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What Questions Should You Ask in a Job Interview?

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Believe it or not, some marketing executives have heard these questions during a job interview:

“Do you believe in aliens?”
“Can my mom sit in on the interview?”

Candidates need to rehearse how they’ll answer common job interview questions, as well as the odd ones. It's best to be prepared for both:

What candidates often don’t realize though is the questions you ask recruiters matter just as much as your rehearsed answers. 

You need to prepare not just to answer questions in your next interview, but be ready to ask insightful ones as well. 

Your questions shouldn't come across as odd either, but rather be professional. You want the questions you ask to help you land the position you're interviewing for. 

What questions should you ask in your next interview
What questions should you ask in your next interview? (graphic source)

This article assesses potential questions you should ask in an interview, depending on the job you’re applying for and your rapport with the interviewer. 

What are the best questions to ask an interviewer? How many should you ask? How should you approach asking them? Let's explore these concerns and review example questions you can use in your next interview.

The Right Questions to Ask an Interviewer

You’re encouraged to ask questions in an interview, but not as many as the interviewer does. So don’t waste your opportunity with mundane questions easily answered through a Google search.

What you ask makes a statement about who you are, so it should:

What’s the Magic Number of Questions to Ask an Interviewer?

It depends on the seniority of the position you’re applying for, and the length of the interview. Interviews for managerial positions, for example, cover more ground, so there’s more room for you to trade questions with the interviewer.

Remember, the interview is a dialogue, so you’re not supposed to raise all your questions after the interviewer is done. Keep things conversational. Ask a question whenever it’s relevant to your current topic.

Let’s say the interviewer is asking about what you did in your previous job. After addressing that question, it won’t be rude to ask about the expectations in the role you’re applying for.

Prepare 10 questions—more if you’re applying for a senior role. But don’t be disappointed if the interview ends when you haven’t covered all of them. It’s just better to prepare more than you need, so you don’t run the risk of having nothing to ask in the end.

1. Questions to Ask an Interviewer: About the Job

Questions about the job are best asked while the interviewer is quizzing you on your qualifications. Here are a few questions to prepare for asking about the job you're interviewing for:

What Protocols or Tools are in Place to Promote Collaboration?

With this question, you’re inquiring about the organization’s internal process—their teamwork, and the people you’ll be working with. Use this question to get a sense of your role in the company’s big picture, and how you’re expected to work with others.

If the interviewer isn’t a third-party recruiter, expect to get information about your organization’s structure. You might find out about:

  • Who your direct supervisor is
  • How many teammates you'll have
  • If cross-departmental collaboration is part of the job
  • If you’ll have a direct line to vendors, suppliers, or clients. 

What’s a Typical Day (or Week) Like for this Job?

This question reveals tasks and skills that might not be listed on the job ad you applied for. The interviewer’s answer should help you evaluate whether the job is a good fit for your skills and career goals. If it is, use this opportunity to explain that you have the experience they’re looking for.

Joshua Uebergang, Found of Tower of Power adds, “If it's a new role in a small company, you can expect your duties to vary. But if you're replacing someone who with 12 years tenure, you are filling excellent shoes and may have high expectations to satisfy.”

What Did the Last Person Who Had This Job Do That You Want Continued? And What Would You Like to See Done Differently?

This question is the safe way to ask, “Why is this job available?”  It’s a non-prying way to reveal possible misgivings of the previous employee, so you can avoid it.

What’s the Biggest Challenge I’ll Face on this Job?

Bill Battey, Founder and CEO of Mindyra, says that “When candidates ask this question, it’s a strong sign they’re going to look for ways to help the business, instead of just doing the bare minimum work assigned to them.”

How Will You Judge My Success?

Another way to rephrase this is, “What needs to happen in six months for me to meet your expectations?”

“Candidates who ask this question show that they’re interested in the metrics that will hold them accountable,” says Stephanie Troiano of The Hire Talent.

Asking this question shows that you want to make an impact in the company, not just earn a living. It also shows the major requirement you must complete to stabilize your new position.

Is There a Special Training or Onboarding Required Before I Start?

Shows your initiative to learn the ropes, so you can hit the ground running—or at least minimize the time required to train you.

2. Questions to Ask an Interviewer: About Career Advancement

How Long is the Average Tenure of an Employee?

It’s another way to ask, “How Often is this Job Open?”

“The interviewer’s answer will reveal the position’s turnover rate so you can get a sense of what you’re getting into”, says Valerie Streif, Career and Resume Advisor at The Mentat.

Are candidates giving up, getting fired, or moving up the ladder? That should help you decide if the opportunity is worth pursuing.

What New Skills Can I Learn Here?

This question shows your humility and potential. You’re acknowledging that you have more to learn, while showing that you’re eager to go out of your comfort zone in the name of learning.

Compensation wise, you’re trying to learn if they have training for new employees and company-sponsored training opportunities. If there’s no procedure in place and you’re responsible for your own self-development that could be a deal breaker for some candidates.

How Will This Position Evolve in the Next Three to Five Years?

Or if you’re a straight shooter, “What is the career path for this position?”

“Sometimes, the hiring manager has no choice but to admit that it’s a dead-end position with no room for growth, although there are other ways to grow within the company. But I love it when an applicant asks this question”, says Sacha Ferrandi, Founder and Director of HR at Source Capital Funding.

Asking this question in an interview shows you’re in it for the long haul and you’re strategic about your career’s trajectory.

