What are the best questions to ask during your job interview?

The questions you ask are as important as the answers you give

A standard interview consists of a series of questions to ascertain whether you are a good fit for the position. Your answers will give the hiring manager a better understanding of who you are as an individual, as well as how you would function in the position.

At the end of the interview, the tables turn. You are usually given the opportunity to ask the interviewer questions. This gives the interviewer another opportunity to learn about you, because your questions communicate quite a bit of information.

Why is it important to ask questions?

While this is an opportunity for the interviewer, do not feel powerless: this is most assuredly an opportunity for you to ascertain if this job is a good fit for you. If the interview raised some concerns for you, then this is your chance to ask the interviewer to address those. Maybe it turns out that the salary doesn’t cover the amount of work that would be expected, or the company appears less stable than you thought. Perhaps you’re thinking of turning down the job.

Or maybe, the interview ignites your own passions even further. Maybe there’s a particular goal that was mentioned briefly that you want to know more about, or a person on the team you admire.

In either case, use your questions to gather as much information as you can. Figure out if your primary goals align with those of the company. Find out whether the position is truly a good fit for your skills and career desires.

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Types of questions to avoid

The old saying, “there are no dumb questions” doesn’t apply here. Some questions can have a definite negative impact on your chances of getting the job. You want to make sure that your questions will only add value to your profile as a candidate.

Here are some questions that you should definitely avoid:

“What exactly does your company do?”

You should have researched this question before coming for the interview. By doing some research, you show the person that is interviewing you that you value their time and took the proper steps to ensure that the time would be worthwhile and meaningful. When you ask this question, it makes you seem unprepared, which of course is a negative reflection on your overall character.

“How many hours will I need to work? / How much will I be paid?”

There are two reasons why you shouldn’t ask these questions.

First, you should have conducted research on these prior to the interview. When you apply for a job, the specifications of the job should be pretty clear. Salary can be discussed, but phrase it more like “what is the compensation package for this position?” Asking “how much will I be paid?” makes you seem crass and greedy.

Second, they make you appear selfish. They show that you might put your individual needs above those of your team. This is not a trait that you want to convey. There will be time to discuss salary as well as scheduling after you are offered the position, but to ask those questions at that time would be setting you up to fail.

Any personal questions that don’t directly pertain to the job

Asking questions about the person interviewing you that don’t directly answer something about the company or the position at hand is a very bad practice. These types of questions are illegal in many places and should be avoided.

Legality aside, asking questions that have nothing to do with the position make it appear as though you are more concerned with gossip than with putting your best foot forward.

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Great questions to ask during an interview:

Now that we’ve gotten those out of the way, we can examine the questions that you definitely SHOULD ask.

Questions to ask about the hiring manager:

“How long have you been with the company?”

This question tells you about the company. If the person has been there for a long time, then you can assume that the company is great to work with. This should be a topic of consideration when applying to work at any company. A person who does not like or respect the company in general will not stay with that company for long.

“What has allowed you to be successful with this company?”

The person interviewing you should have a good grasp of the skills needed to be successful at their company. Knowing what traits, characteristics, and behaviors are expected or helpful can help you know if the position is right for you.

“Why did you choose this career/industry?”

Figure out their motives behind working in this industry. If they give an answer that isn’t in line with your goals, then you might want to think twice about accepting the position. On the other hand, they might inspire you!

“Has your role changed since you’ve been here?”

This is a good way to gauge whether people typically stay in the same role, or whether they encouraged to adapt and grow. Even if you don’t mind switching roles, it’s good to know prior to accepting the position.

Questions to ask about the position:

“What would the average day look like in this role?”

This is important information. You want to get to know what you’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis. If it sounds overwhelming, or even underwhelming, then it might be better to not pursue the position further. If you know you won’t like the daily work, taking the job would not only be a waste of time for you, but also for the company.

“What is the history of this position?”

If the position seems to be unable to keep an employee for any meaningful amount of time, then there may be an issue internally that you may not be aware of until you accept.

However, having someone who was in the role for many years may not be the best either. If an employee has been working at an entry level position for a long time, then there may be limited growth potential within that company. That might not be an issue for you, but if you aim to move up the proverbial ladder quickly, then this might not be the best fit for your career goals.

“What kind of challenges would someone in this position face?”

By asking this question, you proactively create the opportunity to explain how you can meet those challenges. Hopefully this could then set you above the competition! An employer would be pleased with a candidate willing to dive right in to challenges. This question also allows you to gauge what you will be up against on a regular basis. It is important to remember that there are difficulties with every job; with this question, you can ascertain whether you are indeed up to the challenge.

