Literally, I have advised 100s of college students about job interviews. Teaching at a small college means I wear many hats, and this aspect of guiding students as they embark on internships and first jobs is one I very much enjoy.
Let's face it, there are tons of articles, opinions, and viewpoints of the best and worst of job interviewing. Everyone and their brother has advice, but to me there is one crucial question you should always ask the interviewer or interviewers before leaving a job interview.
The question is simple, and strikes at the very heart of why you are interviewing. Remember, you are there to get the job. Yes, you should also seek out information about the company, its culture, the actual work, and how the search will proceed, etc. But when you get down and dirty, to the nitty-gritty of it all, it's about them checking you out for their opportunity.
The one last question to always ask before you leave
Several years ago, a student shared this question with me, and it astounded me with its relevance and simplicity. This one question an interviewee should ask has always stuck with me:
"Are there any 'red flags' you have about me that can be cleared up or is there any unresolved information I can clarify before I leave."
This last question serves three extremely important points.
- It can give you an opportunity to walk out having had the chance to remedy any questions or concerns that might be dangling in the interviewer's mind. It's also imperative that you respond to any last minute concerns or red flags with a positive spin, making sure to also be thankful for the opportunity to clear up the situation.
- This question puts some mild pressure on the interviewer to respond with some honesty, which is what you want, right? Think of the question as a tennis serve where they have to respond in some way. In negotiations, most times people's first response is their most honest or indicates what they really want. You want an honest response-- if they say, no, we covered everything, then you can be self-assured that you had every single opportunity to inform and impress them. If they react with wanting clarification or have another question or two for you, then your question certainly was needed.
- This last question paints a great picture of you at the end of your interview. It shows that you are truly interested in the position. It shows that you possess solid communication skills. And it shows that you are thorough.
Last thoughts on the last question
Some may criticize this question as it may be asking for a negative issue or concern. I counter this with the advice stated previously that your follow-up response to any lingering concerns should be as positive as possible, with an appreciative, sincere thanks for the opportunity to clear the air. Additionally, the fact that you asked, shows that you have true interest in the job.
Lastly, as I often tell my selling students when they have an interview--this is a great opportunity to use a summary confirmation question. A summary confirmation question is a great communication tactic where you summarize all the points discussed, then ask to be sure the other person understands the points or has any additional questions.
Give it a try, make your last question exiting an interview something like this: Thanks for your time, but I want to make sure you have enough information on my experience, my skills, and my personal characteristics that we have discussed; I would also appreciate this last moment of opportunity to ask you if you have any red flags or concerns about me before I leave?