Most job applications still include a panel interview process as one of the final steps in selecting candidates. As part of this panel interview process, it is almost universally the custom to ask candidates at the end of their interview if they have any questions of their own. I am often asked by my coaching clients how best to respond in this situation. There is a myriad of approaches but here are 5 of my favourites.
In relation to the question about what question or questions, you should ask. The first point is that you do not actually need to ask a question. You can politely thank the panel for their time and indicate that all your questions have been answered already. You can also choose to use this opening as an opportunity to improve on one of your answers or talk about a strength that has not come out in the interview. In terms of actual questions. If you haven’t been told already then it is often a good idea to ask a question about when the decision of the selection process will be made. Or you can ask a “future-focused” question, such as how will my performance be measured. Or you can actually ask the panel for some feedback about your interview performance.
Let’s go ahead and explore these 5 approaches in more detail. Including giving some examples of where each works best.
As a bonus. At the end of this article, I will also tell you about the best interview question I ever heard from a candidate.
You Don’t Always Need to Ask a Question.
Many candidates are of the opinion that they should have a good question prepared to ask at the end of the interview process in order to impress the panel further. Clearly part of the point of the interview is for you to impress the panel. But this needs to be done with authenticity. So its best to avoid trying to “contrive” a question to ask and remember that it’s your time and your interview.
If as part of your research you haven’t come up with a question worth asking, then, in my opinion, you are better off investing your time in other ways of preparing for the interview (such as practising panel questions). Rather than agonizing over developing a truly insightful question.
It’s absolutely OK to not ask a question at the end of the interview process. But it’s important that you handle this part of the discussion well. Most importantly you need to make it clear why you don’t have any questions.
The ideal situation for not asking a question is one where you have had plenty of opportunities to ask questions already.
For most of the job clients that I work with this tends to happen in relation to batch recruitment events. Such as the annual medical recruitment process where each year a number of doctors are given the opportunity to apply for higher-level training positions.
In these situations, there is usually a lot of time to prepare for the interview. As well as information provided via web sites, one to one contact and information sessions.
Another scenario where this often occurs is for senior medical practitioner appointments, where often you have the chance to have an informal discussion with the chair of the panel prior to putting in your application.
A typical approach, therefore, would be something like:
Thanks. I don’t have any crucial questions at this stage of the process. The information you have provided me already via the [applicant package/information session/phone call…] was really useful. I’d like to thank you for the opprunity and look forward to hearing about the outcome of the process.Suggested words if you don’t want to ask a question
*As an adjunct, many of the panel members that I talk to about this. And I talk to many. Are of the opinion that it is best not to ask a question if you don’t have a good one. See the end of this blog post for examples of questions you should not ask.
You Can Make a Statement. Rather Than Ask a Question.
Remember. Its Your Interview. The time at the end of an interview is your last chance with the panel. And in many cases they are probably running a bit over time and seeing this as more of a polite process rather than expecting you to engage in a long discussion with them.
That being said. You don’t want to leave the room if you feel that anything you have said so far may have reflected badly upon you. OR that there is something that you have not said, which needs to be said.
So. In both of these cases, what I recommend is rather than using this time to ask a question. Use it to address these issues.
So, for example, if you felt you missed out something important in one of your question responses. You may say something like:
Thanks. I don’t have a question. However, if its ok, I would just like to go back to the second question and add to my answer that I would of course also place oxygen on the patient.Example of correcting an error in your interview.
Or. If you haven’t made an error. But the panel hasn’t given you an opportunity to talk about your strengths. You can say something like this:
Thanks for the opportunity. I don’t have a question per se. However, I just wanted to highlight a couple of additional items on my CV in reference to my managerial skills. I know from the selection criteria that you are looking for abilities in this area. But we didn’t get to touch on these and I think they will be helpful for you in considering my application.Example of using the time to highlight more strengths.
Ask When the Decision Will Be Made.
It may not be immediately obvious. But for many selection processes the outcome may not be clear. A good safe question to ask (politely) therefore is when will the decision be made?
Obviously don’t do this if you have already been told. Which may mean checking back through your emails first. And also watch out as sometimes the chair of the panel covers this at the start of the interview or often more frequently just at the end.
Finding out this information can serve a useful purpose.
Firstly, it gives you an opportunity to time your thank you email. So, if the answer to the question is in 5 days time, send a quick follow up email 3 days later. Don’t ask about the result. Just thank them for the opportunity. Its just a simple reminder that you are an interested candidate. And it may make the difference.
Secondly, it may also give you a hint as to whether your referees have been contacted already or (more likely) will be contacted and via which mechanism. This also then gives you time to follow-up with your referees. You can let them know what sort of questions the panel asked and (re)brief them on your strong points.
