Believe it or not, your job interview isn’t just about you. While at face value it’s an opportunity for you to describe your work experience, career, and qualifications for the position at hand, it’s also about the interviewer and company. It’s a chance for the hiring manager or recruiter to see how well you would mesh with the business, the team and her. After all, if she’s interviewing you, she’s probably going to be your manager or a senior team member with whom you’ll be working closely.
As part of your effort to acknowledge that the hiring process isn’t just about you as a candidate but also involves your interviewer, potential team members, and needs for the position and company, you’ll need to ask plenty of thoughtful questions. Yes, the interviewer will mostly be asking you the questions, but as any experienced interviewee knows, you’ll also be asking questions of your own.
Ensuring that your questions are carefully considered is important for three reasons. First, it shows that you’ve spent time thinking about the position and company, which demonstrates to the hiring manager that you’re invested in this job prospect. Second, it gives her a chance to talk about herself and the company. This, of course, is everyone’s favorite topic: her. Everyone relishes the opportunity to talk about herself, and when you ask questions, particularly ones that allow her to discuss an experience or her talents and responsibilities, she gets to do just that.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, asking questions will give you the opportunity to learn more about the position and company. While it may seem like your interviewer is the only one performing an evaluation, you’re also evaluating. You should be gauging whether this position is a good fit for you and your goals, and asking the right questions in an interview is one of the best ways to figure that out.
So, what exactly should you ask to accomplish these goals? It’s best to ask some questions that arise based on your conversation in the interview since this shows that you’re involved and paying attention, but you should also come prepared with some stock questions as well. Here are 24 questions that will come in handy for different types of interview scenarios.
Questions to ask in an interview
What to ask your interviewer during the phone screening
1. What excites you about this company?
This question should work regardless if your phone interview is with an internal or external recruiter. You can get an idea of what your interviewer thinks of the company and get them in a positive mindset.
2. Is this a new position?
This will help you understand the needs of the company. If it’s a newly created position, that means the business saw a need and is looking for someone to fill that hole. This can help you better understand what the company is looking for in terms of larger goals.
On the other hand, if it’s not a new position, you’ll want to know why the person who was in it previously left. This can give you some indication of the company culture and turnover.
Which leads me to the follow-up question you should ask:
3. Why did the last person leave the position?
Perhaps the person who held the position previously got promoted. That’s probably the best-case scenario because it means there’s growth potential for the role. But she might have left of her own accord or was fired, in which case you should dig a little deeper. What’s her new role? How long was she in this position before she decided to move on? If she was let go, why did it happen? These types of questions can give you insight into what you can expect from the job.
While the interviewer is unlikely to outright tell you that the last person was unhappy with her responsibilities or felt stalled in her career, paying attention to the language the interviewer uses can clue you in. If she is generally positive about her previous report, it probably means the relationship was a good one and it came to a natural end, but if she is even vaguely negative, that could be a red flag.
4. What are the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities for this role?
This is a good question for a screening interview because it gives you a rundown of a position about which you may not know much yet. It can also serve as a screener for you. If there are certain tasks you would absolutely hate doing, it’s better to find out now, before you get too invested in the role.
5. Could you describe the potential for growth in this role?
Nobody wants to hit a dead end in their career, so it’s better to know upfront if that could be a possibility. As with asking about the previous person who had the job, you can get a sense of the career trajectory for the role as well as other opportunities that might exist within the company.
6. How do you see the company growing and changing in the foreseeable future?
Companies change, grow, merge, and shut down. Nobody is psychic, but the employees—including recruiters, who are either representatives of or contractors for the company—probably have a vision and idea of the direction the company is taking. It’s important for you to know that, too, because if you take this job, you should have an idea of what you can expect in terms of the bigger picture.
7. When are you looking to bring candidates in for in-person interviews?
Knowing the timeline is important for your own calendar and schedule. It also shows that you’re interested in the position because you’re demonstrating that you’re hoping to take the next step.
8. Do you have any other questions for me?
If you’re at the questions portion of the phone interview, the interviewer may have asked you everything she needs to ask, but this gives her one last opportunity to learn more about your experience and candidacy. Furthermore, it’s a way of winding down the interview without ending it abruptly.
9. What’s the best way to contact you if I have further questions?
While the answer to this question is likely email (which you already knew), you’re indicating that you’re trying to respect your interviewer’s communication preferences; and, you never know, perhaps she prefers communicating over LinkedIn. She can also give you an idea of how busy she is when you ask this, as she might respond, “I’m pretty slammed at the moment with candidates, so if you don’t hear from me right away, ping me again in a week or so.”
Interview questions to ask at the start of an in-person interview
1. I’m really excited about this job. Could you tell me more about the role?
This starts the interview off on the right foot. You’re demonstrating that you’re genuinely interested in the role and want to learn as much as you can about it. Plus, it eases you into the interview, because you get to listen for a bit before answering tough questions.
2. Who am I meeting with today?
Some companies will have you meet three to five people in one go so while your interviewer is likely to introduce the next person, it’s good to get a heads up on who you’re meeting with next. You can also get an idea of how long you might be in the room, in case you have a hard stop time or if you need to sneak in a bathroom break.
3. Do you mind if I take notes?
Having a small notebook in front of you to jot down email addresses, questions, ideas and other stray thoughts is useful for your follow up. You might think you’ll remember all names, project details, and flashes of inspiration, but often the nerves involved during interviews help make you forget everything once you walk out the door.