Be careful though, as this question is sometimes mistaken for arrogance. Holly Lawrence, a Freelance Writer, asked this question in an interview for a job that’s below her salary and job title. Because of that, she was interested in the job’s potential for growth.

Unfortunately, the HR manager conducting the interview was ‘troubled’ and offended that Lawrence asked about career advancement opportunities when she hasn’t even started yet. 

As with many of these questions, it's important to research the company and then read the interviewer during your interview. Adjust your strategy on which questions to ask based on your research and social queues.

Pro Tip: Research the company’s culture. Do they value top to down management, or employee initiative? Can employees move freely from one department to another, or is there a rigid structure in place?

How Would You Describe Your Most Successful Employees?

The answer will reveal the blueprint for you to get ahead in the company. It also shows if your values and working style aligns with the company.

For example, if you’re customer focused but the company is stingy with refunds and after-sales support, then you’re better off looking for another job.

3. Questions to Ask an Interviewer: About the Hiring Process and Interview

The interview is winding down, and the interviewer asked if you have any questions. That’s your cue to ask about the next steps.

What’s the Next Step in the Hiring Process?

Or “When can I expect to hear from you?”

Asking this reiterates your interest in the job. Take note of the date they give you, so you can follow-up later on:

Who Else is Involved in the Final Selection for this Job?

“Once the interviewer gives you the name, ask if you can meet them”, suggests Mike Smith, Founder of SalesCoaching1.

Ideally, the interviewer will be stunned by your audacity and see if that person is available for a quick hello. In most cases though, you’ll impress the interviewer but the person in charge might be too busy to meet you.

Is There Anything in My Application That Might Prevent You From Hiring Me?

You’re asking if the interviewer has any concerns or hesitations about your ability to do the job.

On the surface, this might be a good way to reveal your areas of improvement. It shows you’re open to feedback, and gives you a chance to discuss their concerns. 

But if the interviewer feels like you’ve put him on the spot, you might not get a genuine response. And while you can use their answer to address any hesitations, it might seem like you’re trying to prove them wrong. You might come across as contradicting, so thread carefully with this type of question.

What Interests You About Me as a Candidate?

“I’ve found all too often, that when employers claim to look for a Web Designer, they’re actually looking for a less expensive Programmer”, writes Antonio Amaral on a comment for a LinkedIn article.

Because job descriptions don’t always reveal what the employer is actually looking for, Amaral asks interviewers for their perception of him.

How is that related?

Interviewers often ask questions in relation to a particular set of skills they’re looking for. If they’re not interested in your analyzing skills, you won’t hear questions about it.

By turning the tables and asking what the interviewer thinks of you, they’re revealing:

  • What stands out when you answer questions. It’s perfect for getting insight into how your interview answers are interpreted.
  • Which part of your answers they dwell on, or the skills and work experience they’re focusing on. Their focus clues you in on what you’re expected to do once hired, whether that's listed on the job description or not.

4. Questions to Ask an Interviewer: About the Company

End the interview on a good note by showing your enthusiasm. It’s also a subtle way to find out whether you’ll enjoy working with your future team. Here are a few related questions to ask:

How Do Employees Have Fun After Work?

Answer like this telling, "What after work? Employees are expected to pull in 60 to 80 hour workweeks."

Better to learn about the company’s hidden culture of workaholism early, before they start requiring you to pull all-nighters.

What if it’s considered rude to decline after-5 drinking sessions with your team? This reveals how tight-knit the employees are, and if they have a good work-life balance.

What’s the Most Frustrating Part of Working Here?

This is a tough question, so it requires a little courage. Don’t ask this until the interviewer lets his guard down.

Whatever their answer is, it will show you the bureaucracies of the company and other problems you might encounter.

If the interviewer can’t share at least one problem about the company, that’s a red flag. No company is perfect so the interviewer must be hiding something. Don’t press it though. Forcing the recruiter to share their secret might backfire on your application.

What’s Your Favorite Thing About Working Here?

If you don’t want to ask the question above, try this one. You’ll find out if you’re likely to enjoy working for this company.

Sarah Dowzell, COO of NaturalHR adds, “It’s also a good integrity test. If what the interviewer says doesn’t match the company’s claim on their website and job ads, what does that tell you?”

You may discover a lot of things with this type of question, such as how their vision to be ‘innovative’ and ‘customer-focused’ is being implemented—whether these feel-good company values are practices or are being ignored.

Why Does this Company Do as it Does?

Okay, I know the answer here might also be on the company’s about page. But Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, has a good reason:

“Talking about the company’s ‘Why’ excites its founders and employees. It releases positive emotions and endorphins, which they will then associate with the candidate they’re interviewing.”

This strategy only works when you’re talking to small business owners, start-up founders, and other passionate employees who have been with the company since its early stages. Don’t try this with recruiters.

A Caveat

I wouldn’t say everything on this list are necessarily good questions to ask in your next interview. Every interview is different, so assess the situation before asking some of the risky questions here. Apply them strategically. 

Consider the interviewer’s body language, the company’s reputation, and how much time is allotted for your interview. If the interviewer shuts you down on your first question, change tact and try again once the mood lightens up.

Remember that these questions are mere prototypes. Use them as inspiration to create your own set of questions to ask in an interview. Experiment with them and then tailor what fits the job you’re applying for.  

Learn more about finding a great job and getting hired: 

What questions have you found helpful to ask in your interviews? Let our community know in the comments below.

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