Whether you’re interviewing for a clinical fellowship, externship, or your first job, asking questions is an important part of an interview. It shows the hiring manager that you’re prepared and engaged—and it’s an opportunity for you to discover if an organization, school, or company is a place where you can apply your skills, thrive, learn, and be happy.
“This is your time to interview them as well, so take the time to ask the questions you need to make this big decision,” says Jennifer Lopez, MS, CCC-SLP, who interviews large numbers of clinical fellows in her role as Director of School Services / Speech and Language at SPG Therapy & Education.
In this Blog Q&A, Lopez provides valuable insights and helpful tips on how to ask thoughtful questions. asking such questions, you get the answers and information you need to make big decisions with confidence.
Why is it so important to ask questions during a job interview?
Questions show that you’re engaged and prepared. I’m surprised when someone doesn’t have any questions for me. It can make me think the person is not that serious about a position with our company. Additionally, this is a big decision that has a huge impact on your day-to-day life! Ask all the questions you need to feel comfortable with your decision. Try to gather as much information as you can during the interview.
When’s the best time to ask questions?
I appreciate questions that come up during the conversational flow of the interview, but some people might prefer to wait until the end. Don’t be afraid to ask, at the beginning of the interview, what the interviewer prefers.
Should you ask the same questions of every prospective employer?
I think some questions can—and should—be the same. If you are interviewing with multiple organizations targeting the same setting (e.g., school-based, private practice), you can absolutely recycle questions. Questions around caseload numbers, workload, access to materials, and reimbursable budgets—for things like conferences, workshops, and tuition—are all things that can apply to each organization.
What are some important questions to ask?
The most important questions are those that you don’t know the answers to!
- For interviewees who might be changing settings, your questions might be about new-hire orientation or a refresher course on state education code.
- For interviewees entering their CF experience, your questions might be about supervision.
I always recommend asking how readily available your supervisor is and what supervision might look like. At SPG, our supervisors have time built into their schedule to provide support, but that’s not always the case at every organization. We take the time to ask what you’re looking for in a supervisor—and then we do our best to match candidates with supervisors whose skills, experience, and personalities meet their needs.
Also, consider asking if you can speak with someone who works for that organization. They will have valuable insight into the employee experience at that specific place of work.
When’s an appropriate time to ask about salary and benefits?
I recommend doing some homework about salary ranges prior to the interview. If you’re applying with a hospital or school district, salary information is posted online. You can also use ASHA’s salary data to see salary information for different settings by geographic location. This will give you an idea of what to expect. During the interview, the potential employer might share information about benefits or mention that they will be sending you some information to review. If you sense that the interview is coming to a close, and the interviewer hasn’t yet shared this information, be sure to speak up!
If you’ve done your homework, you can ask how the organization determines salary or if there have been any changes to the salary schedule that is currently available on their website. If they indicate that they will be sharing more information at a later date, be sure to request a follow-up call to discuss those items. Remember that you might be meeting with someone in the company’s human resources (HR) department to start, so they might not have all the answers you need to make your decision. If that’s the case, ask if you can talk to someone in the specific department where you’d be working; ask this question before making your decision. ASHA’s Career Portal offers checklists to help you evaluate compensation packages.
Finally, what’s the best way to broach topics like workplace culture and professional development opportunities?
This goes back to doing a little bit of homework prior to your interview. You can find out a lot about a company by looking at their website. Look at the school or company website to see if there are specific things you can ask about. For example, if a school district has a mission statement on their website, is there something you can ask that speaks to their core values? I love when candidates ask me about our professional development opportunities, or our recent designation of “Top Workplaces 2023” by the San Francisco Chronicle. It shows me that they’re interested in us, and it allows me to highlight some of the work we do behind the scenes to ensure our employees’ happiness. Doing some personal reflection prior to interviewing will help you determine what questions to ask of each employer.
Here’s some examples:
- Are growth opportunities on your list?
- What about stipends for specialty areas?
- How about reimbursement for professional dues?
- What DEI practices does the company have in place?
I know that interviewing can be overwhelming, but preparedness is key. Be sure to check out ASHA’s Career Portal. It has articles with solid advice and sample interview questions so you can enter an interview with comfort and confidence. Taking a proactive approach through research and self-reflection will benefit you in the end.
Check out more great advice from Lopez and other professionals on finding CFs and externships. Watch the recording of our January 2024 “Office Hours: Clinical Fellowships & Externships.”