Dear Sam: What is the appropriate way to end an interview? If a hiring manager asks me if I have any questions, does it look like I didn’t do my research if I ask questions about the company? I’ve also been told not to talk about salary, so what type of questions are okay to ask? — Tessa

Dear Tessa: Most job interviews end with the interviewer asking: “Do you have any questions for me?” Your interviewer expects for you to have some questions prepared. If you respond “No, I think you’ve covered everything,” you risk being seen as unprepared or disinterested. You also miss out on the opportunity to ask questions that can help determine if the company is a good fit for you. Asking strategic questions will allow you to impress your potential employer with your knowledge and interest in the company and the industry while also allowing you to gain insight into the company’s culture.

You are correct that you should avoid discussing salary in an interview. The first interview is not the place to ask about sick time, vacation days, or flexible work arrangements either. In general, avoid questions that focus on what the company can do for you. Instead, keep the focus on how you can add value to the company. For example:

  • What can I clarify for you about my qualifications?
  • Are there any other questions I can answer for you?
  • What are biggest challenges of this job?
  • What’s the most important thing I should accomplish in the first ninety days?

Your responses to these questions will allow you to further expand on your experience and abilities, therefore solidifying why you are the best candidate for the job. Additional topics you could cover in the first round include job content and the company’s culture and future:

  • How would you describe the responsibilities of the position?
  • How would you describe a typical day and week in this position?
  • What is the company’s management style?
  • How would you describe this company’s values?
  • What are the biggest rewards of the job and working for this company?

An interview is a two-way street —while you are “selling” yourself to the employer, you also want to be sure the company’s culture aligns with your personal values.

Salary and benefits are important factors in determining if a company is a good fit for you, but these questions are best left for later in the process (preferably once you are offered the position). Often the human resources department will provide you with a brochure or information packet, which you can use to assess the offer.

Questions NOT to ask in the first rounds of interviewing:

  • What does this company do? (You should already know this!)
  • When can I expect a raise?
  • When can I take time off?
  • Can I work from home?
  • How many kids do you have? (Too personal)

Questions you COULD ask in the first rounds of interviewing:

  • What qualities are you seeking in the person for this job?
  • How many people work in this office/department?
  • What are the company’s plans for growth and development?
  • What type of background do you feel would be best suited for success in this position?
  • What is the next step in the hiring process?
  • When will you make your selection?

One last note: There’s no need to ask every question presented in these lists – have around five or six questions written down and pay attention to the interviewer’s cues to determine how much time you should spend asking questions before wrapping up the interview. You can always follow up with additional questions at a later time!