Ask For Some Feedback.
A significant proportion of the clients that I work with have had an unsuccessful interview in the past. These problems have generally been compounded by the fact that when they have gone back to ask for feedback. The feedback that they have been provided (if any) has been largely unhelpful.
This is not surprising. Interview panels are not really thinking about providing feedback to unsuccessful candidates. They are thinking about how to choose the successful ones. They often see a number of candidates in one session. So, unless something is written down specifically, it is actually hard to recall the specifics. In addition, panels are also often wary about what type of feedback is provided so as not to lead to the risk of the selection outcome being challenged.
There is however one good opportunity to get some useful feedback about your interview performance. And that is at the end of the interview itself. When your performance is fresh in the mind of the interviewers.
The benefit of asking for feedback at the actual interview is two-fold:
- You get the opportunity to get some real and authentic feedback that can help you in the future
- You show the panel that you are not afraid to ask for feedback in a high-stakes situation, which should translate in the mind of the panel to perceiving you as someone who will take on board feedback when offered
So to ask for feedback you would say something like this:
Yes. I understand that you can’t tell me the results of the interview at this point. But I was wondering if you would be able to give me some feedback on my interview performance? It may help me to improve for next time. Perhaps there was a particular question I could have done better on.Example of how to ask for feedback at the end of the interview.
Please note in the above example I have suggested you ask for feedback on something you could have done better on. This is generally better than asking for feedback on something you did well. If you give the panel the opportunity to highlight an area of strength they will probably do that to avoid being too confronting. However, what you really want is something you can improve on.
Ask a Future-Oriented Question.
More often than not, this is my favourite last question approach. However, I would generally only use it if you feel that the interview has gone well.
The idea is to leave the panel thinking about you as a member of their team. If they are thinking seriously about what it would be like to have you on the team then you are very much in the running to get the position.
A standard approach here would be to ask the panel to give you some insight into the first few months on the job. So a question like:
Would you be able to describe to me what sort of outcomes you would be looking to see from me in the first 6 months and how I would know I was successful?Example of asking a future oriented question.
Can be a really powerful question on a number of levels.
Firstly, it gets the panel thinking about your first 6 months on the job.
Secondly, it gives the panel the message that you want to succeed and are interested in measuring your success.
Thirdly, it also provides you the job candidate with some vital information about the team that you may be about to join. In that, if they can give a thoughtful answer to this question. They are probably a team worth joining. And if they haven’t really considered this question. You may want to rethink whether you want to work for them.
The Best Candidate Interview Question I Ever Heard.
I promised at the start of this post that I would share with you the best ever response to the final question that I heard (obviously as part of an interview panel). Whilst I have been on many medical interview panels in my time. The actual best question came from an interview I was involved in for a health manager role. And it wasn’t so much the question that I remember but also the approach to it.
We were looking for someone with strong project management skills and ability to work with the existing team, which had a reputation for being disruptive in a good way, but this reputation did not suit every candidate. On our panel was myself as the chair, the team member who would be the new hires manager and a job expert, who would be the new hire’s colleague.
The person we were interviewing had impressive credentials and was equally impressive in her responses to our questions. What sealed it for me, however, was her insightful question at the end.
She chose to not look at me nor the potential new manager. But directly looked at the job expert (team member) on the panel and asked:
What do you like about working here?
Now. Others may be not so impressed by this question. But as someone who does highly value culture in teams. I was blown away by the fact that the candidate chose to dig into the team culture and bypass the management layers to get a more authentic response.
Footnote. We offered this person the job. But unfortunately, she had been interviewing with other organisations and we were pipped at the post.
Question. Are There Any Particular Questions I Should Not Ask At the End of the Interview?
Answer. Yes. There area number of areas you should steer clear from. They basically involve any question that might cause the panel to doubt your passion and interest for the work versus the actual job.
So. Questions about salary levels or arrangements. Concerns about overtime or secondments. Or requests to not work with certain teams. Are best left to another stage of the process.
Question. Is There Anything Else I Should Consider Doing at the End of the Interview?
Answer. You should always check with the chair of the panel if they are finished with you for the time being. Sometimes the person administering the interview process may want you to sign some forms and / or show them some documents, like identification or working with children’s checks.
If you are unfamiliar with the organisation and have not worked there before. Its probably also a good idea to have a look around after the interview. This is helpful to you and also shows your genuine interest in the job. Its best, however, to arrange for a tour ahead of time. Rather than just raise it as an idea at the end of your interview.
Question. Should I Shake Hands At the End of the Interview?
Answer. This is a tough one to answer emphatically. In general its best to take your queue from the panel. If they offer a hand then you should shake it. Otherwise, its ok to just leaver with a smile on your face.