The interview is drawing to a close and you’re feeling confident when the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?” While you might feel those butterflies rush back, you should probably find a way to answer instead of just saying no.
We had a conversation with Jamie Spiva, CFRE, a Director of Development and Executive Director for non-profits who had her fair share of being asked that question. Spiva prepares
extensively for interviews and offered some tips on what to do when you’re the one who has to come up with the questions at an interview. Since Spiva has worked as a direct-hire, on a contract position, and as a consultant, she was also familiar with the different nuances involved in the interview questions asked or expected.
Here are some of Spiva’s best tips on preparing to ask questions during an interview:
Do your homework: “I read everything I can from the website, check out their Form 990, and Google the organization,” Spiva said, referring to some documents and filings specific to nonprofit organizations. “I, also, Google the person(s) with whom I am interviewing. I can find a personal connection (i.e. he/she is an avid horse rider and I grew up with horses), I try to work this into my conversation. If possible, I reach out to others in the organization and ask them about their experiences, the good, the bad, etc.
Expect to be asked, “Do you have any questions for me?”
“Never go into an interview without a few (or more) questions on paper!” Spiva urged with the emphasis on the on-paper part. “It shows that you’ve taken the time to truly consider the role from your end.” Even if you’re not a paper person it also shows a certain level of respect to have a printout with you instead of having to scroll through your smartphone or tablet while in the middle of the interview process. “Everyone says that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you, but YOU need to show that through your questions.
Make up your own standard questions: Spiva is extremely efficient not only at her job, but also her process. To that end she’s created a list of standard questions she asks, though she fine-tunes them for every interview. “As I research the company and interviewees, I add, subtract and edit them based on what I learn.”
Spiva’s top three favorite questions to ask during an interview are:
- What attracted you to your position and what keeps you here?
- If you were me what question(s) would you ask?
- Do you have any pause about moving me along in the process and if so, may I address any concerns before I leave today?
But she doesn’t rely on her list. “If one of the questions is answered throughout the conversation, I take notes under it, so that I do not ask it. I also add questions as the
the conversation progresses, if not appropriate to ask at that immediate time,” Spiva explained.
What if you become uncomfortable during an interview? Spiva shared the fact that “I had a feeling an organization had unrealistic expectations.” She then asked what the goals and metrics were for the role. “Then, I politely followed up with ‘Why do you think these goals are realistic?’ The response was ‘because we’ve done this before,’ but I knew, based on what they were saying and my experience as a fundraiser that no one could be successful by doing things that way.”
Once you start asking questions you can also work through the warning signs that might be going off. Asking questions of the interviewer allows you to break through their polished veneer to see if this is a job that really suits you.
Spiva adds “I suggest that you ‘trust your gut.’ If something seems unrealistic, it probably is. I have gone against that inner voice and paid the price!”