• Advice

Ask the right questions at client interviews

So you’re being interviewed by a potential client. Things are going pretty well!

She’s laughed, you’ve laughed, your answers were on-point, and she liked your portfolio. Things are wrapping up, and you’re starting to get that heady I-got-this-sucka feeling.

Then she says, “So, do you have any questions for me?”

The only real question in your mind, of course, is “DO I HAVE THE JOB?”, but you can’t say that.

Instead, you stutter out some inane question about the office space, and walk out of the interview feeling deflated – having finished with a sputter, instead of a bang.

The good news is that we’ve all been there! The bad news is that you’ve wasted an opportunity to deepen your relationship with a potential client.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to come up with useful questions to ask in a client interview – all you need is a little forethought!

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Good questions are genuinely useful to you

Questions that arise spontaneously during the interview process are probably the most helpful and specific – try to err towards those queries.

But sometimes, the mind goes blank. It helps to have a few emergency questions memorized. To that end, here are some GENERALLY useful questions for many freelancers:

  • Do you work with freelancers often?
    This is a good way to find out if they have established processes, or if you’ll be breaking new ground.
  • What is your process for invoicing/project completion?
  • Who would I be reporting to/checking in with?
  • What is the proposed timeline for [project X]?
  • If we move forward with this, what’s the best way to stay in contact with you: email? Phone?

Good questions are thoughtful

Again, it’s best to ask questions about comments the interviewer has already made. It shows that you’ve been paying attention!

But this portion of the interview is also an opportunity for you to show off your intelligence and know-how. Good questions include:

  • Who is the ideal customer/target audience?
  • What’s your “dream” scenario for this project – if it could do everything you ever wanted it to?
  • What would you say are your company’s unique strengths?
  • I’ve worked on [similar projects] before, and I found that [common goal] was a priority for that client. Would you say that’s true for you?
    This is a nice, non-slimy way to reference your past experience.

Good questions move the interview (and your chances) forward

Listen, asking a good question is a nice way to increase your chances of getting the gig. Asking a bad question is a surefire way to sink an otherwise-excellent interview.

DON’T CREATE ISSUES FOR YOURSELF. Do not ask unwinnable questions like “what’s more important to you: quality or speed?”

Be very wary of asking about potential obstacles or asking questions like “What’s your feeling about long vacations?”

Keep in mind, the “do you have any questions” portion of an interview is not really designed as a trap. It’s not there to torture you or trip you up.

It’s an opportunity for dialogue.You’re interviewing them, too!

In that spirit, ask questions that are genuinely useful to YOU – without undermining the progress you made during your interview.

Now… any questions?

Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.

Kate Shea Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily.