You need your own list of questions to ask

There are two reasons you need to prepare your own list of questions to take to every interview:

  1. It will send a strong signal that you are a serious candidate who knows how to prepare for important meetings.
  2. It will help you get solid answers to your own legitimate questions (because you must have questions!) 

Create a list of 5-10 questions

These are questions you will type up, print out and take along with you to the interview. Chances are slim that you will get a chance to ask all your questions during the first interview, but boy will you be glad you have them. Here are a few tips for you:

  1. Do some research on the people, the company and the industry, then craft some insightful questions around what you learned.
  2. Avoid asking questions you can easily find the answer to online (like "So, what does your company build?") A friend of mine is a recruiter. Anytime someone asks her "So, what does your company do?" she asks "Did you even look at our company website?" When the person says "No" (which they invariably do), she asks them "Why not?" In her opinion (and in the opinion of most recruiters and hiring managers), if you didn't care enough to do a little research ahead of time, then you are not really interested in the job. 
  3. All of your questions should be aimed at understanding the job and the company to figure out if you are going to be a good fit for that job ... not to ask about things like vacation and raises and health benefits. Which brings me to #4 ...
  4. Wait to ask about perks like vacation, benefits and flexible schedules until at least the second "date." Those are questions for much later in the process (unless, of course, you think this job might be graveyard shift, and you need to work days because of daycare issues).

Think of the first interview as a first date.

You wouldn’t ask someone if they clean the kitchen every night before bed on a first date, would you? Or how much financial debt they have? You deserve to know before you walk down the aisle with someone if you're going to be marrying into a $200,000 worth of financial debt ... but on a first date it might send a message that money is all that matters to you. Interviews are actually very similar. The first and second date are all about the romance … figuring out if you want to spend more time together. Don’t blow it by looking like a high-maintenance or greedy employee. There will be plenty of time to ask those questions either right before, or after they extend an offer.

There are exceptions. If you have transportation issues that you cannot get around, then it is perfectly appropriate to ask about public transportation to their office. But honestly ... most questions like that are better left for your next conversation, when they have already fallen in love with you. If they want to hire you, asking for flexible hours or one more week's vacation can be fairly easy. However, during a first interview it simply feels like you're going to be looking for excuses to get our of work from day one. That is not the message you want to convey. 

10 great questions to ask in any interview

  1. "Why is this position open?"
  2. "Tell me a little bit about your most successful employee."
  3. "What does success look like in the first 90 days?"
  4. "What are the biggest challenges you think I’ll face in the first 90 days?"
  5. "One year from now, what will make you say “Wow! I’m glad I hired you!”
  6. "Pain: I see that your company (mention an industry or company challenge they’re facing). Can you tell me a little bit about how you're dealing with that? I'd like to help you turn that around …"
  7. "What do you like about working for this company?"
  8. "Do you see any reason why I may not be a fit for this position?"
  9. "What are the next steps?"
  10. "What can I do to be the one you want to hire?"