I recently had an telephone interview with an engineering consultancy based in the UK. Generally it was easy, some questions about myself, about why I was interested in the industry and a couple competency questions, nothing special, quite straight forward.

Then came the moment when I was asked if I had any questions myself about the company or the job. Regarding the company there was not much to ask, their website is very comprehensive and there is nothing to ask that cannot be found in that website; if I were to ask they would know I didn't look through the website. Regarding the job, the woman I was talking to was in HR so she immediately passed on the question, saying it would be answered in the assessment centre if I were to go on further in the recruiting process.

Finally I tried to dig into the way that the company deals with failure, how does the company deals with someone who has underperformed or acted badly. She initially didn't understand the question and then just gave a very generic answer on how they always give support.

In the end I just felt that a very good interview finished awkwardly because I didn't ask any questions that started a conversation and got me any extra information on the company. I think the fact that the questions created this awkwardness might have hindered my application. However, what questions should I have asked instead to someone who doesn't know much about the job and probably will just regurgitate the company's website to me?

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    I don't know how HR feels about it but having someone ask me how do you deal with failure makes me think this person thinks they are a failure. Instead I'd focus on asking how they manage to prevent failure. For a soft. engineering job I'd ask: How is QA done? or Do you do code reviews? This focuses the element of potential failure on the 'work item' - not on me as a person. – rath Jan 24 '16 at 13:58
  • A better title for this might be "Answering the interview question 'What questions do you have?'" – Brandin Jan 24 '16 at 14:33
  • ask questions related to the work you will be doing, protocols, reporting, stuff like that. Not about failure, that sends a bad signal, and is related to HR's work, not yours. – Kilisi Jan 24 '16 at 19:55
  • How about "what would my career path be if I were to be hired," "what are next steps in the process," "when should I expect to hear something"? One that always brings a smile to interviewers' faces is "what is your favorite thing about working here?" – Amy Blankenship Jan 25 '16 at 17:04
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    Also, if they have answered my questions along the the way, I will point out that I had planned to ask about...but they covered it already. – HLGEM Jan 25 '16 at 22:33

Whether or not the company site has comprehensive info, there are always a couple of questions you can ask :

  1. What are the key skills the successful candidate would bring to this role?
  2. What do you see the biggest challenges will be for the successful candidate coming into the role

Then use the answer to link to why YOU have just what they want.

Also ask the interviewer about what made THEM choose the company, then follow with asking what it is that keeps them here.

You can find out much about how good/bad the company is with two questions.

  • "What skills would you want the successful candidate to bring to this role" Isn't this information always already on the job listing? So it would seem like you applied for the vacancy without really learning what the job is about and what requirements you are meant to have in order to apply? – user17041 Jan 25 '16 at 13:41
  • You're trying to find out the key ones, the spec will likely be a wish list, and sometimes I've found them really wanting something NOT listed on the spec. I'll update to make that more obvious. – The Wandering Dev Manager Jan 25 '16 at 14:23
  • It can also help to narrow the key skills to just 2 or 3 instead of the dozen or so that could be seen as common for another point here. – JB King Jan 25 '16 at 15:53

If you don't have any remaining questions, it's entirely reasonable to say so. This is an opportunity to ask more, not a demand or expectation that you do so.

Remember that if you ask a question that the interviewer can't answer, the worst that happens is they say "I don't know" or give you a generic answer.... but a good interviewer will say "Let me find out and I'll get back to you." Ask the question you want to ask,if you're going to ask.

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