When we talk about how to succeed in job interviews, we often focus primarily on how to make a great impression on a recruiter; in other words, how to start out strong.
While it’s certainly important to make a good first impression on an interviewer, in my opinion not enough attention is paid to how to end an interview in a way that maximizes your chance of getting the job.
Candidates often mistakenly believe that an interview is over once the recruiter puts down their pen and adopts a more informal tone. But the truth is that overall impressions are solidified, and new insights are gained, in the final minutes of an interview.
As a candidate, you need to stay vigilant until the very end!
Do you have any questions? (Polite version)
It’s customary for a recruiter to ask if you have any questions at the end of an interview.
That being said, you should understand their real intentions when they ask this question.
If the recruiter seems rushed and preoccupied with meeting the next candidate, they may be running late; it would be good of you to recognize this and reply with: No, everything is clear for me at this point. I have no questions. Thank you very much.
They may get exasperated if you extend the interview with questions that require them to go into detail about aspects of the job.
Be empathetic in this situation.
Pay attention to the way in which the recruiter asks you if you have any questions. Do they shuffle papers, look at the ground and ask “do you have any questions” in a robotic way? Or do they seem inviting and genuinely interested in continuing the conversation for a while longer?
Do you have any questions? (Sincere version)
If the recruiter really wants to be your future employer, they will likely be delighted if you choose to ask questions about the position. It’s a way for them to gauge your level of interest in working with the company.
It’s good to ask questions that show that you are confident that you will get the job, and that demonstrate that you are mentally preparing to join the company.
Make judicious choices and ask the right questions.
At this stage, it’s best to avoid questions that relate to matters that would fall outside of your core functions, such as questions about vacations, breaks, raises or benefits associated with the position.
These are all legitimate questions, of course, but at this point they don’t help to demonstrate your interest in the position you applied for. Wait until the later stages of the interview process before addressing these more practical details, or reach out to the human resources department directly.
During the interview, it’s much more to your benefit to ask questions related to the priorities of the company in the year to come, the profile of their clientele, or any changes anticipated at the company.
An employer will be impressed with questions like these, because they demonstrate that you’re truly interested in helping the company succeed. They may well see a future employee!
The right way to formulate a question
Depending on how it’s formulated, the same question can leave a good or bad impression with a recruiter. For example:
On your web site, it says that you take a “non-traditional” approach. Why do you say that? I don’t see what you’re doing that’s all that different from what others are doing.
This is an interesting question, because it reveals your capacity for analysis and critical thinking. But by asking the question in this particular way, you risk getting a defensive reaction from the employer; they may take your question as criticism. Instead, you could ask the question this way:
I like companies that try to do things differently. I was intrigued to see that on your website your company is described as having a “non-traditional” approach. I’d be really interested to hear more.
By formulating the same question a different way, you are still asking what you want to find out, but the reaction of the employer will likely be much different: your question is no longer negative, and you present yourself as being in alignment with the company’s values.
Here’s another example of how formulation can have a major impact on the tone of a question.
Are there possibilities for advancement at your company?
This question can come off as negative because it implies that if there are no possibilities for advancement, you won’t want the position. It can also give the impression that you lack confidence, because excellent employees know that there are generally always ways to grow with a company. The key is to know how to deliver value for an organization.
Try rephrasing as:
What are the best ways to advance within the company?
The question is no longer whether or not you can progress, but rather how you can progress. Formulating the question this way shows that you understand that advancement is based on performance – you’re not asking the employer to make any promises.
Near the end of an interview, some candidates will start asking questions about the next steps in the selection process:
When will I hear any news from you?
If I don’t get the job, will you still let me know?
I would advise you to avoid evoking any negative scenarios with your questions. Also, questions about how the follow-up process will proceed should be short and easy to answer for a recruiter.
It’s a much better idea to end on a note that relates to your future role at the company, rather than on practical details of the hiring process.
Keeping in touch after the interview
Sometimes, after an interview, a candidate will write a follow-up email to a recruiter. They may even write something like:
When you asked me what my strongest quality was, I said that I’m energetic – but I want to change my answer to “I’m responsible.”
It’s rare that this type of after-the-fact comment will influence the recruiter’s evaluation. More likely is the recruiter will get a sense that the candidate is anxious, and that they weren’t satisfied with their performance in the interview.
Of course, it’s different if the information is very pertinent:
In the interview, I said that I am available to start work in May. After checking my schedule, I realized that I can actually start in April.
Some candidates send a follow-up email just to say thank you for the interview. It’s a nice way to show one’s interest.
As a recruiter, a follow up email does little to influence my judgment, but I’ve seen selection committees who were very pleased to receive such a follow up from a candidate; they saw it as a sign of motivation.
Ultimately, why not send a follow up? If you are going to bring up anything about the interview, however, make sure to be specific about the elements you want to address.
To make sure you end interviews on the right note, always ask yourself what you want recruiters to remember about you and your candidature.