Questions to ask during the interview
1. What are your biggest goals and initiatives for the company and the position?
This question will give you insight into what the role might entail, the challenges and responsibilities you might be facing, and what the company might look like as a whole. When you work as an employee for a company of any size, you want your values to align with the mission and goals of the organization. Understanding what the interviewer is or is hoping to be working toward can help you see if you share those values.
2. If I started in the position tomorrow, what would I be working on for the first month (three months, six months or year)?
Asking this question helps give you an idea of the company’s planning process. If the answer seems like a lot of small tasks, rather than a large overarching project, you know that the day-to-day may be chaotic and short-term focused at this workplace. If the interviewer says there are multiple, complicated projects slated for a short timeline, you get an idea whether that’s an environment you’d thrive or fail in. The question helps you (and your interviewer) envision exactly how you’d be used in the position.
3. What do you like best about working here?
This gives your interviewer a chance to shine. She probably has some thoughts on why this is a great company (or isn’t), and chances are, she’d love to share them with you. This helps you learn about her values and what you might appreciate about the organization as well.
4. Can you tell me more about that [project, initiative or anything else mentioned when she answered the question above]?
If your interviewer tells you about some facet of the company or her personal experience, prompting her to tell you more shows that you’re engaged and interested in what she has to say. It also gives her the golden opportunity to talk more about herself, which will reflect well on you.
5. What keeps you up at night?
If the person you’re speaking with is your potential boss (or boss’s boss), you get an inside look at the problems on her level. You can start thinking of ways how you could help her with those pain points, which you can use when you describe your skills and experience.
6. How did you get involved with the company?
Finding out what initially drew her to the company can give you insight into the organization itself as well as your prospective manager’s values, if you’re interviewing with the person who will oversee you.
7. What keeps you here at [company name]?
Asking why your interviewer is still with the company can help you get an idea of what she finds important and the upsides to the company. Maybe she says it’s the people; or, maybe she loves working for the CEO.
While, of course, no two people are going to follow the same path and have identical experiences, you’ll learn about the goings-on of the business and how they might impact you. For instance, she may have started in your prospective position, which can tell you something about the growth potential for the role—as well as the fact that you’ll have a manager who knows what it’s like to be in your shoes.
What to ask if you want to know more about the day-to-day of the job
1. What would a typical day look like?
If you want to know about what you can expect the day-to-day responsibilities of the job to look like, asking is the best way of finding out. This question will give you an idea of the daily demands of the role.
2. How does your management structure work? What team would I be on and who would I report to?
Your colleagues can set the tone of your work atmosphere and often make or break a job. Learning about the team, even if you don’t get to meet them, can help you gauge how well you might fit in. Perhaps you’ll be working with a huge team with several coworkers who have similar jobs to yours. Maybe everyone has a distinctly different role with no overlap. Perhaps you’ll be flying solo with few or no other team members. These are all things you should know to determine whether you’d be comfortable in the role.
3. What teams would I be working with?
In addition to understanding the daily tasks that will be required of you, you should find out the specifics of who you’d work with in the position. You probably know some about the products or services the company creates or dispenses (and if you don’t, find out), but many businesses—particularly large ones—have many different facets, and you should get an idea of the types of cross-functional projects to which you will be contributing to. This will help you understand the importance of the role and how it fits into the bigger picture.
What to ask if you want to find out about the company’s culture
1. What kinds of initiatives or programs does the company sponsor?
The company might have plenty of diversity initiatives and team-building programs. It could have a yearly holiday party and organization-sponsored happy hours. Or it might have none of these opportunities. Whether you appreciate or need these types of qualities in an employer can help you figure out if it’s the right cultural fit.
2. What kinds of opportunities does the company provide for professional development?
When considering any job opportunity, you should reflect on how it will fit into your career trajectory. If the company provides opportunities for professional development, that’s a step in the right direction, because this role should add to and enhance your overall career. Furthermore, a company that invests in its employees and want them to learn and grow is a company that will value you beyond the work you contribute.
3. What do employees do outside of work?
Maybe there’s a group who frequents a bar for trivia. There might even be an office band that practices after work. Finding out what employees do in after-office hours can help you gauge if it's a company that works and plays together, or if it's more of a place where people go their separate ways once 6 pm hits.
Interview questions to ask at the end of the interview
1. Would it be possible to meet the team members who work with the person in this position?
Again, this demonstrates your enthusiasm for the job and company. You’re showing that you’re invested—so much so that you want to meet the people with whom you could be on a team. If you do get this opportunity, you’ll be able to better gauge your fit with the team and organizational culture.
2. What does your timeline for filling the position look like?
As with asking the similar question in a phone screening, this allows you to know when you can expect to find out about the position and plan accordingly. This can help when you’re negotiating between several different job offers or are further along the hiring process for one company over another.
3. What are the next steps in the hiring process?
Similarly, learning about the next steps give provide insight into how long you’ll need to wait to find out about the position and what you can expect to happen next.
A Final Note
Interviews require a great deal of preparation, and coming up with questions to ask is just one part of the process—though it is an important one. In addition to developing questions to ask, make sure you research the company thoroughly and have information and anecdotes to provide beyond what’s in your resume. Also, remember that going with the flow is crucial to having a successful interview. Pay attention to what your interviewer is saying, and try to come up with questions that relate to the conversation in addition to having a few general ones. Doing so will show that you’re engaged and genuinely interested in what your interviewer has to say.