Interviewing seems to be the part of the job search process that people are most excited to reach and most nervous about. I get it. Job interviews can often feel like an interrogation and, if you’re unemployed, the stakes can feel pretty high.
One of the biggest mistakes most people make in job interviews is saying “no” when the interviewer asks “Do you have any questions for me?”
Not asking any questions makes the interviewer feel that you aren’t serious about the role, that you’ve not done any research about the job or the company, and that you’re going through the motions. On the flip side, asking questions gives the interviewer the impression that you’ve prepared for this interview, that you are engaged and interested.
Aside from giving the impression that you’re engaged and prepared, you should be asking interview questions because you aren’t just there to be interviewed by the company. You are there to interview the company as well! You have to decide if this is a company you want to work for, if this is a manager you want to work for, if these are people you want to work with, etc. Asking questions is a great way to take charge of the interview, drive the interview, and get to know the organization better.
Here are 10 questions you can ask in an interview.
Questions about the role:
1. What makes a person successful in this role?
The purpose of this question is to get clarity on what a “rock star” looks like to the hiring manager/interviewer and presents you with an opportunity to sell yourself. Once they answer, you can use their answer to share how and why you’re the type of person who would be successful in this role. For example, if they say “someone who is self-directed and takes initiative to solve problems” you can say “Great. Based on this, I’d be a good fit because in previous roles, I’ve taken initiative by…<insert example of a time when you’ve solved a problem>>”
2. What are some of the most challenging aspects of this role?
You want them to be honest about what’s going to make you sweat at work. What are the hard things about this job? Also, you want to use their answer to explain why you’re up for the challenge. For example, if they say “You’re often at the mercy of client’s changing their requirements and increasing project scope so it’s tough to keep projects on time and on budget” you can respond with “As a project manager for the last 10 years, I know exactly what you mean. How I typically address that on projects is….”
3. What is the career path for someone in this role? What are the opportunities for growth?
This question indicates that you’re interested in a future here and that you’re ambitious. This is a question you can respond to with some of the goals you may have for your career or things you would like to accomplish at the company.
Questions about the company:
4. How would you categorize the culture of the company?
Give them the chance to talk about their organization and let them convince you why you want to work there. You can also use this as an opportunity to respond with some things you’ve learned about the organization as well and either state or reiterate why you want to work there.
5. How do you support your employees and maintain a sense of connection in a virtual environment?
You want to know if you’re going to be on your own island at home or if they have systems in place to actually support their remote employees. This also puts you in the driver seat of the interview and shifts the conversation to them trying to convince you that they are the right place for you.
6. Can you tell me more about the team? How many people are there, what are the roles?
This can give you a feel for the landscape. Is this a large team or a small team? Are there distinct roles or does everyone do everything. This question gives you information you can use to assess if this is the environment you want to work in.
Questions about your interviewer:
7. Why did you decide to join this company?
This is your chance to turn around the “why do you want to work here” question on the interviewer! Let them explain to you why their organization is so great and why you should want to work there.
8. What is your management style?
This gives the hiring manager the chance to sell you on why they would be a good manager for you and gives you the chance to assess if this manager is a good fit for you. Are they hands-off? Collaborative? Do they care a lot about developing their people?
9. If I could fix or improve one thing for you in the first 90 days, what would you want that to be?
I love this question because it pulls out what’s most important to the hiring manager and gives you another chance to share why you’re the person to fix this problem. Whatever they say, your response should be how you can help fix that problem and even better if you’ve fixed it in the past. Share that experience.
Questions about the process:
10. What are the next steps?
This is a good way to wrap up and also gives you some clarity into what to expect next. Will you hear back from them in a week? Will it be the hiring manager or the recruiter? Is there another round of interviews? Also, this gives you a timeline for when to follow-up. If they say you’ll hear back by Friday, if Monday rolls around without any word, you can follow up to check in on them.
A few notes:
These questions are a jumping-off point. They don’t have to be the only questions you ask. You should review the job posting, research the organization and your interviewers then create questions relevant to what you’ve found.
You likely won’t get to ask 10 questions, you’ll likely get to ask 3-5 so pick the ones that are most relevant to the conversation.
The types of questions you ask should be based on who your interviewer is. For example, the recruiter may not have an answer for “what’s the most challenging thing about this role”. The recruiter is often not intimately engaged in the specific role. They’ve been handed a job description and a list of “must haves” and “nice to haves” from a hiring manager and asked to do the first level of screening. So be sure to tailor your questions to the person who is interviewing you.
You don’t have to wait until the end of the interview to ask questions. If a question they ask sparks a question from you, then ask it. Especially if it helps get clarity so you can answer their question better. For example, I was interviewing a young lady for a sales role recently and asked her what her process is for qualifying leads. Before she answered she asked me for clarification on how we approach sales at our organization and then she responded based on my answer. So don’t be afraid to ask questions throughout if you need to.
I said it at the beginning of this but it bears repeating. You should absolutely always ask questions in your interview.
If you need more help with interviewing here are a few resources I think can help you:
- There is a module in The Remote Ready Bundle on nailing the interview that includes several videos, a mock interview, and a detailed interview prep workbook
- There are several Masterclasses on interviewing in the Quit Commuting Academy. If you get a Full Access Membership, you can gain access to those in our library.