10 Questions to Ask During an Interview and Why

Nancy Anderson
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If your prospective employer has invited you to an interview, you have every right to be excited. Interviewing candidates for an open position is a time-intensive chore, and most companies only interview people who have a real chance at getting the job. The pre-employment interview is a two-way street, however, and the questions you ask during the meeting can be every bit as influential in landing the job as the questions you answer. Before your next interview, try committing a few of the most important questions to memory so that you can be ready when the opportunity arises.

1. Is This a New Position, or Is It a Replacement?

This question is a polite way of gauging your prospects in the job. If it's a new position, for instance, you might find yourself writing the rules for how it's done. If you're replacing someone else, be sure to ask why they left; the answer might be telling.

2. How Would You Describe the Culture Here?

Every company has a culture all its own, and hiring managers usually aren't shy about telling new employees what it's like. Some companies are highly competitive, while others emphasize collaboration or creativity. Knowing how employees think and act before your first day can give you a big leg up.

3. What Is the Key to Succeeding Here?

This question encourages your interviewer to summarize the company's values in a brief statement. By asking how to succeed, you have essentially asked what is most important to the management and how to do it. The advantage to knowing what your future supervisors are looking for is obvious.

4. How Is Success Measured?

Companies measure success in different ways. Even within one company, various jobs have to be evaluated in the ways most appropriate to them. A sales manager, for example, almost certainly has different metrics than a customer service specialist. Always ask how your performance is measured.

5. Can You Give a Complete List of This Position's Expectations?

A comprehensive answer to this question gets you off to a good start by ensuring you know exactly what you're applying for. If the position comes with overtime requirements, if you have to travel or if you are expected to work from home on occasion, it is best to know about it before you agree to move forward in the hiring process.

6. How Does the Company Encourage Employees to Grow?

This question has two purposes, explains Susan P. Joyce, a job search and SEO expert at Job-Hunt. First, it shows you're already thinking about making a long-term commitment to your new company, which is always a good message to send interviewers. Second, the answer tips you off about whether the company promotes from within, supports your continuing education or coaches employees who need extra help.

7. Where Do You See the Company in Five Years?

Few interviewers are willing to tell new hires about long-range corporate plans, but it's worth asking this question anyway. By asking about the future, you reinforce the impression that you're planning to stay for the long run, and you might get encouraging news about the company's plans for future expansion, which might include advancement for you.

8. Do the People Here Get Together Outside of Work?

Asking about personal or extracurricular activities at the company shows you're an enthusiastic team player who's interested in the group you're joining. A number of large companies encourage workers to get together for carpools or interest groups that are dedicated to their hobbies. Asking about these signals that you're already thinking about how well you'll fit in.

9. What Are the Next Steps In the Process?

Always ask about the next steps in the hiring process as your interview wraps up. Not only does this emphasize the message that you're already thinking of yourself as part of the team; it also spares you the embarrassment of going home after the interview and wondering whether the phone will ring in the next week or two. Asking where to go from the interview also gives the company representative a chance to signal how well you've done by, perhaps, scheduling the follow-up meeting right away. The answer can also give you a hint about how many other people are being considered for the job, says Forbes.

10. What's the Most Important Thing to Know About Working Here?

This is best phrased as an open-ended question because it encourages your interviewer to talk about the company without prompting. Hearing the unscripted thoughts of a company insider is extremely valuable to you as you decide whether the position fits your expectations.

Interviews can be stressful and uncomfortable for job seekers, but they can also be a great opportunity to learn new things about the company you hope to join. By asking directed questions, you can not only get valuable information before jumping into a new job but also increase your chances of getting the job by showing your hiring manager how invested you are in the process. Always ask questions at your interview, and the experience can be as productive for you as it is for the company that hires you.

Photo Courtesy of Jones Milss at Flickr.com


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  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    At interview, I've always found myself drawn toward questions about company culture. The best job in the world can quickly become a bit of a nightmare if your working environment isn't a friendly one, after all. I think we can get a pretty good idea of atmosphere if we ask pertinent questions and look for what isn't said, as well as what is said!

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    In my opinion, some of these questions don't have easy answers. If interviewing for a new or evolving position, you may not be able to get a complete rundown of expectations. If a company is running out of funding or on the verge of a buyout, an interviewer might not be able to answer questions about where the company will be 5 years from now. Has anyone asked an interviewer difficult questions? Was the response positive or negative?

  • Jacqueline Parks
    Jacqueline Parks

    I love these questions. They give me some great ideas for working with my interviewer to learn more about a position. I would like to add that it is probably best not to ask questions that you already have the answer to from your pre-interview research. Asking questions just to have a question or to sound interested is probably going to show in your tone and turn the interviewer off. Also make sure you take notes, especially if you have a lot of interviews close together. It is easy to get confused and forget important information. Taking notes also shows that you take the responses to your questions seriously.

  • Kristen Jedrosko
    Kristen Jedrosko

    This is a great article to read pre-interview! It is definitely so important to ask questions during an interview, especially if you find yourself being done very quickly. During my first job interview out of college, I was so unprepared. I had thought of all of the good answers to the questions I may be asked, but I spent so much time perfecting my answers, I didn't spend any time thinking about questions. During the interview I found myself stumbling and trying to come up with things to ask on the spot, which may have made me look unprepared and I did not get the job. Lesson learned for my second job interview. I did some research and had several questions to ask, many of which are listed in this article! And I got the job!

