Interviewers can get as much information about you from this part as from the rest of the interview. If you ask good, thoughtful questions, you will seem smart, prepared, mature, and curious. On the flip side, if you look around nervously, stall, and say “ummmm….no, I think that covers it,” you could undo the gains made by an otherwise good interview.
The best approach is to think about, and write down, some questions before the actual interview. That way you’ll be prepared before they pop the inevitable question. Here are three types of questions you can ask. Feel free to mix it up, and ask one or two questions of each type.
The first type of question asks for more information about the college’s offerings. This type of questions shows that you did your homework and care about the school, and that you are ambitious and motivated. If done right, it can also emphasize your interests and strengths.
In order to think of topics for these questions, look at the website and college catalogue for facts about the school. Find out the things the school prides itself on, whether it’s the broad liberal arts curriculum, the massive internship program, or the host of study abroad options. Think about which of these things are most relevant to your interests and goals, and then ask about it.
Now that you have the topic, it’s time to think of the actual question. Do not ask anything that is answered on the college website, or that the interviewer could answer with one word. The best question of this type shows you researched the school, highlights your personal attributes, and displays thought. The interviewer should need at least a few sentences to answer it. (Bonus: This takes up time and you don’t even have to say a thing!)
Here is an example:
“College A’s career development program is very attractive to me. As a future engineering major, I was wondering whether you knew of what types of internships other engineering students have held, and how this helped them academically and on their career path?”
This question shows you’ve done your homework, are ambitious, focused, and motivated.
Type 2: Personal Questions
It’s a fact of human nature that everyone loves talking about themselves. Since the interview is basically about getting your interviewer to like you, this is a good tactic.
No, I’m not saying you should ask them about their relationship with their wife or whether they’re self-conscious about that bald spot. However, asking about their personal experiences at the college makes you seem interesting and engaged, and allows them to open up to you.
This works best if it’s a student or alumni interviewer, but you can even use this tactic on an admissions officer.
For a student interviewer, you can say something like, “I’ve done a lot of research on College X and it sounds like a great fit, but I’m interested in hearing your perspective. What are some of your favorite and least favorite things about College X?”
For an alumni interviewer, you could say something like, “My dad always says it’s not students, but alumni, who can give you the most valuable information on a college. How did your experiences on campus shape your career and life experiences after graduation?”
For an admissions officer, it’s a little trickier. You can’t ask about their experiences as a student, but you can ask about their views on the college at which they work. For example: “Your viewpoint is especially valuable because you work at College X. How would you describe the campus culture and student and faculty community at the college?”
Type 3: “I Listened” Questions
These questions follow up on something the interviewer already talked about to show that you are engaged and a good listener. If they talked about sports, the mentoring program, the libraries, whatever, ask for more details. Just make sure to ask for more information on something they already talked about, not to ask a question that they already answered.