There are lot of candidate questions that get asked, but there is always one candidate question that most every person vying for a job gets asked near the end of a job interview, and it popped up recently on LinkedIn’s Premium Career Group from an MBA candidate from the Kogod School of Business at American University.

You’ve probably asked it (or been asked it) many times too, and it’s this:

“I don’t have any additional questions. You answered all of mine. What questions do you have for us?”

Let me state for the record that I have a mixed track record of answering candidate questions myself, and my guess is that every hiring manager who has conducted candidate interviews have heard a wide variety of responses to the question.

What questions should candidates be ready to ask you?

But, here’s what the MBA candidate asked about this question on LinkedIn:

Many interviewees become overwhelmed with the interview itself that they forget an interview is also a conversation. It seems that some are stumped by this invitation to ask questions about a prospective employer.

It is clear that this invitation helps interviewers gain more insight into how prepared an applicant is, how much passion they exude, how interested they are, or even what type of things (that) hold value to them.

I’m curious though — What types of questions have you all come prepared to interviews with? How did you adapt when the prepared questions were “already answered”?

For those in HR — Help us understand what you think about an applicant that has nothing more to ask in an interview.

An effective approach to preparing for an interview is that you do research on the role, the company, the history, etc. Could it be possible that a candidate truly does not have any more questions? Is this acceptable?

Tell us more, please!”

This is a great question because of that last point — “Could it be possible that a candidate truly does not have any more questions. Is this acceptable?” 

Most hiring managers I know would NOT consider it acceptable if a candidate didn’t have some questions ready to ask when they had a chance, and the more the candidate has prepped and prepared for the interview, the greater the likelihood that they will have a great many questions they would like answers to.

Is NOT having more questions a deal breaker?

But I keep coming back to this notion that “having questions = good candidate to keep talking to” and “not having questions = bad candidate we should eliminate immediately.”

So, here are some of the best answers from some of the nearly 1.1 million members of LinkedIn’s Premium Career Group when it comes to the issue of candidate questions. See if they align in any way in what you believe candidates should ask YOU at the end of their job interview:

  • From a leadership consultant in Vancouver, British Columbia — “As a hiring manager, I have generally considered it a negative when a candidate cannot ask any single, reasonably relevant question when invited. An exception might be for an internal interview, where the role parameters and key stakeholders could be very well known to the candidate. As a recruiter, or if dealing with very junior candidates, I might also be less judgmental.”
  • From a customer service program manager in Atlanta — “I love asking “Is there anything that you’ve learned about my work experience that you’d like more clarification on?” or “How do you feel my skills fit this position?” or “Do you have any hesitation about my skill set?” There have been times when the interview was incredibly conversational and I really didn’t have any additional questions, but I always like to close by asking next steps.”
  • From an executive recruiter in the San Francisco Bay Area — “Recruiters do not want to hear a list of perfectly staged questions. They honestly want to answer any questions you may have. Shift your perspective from “What do recruiters when to hear?” and switch to being “Wildly Curious.” Ask because you are totally curious. Try to avoid shifting the focus. They really do want to know if you have any other questions.”
  • From a game programmer and software developer in Seattle — “I had a similar issue but I got around it by actively asking questions during the interview where appropriate. While I didn’t have additional questions to ask at the very end, I got in a lot of questions through the interview. I think it is important to remember that interviews are templated. Even if you asked 100 questions during the interview they will still ask if you have any additional questions at the end.”
  • From an HR/payroll systems manager in Nashville –– “Get specific about how the company operates. For example, ask how often does the company reorganize itself. Get specific about the job for which you just interviewed… but twist it somewhat. Ask how many people currently hold the same position, what is the average amount of time any given person stays in that job. Then ask the interviewer his/her opinion about why it is the case.”

Another view: Maybe this is about leaving a good impression

This is all good advice, and there is a lot more of it if you spend some time in the candidate questions thread on LinkedIn’s Premium Career Group. But all of this makes me wonder — what would TA professionals, hiring managers, and interviewers have as advice on this?

Here’s what Al Palumbo wrote about this on under the section Why your questions for the employer matter:

No matter what you’ve said in an interview or how great your credentials are, when we sit in a room afterward and discuss which candidates to bring back, the ones who leave the best impression are the ones we remember most.

So don’t make the mistake of thinking “well, I gave great answers already” and therefore you ease up just as the interview draws to a close. This is the time when you can leave them with a feeling that you are someone who is exactly the bright, resourceful, energetic person they want to add to their company.

And so how you ask your questions of them – one of the last things they’ll remember about you – can be as important as the questions themselves.”

Is there a right or wrong answer here?

So, what are YOU looking for when you interview a candidate and end with, “What questions do you have for us? Is there anything you would like to ask?”

When it comes to candidate questions, is there right answer, or a wrong answer here? Is it really the candidate’s big chance to make a powerful impression? Will they ruin their chances of you hiring them if they don’t have something meaningful to ask?

Or, is there a better way for a hiring manager to end a candidate interviewer? Is there something more tangible, more meaningful, or more insightful that should be asked and answered here?

I would love to get some recruiters, hiring managers at TA pros to weigh in candidate questions, and particularly “do you have anything you would like to ask?” Leave your questions in the comments, or send them to me directly at [email protected].  If I get enough, I’ll write another post about them here.

John Hollon

John Hollon is managing editor at Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. You can download the research reports in their Global Talent Mobility Best Practice Research series at Fuel50.