the interviewer and form questions around what he or she is saying.
Here are some more suggested questions:Can you describe the company culture? These is a good way to learn about the company and its employees on an informal basis. What employees and departments will I be working with most frequently? Interviewers appreciate the broader view than just "what will I be doing?" What are the company's strengths and weaknesses? Besides feeling vindicated by throwing this dreaded question back at an interviewer, you might also glean some interesting information. If the interviewer says he personally doesn't care for the mandatory participation in the company bowling league, well, you have that. What attracted you to this organization? This shows your interest in the interviewer as a person and also implies that you respect that person enough to want his or her personal opinion. The tacit meaning is "If someone as cool as you was attracted to this company, I'd be interested in knowing what." Describe what a typical day would be like for me. Interviewers will often highlight the duties of a job. You can get a little more insight if he or she has to describe an average day.
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.