September 10, 2014

Money & Career, Professional Skills

10 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

vintage young man in job interview at desk

When it comes to job interviews, we often see it as a one-way street, with the interviewer holding all the cards. In reality, though, it’s a two-way interaction. You are also interviewing them to see if their company is the right fit for you. Sure, sometimes desperation means you don’t have that luxury, but hopefully at some point you’ll have options and you’ll get to choose the company that’s best for you. A large part of determining that is the questions you ask at the end of the interview.

Beyond that, asking questions shows your interest in the job and the company. Q&A often only consists of a few minutes at the end of an hour-long interview, but it’s the final impression you’ll make, and according to one-third of HR managers, it can make or break your chances of getting the gig. When they inevitably ask you if you have questions, not having any indicates that you don’t really care about the position and are seemingly only going through the motions of an interview; conversely, asking good, incisive questions shows you’re knowledgeable about the field and sincerely curious about the job.

The goal with your own questions is to just get a better picture of the company as a whole and your potential role in it. You don’t want to get too detailed — save that for the follow-up interview, or when they offer you the job. For instance, you don’t want to ask about salary or benefits right off the bat; that will make it seem like you’re only interested in money, and not the position.

Elsewhere online, you can find lengthy lists of 30-50 questions to ask at the end of an interview. That’s far too many, however, and makes you pick and choose out of your head based on the scenario. In this post, we’ll give you just a few options from a few different categories that we think are the most important. You want to have at least 3 questions to ask, so come prepared with at least 6 just in case some get answered in the course of the interview.

Questions About the Position

  • What is a day or week in the life of this position like? Can you show me an example of a project I’d be working on? — This is fairly straightforward. You obviously want to know what the daily/weekly workflow and tasks will be. For many jobs, it’s hard to nail down what a consistent day/week looks like, so the answer you get may be vague. But hopefully it’s enough to get a feel for whether you’re a good fit for the position. This is one that is often answered before the end of the interview, so be sure to have a back-up.
  • What is the history of this position? Is it newly created? If not, why did the previous person leave it? — It’s beneficial to know the history of the position you’re interviewing for. Is it newly created? If so, you have the opportunity to set the standard. Has the position seen 5 employees in 5 years? You may want to think twice about taking it. This can be uncomfortable to ask, but is necessary on your end to know what kind of role you’re getting into.

Questions About the Future

  • Is there room for advancement or career training in this position? — If the answer is no, you may not want the position. If the answer is yes, it’s helpful to know what you can aspire to. It also signals to the interviewer that you have ambition and that you set your sights high.
  • Is there the opportunity for mentorship within this position? — This is somewhat dependent on the individual. For some folks, it’s very important to have career mentorship from a manager or executive; if this is important to you, ask away. This will signal to the interviewer that you are interested in growth — nobody wants a static employee who plateaus in their first week.

Questions About Success

  • How will you define success for this position? — When expectations are vague, feedback is hard to come by, and you may be held to standards you didn’t know existed. You want to know exactly what they think a successful employee will accomplish in this position. There should be specific goals, too, versus something broad like, “Increase sales through marketing and advertising.”
  • What are the most important objectives for this position in the first few months? — This is a follow-up question to the previous, and is important because how you kick off a new job is crucial in determining your future at that company. Will you immediately establish yourself as a go-getter, or as mediocre and inefficient? Knowing some immediate objectives will help you make sure you’re on the right course. You can also determine if the expectations are reasonable; if you’re asked to do too much in the first few months, it may be an unfortunate sign of things to come.

Questions About the Company

  • What are the 5- and 10-year goals of the company? — This tells the interviewer that you’re thinking about the future, and that you care about where the company is going. You’ll get an idea of whether this is a company you want to stick around with or not.
  • What’s the company culture like? Do co-workers eat lunch together? Do you have regular team events? — You see this question a lot in lists like this, but it’s often too vague. Asking simply “What’s the company culture like?” leaves a lot of wiggle room for the interviewer, and can be hard to answer. Asking some specific questions along with it helps you get a better understanding of the specific environment. You can also ask about after-work activities, about collaborating on projects, etc. The culture of where you work will go a long way in determining your satisfaction with the job.

Questions For the End

  • Do you have any concerns about my qualifications? — This is a tough question to ask, but one that really sets you apart from other candidates. It may even throw off the interviewer, but in a good way, and will hopefully get them to voice some honest thoughts they have about your resume. If they bring up a couple problem areas they see, you can address them confidently and ease their fears. Hopefully you can go into the interview anticipating any concerns they may have, and be prepared to reassure them that you’re the right candidate.
  • What are the next steps in the interview process? — This should always be your last question. This is simply for logistical purposes, and hopefully outlines whether there are more interviews, any homework for you (like writing or design tests), and what the timeline is like for hiring.

What questions have you had good luck with using in job interviews?


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