“What are the most immediate projects that need to be addressed?”

This is a good question to make yourself look eager, in a good way. When an employer looks at candidates, enthusiasm gets noticed. By asking what you would need to work on, it shows that you possess energy, and are ready to jump right in. This way, they know you are the type of person who will begin to prepare even before your first day!

Questions to ask about team culture:

“What kind of people make up the team?”

This question gives you an understanding of the people that you will be working with. This can help you during your first few days. For example, if you find out that one of your team members has an extremely abrasive personality, you can temper your reactions accordingly, and not take things personally.

“What are the team’s current goals?”

Asking this question can help you understand exactly where the team’s focus is at this point in time, and how you can join as a collaborative member.

Other important questions about the team include:

  • “To whom does this position report?”
  • “With whom does this position work most closely?”
  • “How many people make up the team?”

Questions to ask based on the type of position:

For a managerial role:

  • “Who will be reporting to me?”
  • “How many people will be on my staff?”
  • “Are there any responsibilities expected of this role that are not listed on this job description?”
  • “What does this team need to accomplish in the next 6 months?”
  • “Will I need to hire more employees within the next 6 months?”

For an entry-level position:

  • “What do you need me to accomplish within the next six months?”
  • “To whom will I report?”
  • “What is the biggest way I could be a benefit to the team?”

For an Administrative Role:

  • “What are the company’s goals for the next 5 years?”
  • “Who are our biggest collaborators?”
  • “To whom will I be reporting directly?”

How to ask questions

The way you ask questions is very important. If you ask in a manner that isn’t conducive to a good answer, then you have wasted the time of the person with whom you are speaking. It’s a good idea to have a rough idea of what questions you are going to ask so you are not scrambling to remember at the last minute.

When asking a question, your delivery is very important. The way you say something is more important than what you are saying. When speaking you want to make sure that you keep an even and flat tone. If you seem to be asking in an accusatory manner, it may make the person that is interviewing you feel uncomfortable. Or if it sounds like it’s been scripted and you’re reading off a teleprompter, you may come across as lacking in intelligence and creativity.

Eye contact is also very important. If you ask a question without looking at the person, you can come across as timid or afraid. You want to appear confident and proud. By keeping your eyes locked onto the person that is interviewing you, you make yourself seem as though you have a firm grasp of yourself and conversation at hand.

Make sure the question hasn’t been discussed earlier in the interview. While it’s important to have questions in mind, you don’t want to behave robotically. Asking a question that has already been answered is a sign of a lack of concentration, which will certainly make you less attractive as a candidate.

Finally, take a good pause after you ask the question. This will allow the other person to think and formulate a meaningful response. Try to avoid asking more than one question at once and make sure to make your question concise.

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How to select questions to ask for an interview:

When selecting questions to ask during an interview, you should take into consideration the kind of job you are interviewing for. If there isn’t much to ask about the position itself, then you can focus your questions around things that are specific to the company. You can look at the company website for inspiration. If the company lacks a website, you can look for the job listing and use that as an anchor for your questions. Hiring managers love when a candidate comes in having done some meaningful and conclusive research, so choose your questions to reflect your work.

What should you do after you receive an answer?

After you receive an answer to your carefully worded question, it’s easy to jump to the next question almost by reflex. Don’t. After you receive an answer, do one of three things:

1. Pause for a moment and reflect on the answer that was given:

This type of pause looks very good to a hiring manager. It makes you look as if you are really internalizing the information given to you in a meaningful and intelligent way. By pausing, you make it clear that you aren’t in a hurry to just crank through your list.

2. Ask a follow up question

If it feels appropriate, a follow-up question can keep the conversation going. Be sure your follow-up question is based on the answer. Don’t ask follow up questions just to drag out the conversation, however. Be curious and interested, but ff time is running out, be respectful.

3. Decide that you have no further questions:

Asking too many questions can be detrimental to the success of your interview. If you feel as though you don’t have any more meaningful and responsible questions, there is no shame in simply ending the interview.

In conclusion

The interviewer is studying every aspect of you that they can see; it is therefore in your best interest to put your best foot forward throughout the whole process. Asking questions is an opportunity for you to gain some very useful information, and also a chance for the interviewer to learn more about the way you think and operate. This allows them to feel a deeper connection to you as a candidate. So, the next time you are preparing for an interview, make a list of questions to ask and make sure you ask them with pride and vigor.

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