Dana Manciagli

The questions you ask in an interview can help you OR knock you out of the running.

Joseph had an hour-long interview at 8 a.m. with the hiring manager, Susan, for a position he really wanted. He did some research on the company, reread the job description, and brushed up on his top strengths and weaknesses. He was on time and did well during the interview.

That is, until the last 15 minutes. When Susan asked, “Well, Joseph, what questions do you have for me?”

At that point, Joseph sabotaged his odds of winning the job.

Let's look at the mistakes he made and what you can do to make sure you don't make them.


  • Mistake 1: He didn't have any questions prepared. Solution: Prepare your questions, write them down, and bring the piece of paper in with you to the interview.
  • Mistake 2: Joseph asked, “What is the starting salary?” Solution: Never ever, ever, ever talk salary, even in ranges. Your mission is to get an offer in hand. Once you do, you can ask questions and possibly negotiate. Not before. Never ask that question to the human resources person, a recruiter, or to any interviewer.
  • Mistake 3: Joseph asked, “Is there a training program or structured on-boarding process?” Solution: At this point, the interviewer may be thinking, “Wow, he needs hand-holding and may be too high-maintenance for me. I need someone who knows how to do this.” If a training program is mentioned in the job description or on the company website, then it is appropriate to ask for more insights about the structure, length, etc.
  • Mistake 4: Joseph asked, “What does your division or company do?” Solution: It is still shocking how many job seekers ask this question. With the Internet and a bunch of other resources available to you, there is no excuse for not knowing a lot about a company before you start an interview.


Ask yourself these questions to formulate questions for your interview:

  • How can I show a strength through a question?
  • How can I convey something to the interviewer that we haven't already covered but it’s important for them to know about me?
  • How can I avoid inadvertently showing softness in a skill that is key to the job?
  • Is my question relevant to the interview? You are there for a purpose. Your questions should focus on helping you understand the job or the team you will be joining. For example: Don't ask, “What are Boeing’s top challenges as a company?” if you are interviewing for an accounting job where the hiring manager is looking for a very specific set of skills. You're burning up valuable time, you can read those in the news, and the question is not relevant to the job unless you are interviewing for the CEO or CFO positions.