There are no dumb questions. Oh wait, yes there are.

You made it to the interview. You're actually nearly through the interview. And you reach that moment when the hiring manager asks you:

So, do you have any questions for me?

Ding! Critical moment ahead. Please do not screw it up by asking something really really stupid or, worse, by being unprepared.

First, the most deal-breaking thing you can possibly say at this moment:

Nope, not a thing. Nothing I can think of. No, sir. You pretty much covered everything.

Regardless of how thorough the entire interview has been or how impressed they are at this point, you will likely take an express ride to the "I don't think so" pile should you fail to take advantage of this opportunity with the interviewer. No one wants to hire a lazy bones who cares so little about this potential job that he/she has ZERO questions.

So, you need to come armed with a list (really, a list, that you whip out on cue) of thoughtful questions. Without question (Questions without question, get it?)

But what constitutes a "thoughtful" question, one that will take you one step closer to a job offer rather than affirm to the interviewer that you are not the one? There's some debate among the so-called experts on this, but in general, the rules are:

  • Question shows that you've done your homework on the company and industry.
    • I noticed that XYZ company recently landed a major order with ABC Inc. How did XYZ beat out the competition to secure this piece of business?
    • Question demonstrates your interest in the company's strategic plan, structure, etc.
      • How has XYZ's merger with Smith Company impacted the company's market strategy?
      • Question makes you sound inquisitive and knowledgable, but not cocky nor offensive.
        • You've been with XYZ for 15 years. What significant trends or changes have you seen in this industry/at this company during your tenure?
        • Question indicates your interest in contributing, rather than just seeing "what's in it for me?"
          • I'm hopeful that my experience with injection molding will be helpful as XYZ expands its plastics product line. Do you have any questions specific to my background with this technology?

Yes, you want to ask questions that will help you determine if this is the right spot for you, but you must never forget that the goal here is to get to the job offer.

That said, the questions you absolutely must stay away from until you have an actual job offer in hand, include:

  • How many sick days do I get?
  • How much do you match on my 401(k)?
  • Do you pay overtime? How much?
  • What other opportunities would you have for me within the organization?
  • How much do you pay for mileage? (Or, do I get a company car?)
  • Can I have more information about your benefits?
  • How much time do we get for lunch?
  • Why should I take this job?

May I use the bathroom?

That one's OK.