[IWC] Post 8: Interacting With Your Interviewers

In the previous post of the Interviewing With Confidence series, we discussed the part of interviewing success that goes beyond answering questions. Your nonverbal communication is critical, but so are the ways that you interact with interviewers both during and after the interview. In this post, we’ll talk about asking your interviewer questions and the best ways to thank them afterwards. These are two areas that many interviewees fall short.

Asking Questions

At the end of every interview, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions for them. You always should. Why? It shows that you’re using the interview for what it really is: a learning opportunity. You can’t possibly have learned everything about the company from researching their website and reading the news, and they know this. Asking questions shows that you want to make an informed decision about where to spend the next few years of your life, and highlights the level of seriousness with which you are taking the recruiting process.

You should have 5-7 questions prepared for every interview. Write them down (or type them out) and bring the list with you. This is a good strategy for two reasons.

  1. Having a physical list helps you remember your questions. Interviews are long and stressful, so you can’t count on your brain to recall everything that you want to know once the interviewers turn the meeting over to you. Having a physical list of questions is one less thing you need to worry about remembering.
  2. If during the course of the interview the questions are answered, your list will show the interviewers that you had prepared for this aspect of the interview. If you just say “You answered all of my questions” without proof that you had them, your interviewers may not believe you. If this is the case, you can ask the interviewers to elaborate on the questions that you feel are most important, prefacing your inquiries with “You touched on this before, but can you say more about…” This phrasing shows that you were paying attention.

Your questions should be a mix of information gathering about both the position and the company, and should not be about things that are easy to find on their website. When coming up with questions, think about your deal-breakers – What would you absolutely need to be successful in this job at this company? Once you have them, use them to formulate your questions. Good places to start are with company culture, growth potential, opportunities for advancement, professional development, and the interviewers’ opinions of and experiences with the company.

This is not the place to ask about compensation or benefits. Bringing up money and perks can imply to the interviewer that you’re more interested in that aspect of the job than the job itself. While the former are important to most people, let the interviewers bring up this part. It’s just a much better look for you if you’re more focused on the job itself.

Thank You Notes

Always send your interviewers thank you notes within 24-48 hours of the interview. To ensure that your interviewer receives the note in a timely fashion, you should email it as opposed to sending it by post. Be sure to send a personalized one to every person in your interview, not just the one who set it up. This can be time consuming if you met with multiple people (or groups), but it is useful in maintaining a positive impression with the decision-makers.

Thank you notes are useful because they help you stand out from the crowd. Even though they are proper interviewing etiquette, not everyone writes them. (A recruiter once told me that only about 10-15% of their interviewees reach out afterwards.) Yours will put you in a positive light just by doing one. And, if an interviewer is doing multiple interviews for a single position, this note can remind them of who you are and what you discussed. This information may come into play during the final hiring decision.

These notes don’t have to be long or fancy. A 3-5 sentence email thanking the individual for their time, commenting on something you learned or appreciated, and reiterating your interest in the position is all you have to do. It can be longer if you feel the need to ask more questions or want to clarify something from the interview – which are definitely okay. While this gesture may seem minor, I have seen the lack of a thank you note make candidates go from the “maybe” pile to a firm “no.”

Now practice!

Use the IWC worksheet bundle to come up with questions for a potential interviewer. Follow the directions on the worksheet and use a job description that is close to what you’d ultimately like to do. The bundle also has a sample thank you note. Hold on to this since you’ll need it later!


Dr. Lindsay is career development & academic success coach who loves helping people figure out and proceed to the next levels of their lives.