Talk to Tory: You Ask, She Answers

Tory Johnson will answer three questions submitted by Job Club each week.

Click here to send Tory your question.

I always clam up during interviews when asked, "So do you have any questions for us?" What are a couple of good questions to prepare in advance? -- D. Brooks, Edina, Minn.

Tory: You should always ask why the position is vacant. Maybe it's open because someone was promoted from within or it's newly created because of growth. Those can be good signs. Or perhaps it's vacant because of high turnover. You don't want to discover on day one that you're the sixth person in three months to sit at that desk. Asking about the vacancy can arm you with valuable information.

Also ask: Tell me about your management style. Perhaps my favorite question is, "If you could change something about the culture of this department or this company, what would it be?" That's a polite way of asking, "What's wrong with this place?" without being rude.

There's a job I'm really interested in, but I haven't heard anything after submitting my resume a few weeks ago. The posting says "no calls," so I'm afraid to pick up the phone, even though I want to make sure they know I exist. Should I be patient and wait it out? -- L. Marin, Albany, N.Y.

Tory: No! "No calls" is simply a way to prevent pesky people from calling to ask if their resume has been received. Nobody has time to sort through piles to answer such a question. If you know you're an ideal match and you're very interested in the opportunity, you should call the human resources representative or the department that you'd be working for. Let them know you've applied, be clear about why you're a solid match, and ask when they'll be reviewing applicants for interviews. This is also a good time to find an internal referral or an external contact with connections to the company -- someone who'll vouch for why you'd be a good fit.

I know someone who I think could really help me to get into a company, but we haven't spoken in years. I'm hesitant to contact him, because it's clear that I'm only calling for help. Any advice? -- G. Gabren, Duluth, Ga.

Tory: Pick up the phone or send an e- mail -- today! In this economy, it's perfectly understandable why you'd be reaching out to former contacts. Let him know you wish you'd stayed in touch, but that you've thought of him often. Give a brief update of where you are, and then state your request. Don't apologize. Be strong and ask for it. Let him know that you'd of course be happy to reciprocate any time. Thank him for his consideration.