After waiting and hoping, you finally get the call – for a job interview.

It is for the job you really want and you immediately pore over potential interview questions and review your research on the company. You get to the interview and sail through it confidently, knowing you were made for this role. The grilling now over, you begin to relax – until the interviewer springs one last quickie:. "What questions do you have for us?"

Your confidence is now shot because that is the one question you did not prepare for.

Story continues below advertisement

This scenario is more common than you might imagine. Either the candidate has not prepared any questions and replies "No," or scrambles to ask such meaningless questions such as "Are you a macro- or a micromanager?" (As if anyone has ever admitted to being a micromanager). Most people just want to get out of the room.

Unfortunately for those who have not prepared, questions for the interview panel may be the door opener, or door closer, to the next or final interview. These questions demonstrate to the panel that you are prepared to determine whether this employer is the right fit for you. This is a critical time, and perhaps the only time, where you will have an opportunity in advance to find out key information about the people you would be working with, and the company you will be working for. So take advantage of that. To that end, there are two subjects you should cover – and one you should definitely avoid.

Ask about the job

Some key questions to pose to the interview panel are: "What is the priority for this role?", "How did this role come about?" and "What would success look like in the first 90 days of the role?"

These questions are geared to get the panel to think carefully about what they expect from the person in the role, outside of the job title or job description. It is also a good indicator, depending on their answer, if the company is committed to the value of the role. This is especially important if the role is new.

Ask about the people

You'll want to know about the people with whom you'll be working most closely, and what benefit you could expect to gain from working with them. The question posed to your supervisor – if he or she is part of the interview panel – could be phrased: "As my supervisor, what is the most valuable thing I could learn from you over the course of the year?"

Story continues below advertisement

This question tends to get people thinking about something they likely were not prepared for. You can also ask, "How would you describe the culture in this department?" – again, to give you an idea of what type of workplace you would be joining.

Do not ask about pay

The biggest mistake at this point of the interview would be asking questions related to salary and compensation. Do not do this. Once you are offered the job, you can ask as many questions as you like about your employment package.

In addition, refrain from "obvious" questions such as "Describe a typical workday," or "What is the best thing about working here?" Ask intelligent, thought-provoking questions that will leave the panel knowing that you were prepared and honestly interested in learning about the job and company.

Have three or four key questions ready before any interview and write down the answers provided by the panel. The tables are now turned, and it is your opportunity to interview them. And remember, the panel made you work for an hour. Now it is your turn to make the panel work for you.

Eileen Dooley is a certified career coach and general manager of Calgary-based career transition and outplacement firm McRae Inc.