Three Essential Questions to Ask in Closing the Interview

Getting feedback from the interviewer is easiest to do while you’re still at the interview.  (Dah!)  So, here are three questions that you should use because they help you learn how the interviewer perceives your candidacy for a position and what the next steps would be for assuming you are continuing in the selection process.

These questions are quite similar to those a salesperson would use in closing a sales call and planning their next contact.  (That is what you, the job seeker, are really doing at an interview–making a sales call.)  Their objective is to help you learn how you did, reinforce those aspects of your qualifications they like, and uncover those objections they may still have to hiring you–so that you can answer and remove the objection before you leave the interview.  Once the interview is over, it will be much more difficult to learn these things, so do it before you leave the room!

The Three Closing Questions to Ask Every Interviewer

The following questions are not just for the person who is interviewing for a high level in an organization—they could, and should, be used by anyone interviewing for any position, even one with the organization you currently work for. The closing phase of an interview takes up the last five minutes and it’s particularly here where you gather feedback to understand what perceptions the interviewer has of you. At that point you need to ask two closing questions before the interview ends.

The FIRST question: “What strengths do you feel I bring to this position?”

Using the word, “feel” (or “believe”), in the question makes it an opinion-asking question and that is exactly what you want, their opinion of your strengths. Remember, you’ve have already invested typically 45 minutes with this interviewer (a stranger to you and you to them), and it is unreasonable to believe they have a completely accurate assessment of your background. When they are done responding to your first question, you can agree with them and add any additional strengths you wish to emphasize.

The SECOND question is: “What concerns do you have at this point about my qualifications?”

The intent of the question is to uncover any unexpressed concerns the interview may have at this point. It’s these undisclosed concerns that can derail your candidacy for a position. If you can learn what concern they have, you have an opportunity to address it while you are there face-to-face. This is exactly what any good salesperson will do to “get the sale”, and is what you are trying to do right, sell your services to this new employer. As soon as you conclude that interview, their opinion of you is pretty much cast in stone and any seeds of concern will grow into weeds. Concerns grow over time but positive impressions usually remain the same. So it’s imperative that you uncover any concerns before you leave the interview.

When the interviewer expresses a concern, do not jump all over it and try to make it go away. Listen carefully. After they tell you about one concern, ask if they have any other concerns. They are telling you what their opinion is of you and areas where they need more information. Remember that the closing is your chance to gather essential feedback and accelerate the process forward. You have invested time, money and energy to travel to and interview with this company. Both of you are help by their giving you feedback, but you have to ask for it.

And the THIRD question—if not clear to you—is this: “What is the next step in the selection process and the timetable for that next step?”

You need to know what the step is and get some idea of the timeframe the employer plans for it. This also gives you some idea when you should hear from the employer again, and if you have not heard, gives you tacit permission to communicate with them when that point in time arrives. This is also a means of saying you are interested in continuing in the process. In fact, asking for and stating you are looking forward to the process would be wise, assuming you are interested. Adapted from ideas in Michael Neece’s “Interview Mastery” News & Interview Tips, 6-17-2004