Questions you should ask

Asking questions during your interview is one way a prospective employer can see that you are a strong candidate for the position. Taking a proactive role during the interview will contribute to your efforts to stand out from other candidates. Thoughtful questions will yield the information you seek, steer the interview discussion to the topics you want to learn about, and help you get to the next step in the process of landing the position.

Save your questions about benefits for when the job is offered. Instead, focus on obtaining details about day-to-day responsibilities and interactions, and learning about the company. Some questions to consider asking during your interview include:

What would my day-to-day responsibilities entail?

This is the most important topic to explore. Asking this early in the interview allows you to tailor your answers to the job duties, and avoids any assumptions and wrong impressions of what the work would be like. This is also your opportunity to determine if the position is a right fit for you. Follow up with more questions until you feel you are well informed, such as:

  • What criteria are you looking for in a successful candidate for this position?
  • What skills are most important for success in this position?
  • What challenges have you seen in this position?
  • What are the opportunities for career advancement?
  • What are the opportunities for continuing education and skill development? (This should pertain only to the job and company and not include retraining or education for personal reasons.)

A lack of questions may be perceived as a lack of interest or preparation.

Who would I be working with most often?

This will give you a chance to explore who your supervisor would be, what roles coworkers play on the team, what their credentials are, and what the management style is like. Good follow up questions include:

  • What internal teams would I interact with on a regular basis?
  • What vendors or clients would I interact with? In what capacity?

What is the biggest challenge facing the company today?

With this question, the interview can shift to more strategic issues and give a bigger picture of the company. This discussion demonstrates that you have a deeper interest in the organization. Use your research on the company to pose intelligent questions and comments. Follow up with specific questions about the objectives of the department and manager for the position, such as if there are new products and services about to launch or ask what were the most successful recent initiatives. Other good questions about the company include:

  • How do you expand your business?
  • How is business development achieved?
  • What differentiating characteristics set you apart from the competition?
  • How is the company different today from 5 years ago? 10 years ago?
  • What is the company’s strategic vision for the future?
  • How would you describe your corporate culture?
  • What do you see as the most important factor for the company’s continued success?

Why did you join this company?

After the interviewer has asked some questions of you, ask a question or two about them. It can be very helpful to learn about their experiences and progress in the organization. Follow up questions can include:

  • What do you like best about the company?
  • How long have you worked here?
  • Have you held other positions in the company?
  • What do you find most challenging in your current role?
  • What do you find most fulfilling in your current role?

Would you like to hear what I could add to the team?

If you know you have something to contribute and really want the job, this is a terrific way to summarize your strengths. Draw upon what you have learned during the interview to focus your answer on the most important factors for this company. Make your statement short and clear with emphasis on the benefits to the company. Do you think I am a good fit for this position? The final big question is to ask for the job. Refer to the article on “Concluding on the right note” for more on this topic.

Questions you should not ask

Negative questions are not appropriate in a first interview. You do not want to appear as if you are hunting for the less desirable aspects of the job and company or sound like you are interested only in your agenda.

Some of these questions can be rephrased with positive wording. If you need to discover information about overtime obligations and sick leave when these topics are not offered by the interviewer, ask gently about the work hours and if benefits are included. Tread carefully with these topics:

  • Do you have a “busy” season?
  • What is the general salary range?
  • How much vacation time is typical for this position?
  • Do you have tuition reimbursement?
  • Do you offer flexible work arrangements?
  • What are the most common reasons people leave the company?
  • How much turnover do you experience?
  • Is the position available because someone left?

Please note: A frank discussion of salary and benefits, including vacation and sick leave, is a topic for discussion when the job is offered. During the interview, the company is deciding if you are worth further consideration.