Best questions to end a job interview

A big question mark made by stacking various jigsaw puzzle pieces and then making them take that specific shape. The pieces are scrambled and on both sides against a white background. Horia Andrei VARLAN

(MoneyWatch) Toward the end of a job interview, there's always a moment when you're asked if you have any questions. It's tricky. You don't want to sound too pugnacious (will they think I'm too aggressive?), but neither do you want to pass on the opportunity (will they think I don't have a mind of my own?)

I've rarely heard anyone use this moment to the fullest, so here are some suggested questions that will leave a strong impression while also prying loose some valuable information about your prospective employer:

  1. Why did you want to interview me? Learning specifically what is in your resume that attracted a company's interest gives you a sense of how the organization, and other potential employers, view your talents. For instance, if you're looking to spread your wings and learn some new skills and they like you because you can already do the job, it may not be a good fit. 

  2. Why is this job important to the business as a whole? This should give you a sense both of the company strategy (if there is one) and of where this job sits in the pecking order.

  3. How would you describe the best people you have in this company? This is a covert way of determining company values. If the answer includes multiple references to flexibility, willingness to do long hours, travel anywhere, do anything, you will learn what's required of you. Equally, if creativity and imagination are frequently cited, you will learn something different. If it's hard for this question to be answered at all, people in the business are probably treated as ciphers -- you've been warned

  4. Are there any internal candidates for this job? If there are, and you get the job, watch out! If there aren't, why not? Professional development may not be what this company is best at.

  • Margaret Heffernan On Twitter»

    Margaret Heffernan has been CEO of five businesses in the United States and United Kingdom. A speaker and writer, her most recent book Willful Blindness was shortlisted for the Financial Times Best Business Book 2011. Visit her on www.MHeffernan.com.

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