Trap interview question no. 2 – Do you have any questions?

Writing a previous post about avoiding the obvious traps in an interview, which focused on “What are your weaknesses?”, made me think about another potential trap, which is right at the end of an interview: “do you have any questions?”

I interviewed a candidate once, and it was going really well until this part of the interview – i.e. good first impressions, good evidence of the right sort of skills, good experience and a nice manner.   But then I turned the interview over to the candidate – (by way of background I always allow as much time as the candidate wants for this, usually around 20 minutes of an hour, as even if they run out of questions, there is always more to follow up from the Q&A).  Anyway, this candidate wasted the opportunity of these crucial 20 minutes to ask mainly for my advice on how the drive to work would be: traffic conditions, best route, time of day to drive etc.  Really disappointing as the very good impression was unravelled – not by a difficult interview question, but by this avoidable mistake. 

Remember, an interview is a series of questions, all of which are answered from a high wire.  Any bad answer is an opportunity for the interviewer to mentally conclude “rejection”.

“Do you have any questions?” should be your opportunity to find out what you really want to know about any employer, but be careful.  You might at some stage want to know about how your drive to work would be, pay, pensions contributions, number of days’ holiday, working hours, flexible working opportunities, quality of meals, dress codes, but don’t ask questions about any of these.  None of these really matter in an interview as you could find out through other means, and they reveal a lack of understanding for the process and the interviewer. 

And more importantly it reveals that you are not giving enough respect to this opportunity to ask your questions of a senior lawyer at a potential future employer. 

This type of exchange is very different to a conversation with lawyers at a careers’ fair, which I wrote about last week, so in an interview it’s too late to show any uncertainty about your choice of a legal career. 

My tip:  demonstrate through your questions that you know about the job / firm and / or ask for a senior person’s insight into a real issue facing the employer. 

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