How to Close an Interview like a Boss
This post is part of the “Preparing for a Successful Higher Education Job Interview” blog series that will equip you with the tools and techniques to feel confident and ready. Thanks to Sharon Justice, career and leadership expert, for putting together these helpful and practical tips.
Saying you don’t have any questions at the end of an interview can sabotage an otherwise strong interview. The interviewer might think that you didn’t do your homework and haven’t thought creatively and deeply about the questions you were asked during the interview.
Questions are an important opportunity to assess the institution’s culture and convey your interest in the position. Usually the biggest hurdle is preparing a few questions that happen to get answered during the interview, like what are the next steps. When you’re stuck, you can use The 4 C’s formula to ask great questions.
The 4 C’s of great questions:
This is a great way to build rapport with the interviewer. Ask how they got started at the institution. Ask about their favorite part about working there. Also ask for advice they’d give to a newcomer.
Ask about the most successful person in the department, and what they do. Likewise, ask who was the least successful person that no longer works there. Why were they considered the least successful? If the successful person sounds like you, it’s a sign you’re a good fit. But if you sound more like the unsuccessful person, you might not fit into the culture.
Sample challenge questions are asking what the next 60 days will be like. What does the employer want to accomplish with their current goal plan? What are the expectations as you grow in the department? Bring up what you’ve read in press releases, like budget reductions and institutional changes. Show that you’ve done your homework, but don’t ask questions that can be easily answered online.
There are two fundamental closing questions for the end of the interview:
- “Is there anything in my background that causes you any concern about me being the best fit for this position? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.”
There is a lot of risk here, so it takes a brave person to ask. Interviewers might say there’s nothing to cause concern, or bring up something that makes them think you’re not the best fit. If you have experience in that area, you can go back and resell yourself with an appropriate STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) response. If not, you can say what you’ll do to remedy the situation, preferably with a relatable example from the past.
For example, if you’re not familiar with a software program, you might’ve learned another program through online courses for a prior position.
- “Tell me what the next steps are in this process. When do you think you’ll be making next callbacks?”
This question helps you figure out how to send your thank you note. Always send a thank you note through email, a handwritten letter, or phone call.
The thank you is for making another impression, bringing you to the forefront. You might be one of 3 or 20 candidates, and if you send a thank you in a few hours or days, you’ll bump yourself to the top of the interviewer’s mind. Thank you notes aren’t very common and are usually generic, so personalize yours.
Sample 4 C’s formula:
- Connect: How did you come to work here?
- Culture: What is it like to work here?
- Challenge: What keeps someone from being successful in this role?
- Close: What are the next steps?
Closing the Interview Q&A with Sharon Justice
How many questions should you prepare for after the interview?
For a 30-minute interview, prepare 6-8 questions. You won’t have time for all of them, but some might be answered during the interview, so you need backups. For an all-day interview, prepare 20-30 questions, perhaps at least one per person.
When you get closer to the end of your interview, ask if the employer has time for two more questions. You always want to leave room for the final two closing questions.
When is the best time to ask about compensation and benefits?
Never during the first interview, and probably not during the second interview. At some point, HR will contact you.
In the first interview, dodge compensation questions by saying you’re confident in your research that the compensation will be in the range you’re looking for. Or say your skills are in the market value for the position. These days, you can find high-level information on your own through online research.
Is it okay to email asking for feedback if you didn’t get the job?
This doesn’t happen often, and typically not through email because that’s documentation. You’re more likely to get feedback through a phone call. You can start asking for feedback by contacting the HR department.
About the Expert
Sharon Justice has worked for over 30 years in various industry sectors focused on strategically growing businesses while equipping leaders and individuals for success. She currently serves as a Leadership Faculty Member at East Carolina University. She offers customized leadership development programs and strategic business consulting through Justice Leadership.