Job interviews aren’t just a chance for your prospective employer to get to know you – they’re also a chance for you to get to know the organization and people you’re hoping to be devoting half of your waking hours to. But the chance to ask questions usually comes at the end of an interview, which means that the questions you ask can have a huge impact on how your interviewers remember you.
Learning what questions to ask in an interview is a surefire way to show your interviewer that you’re genuinely interested in the role you’re applying for. However, that’s not the only reason you should prepare some questions before you talk to your potential employer.
Remember that during an interview you’re not the only one being evaluated. You’re also assessing what sort of organization you’re about to join and what types of people you’ll be working with. Also, you need to ask questions to find out more about the job and what plans your potential employer has for you once they decide whether they should hire you or not.
When an interviewer asks if you have any questions, it’s a clear sign that the interview is about to end, and you’ll have limited time to satisfy your curiosities regarding the company.
Consequently, you’ll need to prepare at least four to five questions beforehand. It will prove that you’ve done your homework, meaning you’ve researched the company, industry, and department you’re interested in.
Having a few good questions ready will help you look like an informed and prepared candidate for the job. Here are some other things to keep in mind when preparing your own list of questions.
These insightful questions are great to ask in interviews when applying for jobs in any industry. They’re designed to help you find out essential information such as what results are expected of you in a certain amount of time, how the interviewer has grown during their time at the company, why the position is open, and if there are ample advancement opportunities for employees.
It’s a good idea to inquire about as many details as possible, go in-depth with your questions and, why not, ask the interviewer what they think about the company. Chances are, you’ll get a sincere answer and you’ll gain more insight into the organization you’re interested in.
Avoid "Me" Questions: "Me" questions are those that put yourself ahead of the employer. These include questions about salary, health insurance, vacation time, work hours per week, and other concessions. During an interview, you are trying to demonstrate to the employer how you can benefit the company, not the other way around. Once you are offered a position, you can begin to ask what the company can do for you.
Ask One Question at a Time: Avoid multi-part questions; they will only overwhelm the employer. Each question should have one specific point.
Avoid "Yes" or "No" Questions: Most questions with a "yes," "no," or another one-word answer could likely be answered by searching the company's website. Instead, stick to questions that will create a dialogue between yourself and the employer.
Ask Questions About Multiple Topics: Avoid asking questions about just one subject. For example, if you only ask questions about your manager and his managerial style, the interviewer may assume you have an issue with authority figures. Ask questions about a variety of topics to demonstrate your curiosity and interest in all aspects of the position.
Don't Ask Anything Too Personal: While it is a good idea to try to establish a rapport with your interviewer, do not ask personal questions that are not public information. For example, if you see a college banner on the employer's wall, you can certainly ask if he went to that college. However, avoid overly personal questions about the interviewer's family, race, gender, etc.
Don't Ask Anything Too Obvious: Asking a question that can be found on the company homepage or something basic about the service/product offered can be a huge red flag. You don’t want a basic question to reveal a lack of preparation or research on your end.
How would you measure my success, and what could I do to exceed your expectations?
This question addresses expectations in concrete terms. Beyond stock descriptions of good communication and analytical skills, what does excellence look like for that position?
Where do you think the company is headed in the next 5 years?
If you plan to be in this role for several years, make sure the company is growing so you can grow with the company.
Who do you consider your top competitor, and why?
You should already have an idea of the company’s major competitors, but it can be useful to ask your interviewer for their thoughts. Naturally, they will be able to give you insight you can’t find anywhere else.
Are there ample advancement opportunities at your company?
You’ll definitely want an answer for this one. Are people in the role you’re applying for being promoted to more senior internal positions? Every candidate should factor growth trajectory into their decision. Will you be promoted internally or will you need to look for advancement opportunities elsewhere.
Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?
Choosing this as one of the questions to ask in an interview gives you the chance to learn as much as possible about the role so you can decide whether this is a job you really want. By learning more about the day-to-day tasks, you will also gain more insight into what specific skills and strengths are needed, and you can address any topics that haven’t already been covered.
Will I have the opportunity to meet my potential manager or colleagues during the interview process?
Asking about the team you’ll be working with is important – so an answer of ‘no’ might be a concern for you.
Is this a new position? If not, why did the previous person leave?
While it might be uncomfortable to ask, asking this shows you’re on the ball, and interested in how the organization works. Knowing if the person in the role before you was fired, promoted or left of their own accord is valuable to know before you dive into the same position.
What would you expect me to have achieved after 6 or 12 months in this role?
It’s great to know what the expectations are of you before you start. But it’s also nice to know if the company is organized enough to have thought about what they want from a new staff member before they begin interviews.
Who would not be a good fit for this company?
Although most candidates will be focused on learning how to be a good fit for a company, you’ll have an ace up your sleeve with this question and can figure out what traits wouldn’t fit well in the company’s culture. Based on the answer, you’ll have a better idea if this role is for you or not.
Is there anything else I can do or provide to help you make your decision?
This shows the candidate is switched on as well as showing that you’re confident and enthusiastic.
What’s your timeline for next steps?
This is a straightforward logistics question, but it’s useful to know when you can expect to hear back. Otherwise, in a few days you’re likely to start agonizing about whether you should have heard back about the job by now and what it means that you haven’t, and obsessively checking your phone to see if the employer has tried to make contact. It’s much better for your quality of life if you know that you’re not likely to hear anything for two weeks or four weeks or that the hiring manager is leaving the country for a month and nothing will happen until she’s back, or whatever the case might be.
Plus, asking this question makes it easy for you to check in with the employer if the timeline they give you comes and goes with no word. If they tell you that they plan to make a decision in two weeks and it’s been three weeks, you can reasonably email them and say something like, “I know you were hoping to make a decision around this time, so I wanted to check in and see if you have an updated timeline you can share. I’m really interested in the position and would love to talk more with you.”
Now you have some ideas above, choose questions that you really want to be answered, write them down and start practicing your delivery. Remember to speak clearly and try to avoid using too many filler words such as “anyway”, “like”, “you know”, or “basically”. You’ll also want to limit your pauses and keep a constant pace of speech.
If you want to watch a video on how to ask questions in an interview, here is a good resource.