City National CEO Russell Goldsmith, interviewed for the NYT's Corner Office feature, says he'll always ask applicants whether there's anything they want to know. It can be a revealing part of the interview:
It tells me several things. Sometimes people don't have a single question. And if you have any curiosity, here is your window. I mean, you are thinking of changing your entire career and you have 40 to 60 minutes with the C.E.O., and you don't have a single question about the company?
Q. That's happened?
A. More than once. That's not somebody who is going to fit in our company. Then the interview is over. It's impossible. If you have questions but are too intimidated to ask, then you're in the wrong company. If you have no curiosity, then you are in the wrong company. Then, if you do have a question, I can tell a lot by the kind of question. Is it a fawning question or is it a real question? I also give candidates a no-politics speech. It's pretty simple: We don't put up with politics in this company. If that's the way you operate, this is the wrong place for you, and we'll figure it out and you won't succeed here.
Then I try to draw the person out. Are there politics in the company you are in now? I can tell a lot about somebody by the way they react to that. Do they embrace the no-politics rule? Do they say that's fantastic, or that's the way it is where they are now and they really like it? Or do they say their current company is not like that and they're unhappy about it. We don't have a perfect batting average on hiring. Nobody does, and that's O.K. And when I've found out that somebody I hired turned out to be political and deceptive, I've fired him.
In my time as a manager, an applicant who didn't have any questions was a terrible sign. And it happened - for a job as a reporter!