  • Erica  T.
    Erica T.

    I would only ask about the company culture if the research I've done on the company suggests the culture is overall positive. There are a variety of websites that allow past and present employees to discuss what it's like to work for a particular company, so finding out about the company culture isn't that difficult. I don't assume everything that employees post online about a company is true or false, but if a company has a mixed reputation, a hiring manager may not be too forthcoming about what it is really like to work there.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Duncan so very true. It's not a contest to see how many questions we can have but it's to make sure that all of our questions are answered so that, should we receive an offer, we know whether or not to accept it. @Jane totally agree that you should try to find out what you are walking into. I have walked out of interviews before because the position was nothing like they had advertised. I have just politely stopped the interview, thanked them for their time but that the position was not going to be for me and then left. I have never regretted those decisions, either.

  • Duncan  Maranga
    Duncan Maranga

    @Jacob that's a good question. You don't have to fix a preconceived mindset concerning when to ask the questions for you to achieve the goal. Let the questions come when you feel the avenue has opened for you to ask them. A few of the questions could drop during the interview while the rest can come when you are finally given the opportunity to do so at the end of the process.

  • Jane H.
    Jane H.

    Learning what the position's expectations are has always been key to my own interviewing process as an applicant. If I feel that the company's expectations for a certain position are too demanding or otherwise unrealistic, I want to know that as soon as possible. I've never walked out of an interview because of the answer to that question, but occasionally I have not returned calls for a follow-up interview because I felt the job wasn't going to be a good fit for me.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Shaday thanks for your comment. How so very true. And always remember that the interview is a two-way street. You are interviewing the company at the same time as you are being interviewed. Watching the interviewer's body language certainly is important and can clue you in to a lot more than his words might be saying. @Jacob, if, during the course of the interview, you are able to bring up some of your questions - by all means do so. It's better than waiting until the end if the conversation has already touched on your questions. There have been plenty of times when I interviewed where all of my questions were answered throughout so, at the end, I just simply stated that I didn't have any questions at that time but would ask if I could contact them should other questions come up once I left. And always remember to ask for the next steps such as - will they be making a decision soon; will they call with the results or may I call them and, if so, when.

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    These are good starting points on which to base questions for any interview. Does it matter if you ask them all at the end when prompted to do so? If things come up during the interview process, are the same goals met by asking things as the conversation goes along?

  • Shaday Stewart
    Shaday Stewart

    There are definitely some great questions here that I hope to add to my arsenal. When it comes to company culture, I think it's important to read between the lines throughout the interview even if you ask this outright. You don't want to end up in an environment that makes you miserable or prevents you from making satisfying contributions. And then of course, there are companies where the employees are great, but the day-to-day management is disorganized or business is just stale.

    Unless the interviewer is blatantly enthusiastic or reserved, it can be difficult to determine where a company falls on the culture spectrum. That's why it's so important to bring factors like performance measurement and growth opportunities. If the interviewer can't adequately respond to these questions, it's usually a bad sign. It's also important for job applicants to pay attention to sudden changes in body language, speech and tone when an interviewer is facing the company culture question, since many people give away their reluctance to talk about problems when they start breaking eye contact or stumbling over their words.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Shannon I disagree. I think that asking what happened to the person who was working in the position gives me great insight into the company and into whether or not I want to accept an offer from them. It could be that the position is in a department where there are some serious issues - all being swept under the rug. I would not want to accept a position where I was walking into a powder keg. But, if the person who previously had the position got promoted, then I might jump on it. @William it is so true that we need to ask the questions that require some thought and more than just a yes or no response. How is success measured is a great question and the answer will truly give you some great insight into the workings of the company. Remember, an interview is a two way street. You want to know everything you can about the company as well as the position - the same as they want to know everything about you. You may only get this one chance to ask questions.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    I like these questions because most of them require more than just a "yes" or "no" response. How the company answers your questions determines whether the interviewers trust you or whether you are a good fit with the employer. "How is success measured?" gives you a great idea as to what your supervisor expects from your performance.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    While I agree that many of these questions are appropriate, I don't think it is necessary to ask whether or not the position is new or a replacement. Hiring managers may think that you are fishing for information on why someone left the position, which is none of your business. I just think it leaves a bad or questionable impression.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Abbey thanks for the comment. I don't think that there is a script that needs to be followed. Personally I know that I have a list of questions and most of them get answered during the interview. But if I still have some questions left, I ask them at the end - just as a review or recap of the discussion that went on. Interviewers are thrilled that you have come prepared and, unless they are really and truly strapped for time, they are more than willing to answer them. As long as you aren't asking any of the "no-no" questions such as benefits, salary, etc. you aren't going to appear in a negative light and the interviewer will remember you because you asked questions. Just as a PS - if you talked about something interesting during the interview - you can recap it in your thank you note so that it will bring you right to mind for the interviewer. Sort of a way to stay connected.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    As I read through the questions listed in the article, I had a hard time seeing myself asking some of them. Is there a preferred time and order in which to ask certain questions during the interview? What are some tactful ways to ask the questions while ensuring you don't come across in a negative light?

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