7 Tips on How to Ask the Right Questions at a Job Interview

John Krautzel
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Your job interview is not just the opportunity for the company to gain information needed to make the decision whether to hire you; it's also the chance for you to scope out the company and see whether it's a place you actually want to work. Asking judiciously chosen questions lets you see some of the inner workings. It also gives you an opportunity to let yourself shine as a job candidate.

1. Practical Questions

These are the questions that get you basic information, such as when the company hopes to have the new hire start and what the compensation package and benefits are like. Finding out where the company is in the hiring process is another key piece of information you need. The rule about these questions is to ask them of the person farthest away from the actual hiring decision. If you're working with a job recruiter, ask her these questions rather than saving them for your actual interview. If you have a preliminary interview with human resources, before you meet the boss, ask HR for the answers.

2. Questions About the Job Itself

Ask how the position became available to look for any cracks in the smooth face that the company automatically puts on during a job interview. Questions about professional development and long-term advancement can send you a warning if the job is actually a dead-end position. Ask what a typical day in the job is like to get a feeling as to how well the department is run.

3. Questions That Help You Decide Whether You Want to Work Here

Often these questions seem more general, but the answers can be very revealing. Ask what makes someone succeed in this company. If the interviewer's answer boils down to office politics, you've gained valuable information indeed. Also ask what the toughest part of the job is to discern whether your own skills and personality are going to be able to thrive here during the rougher moments.

4. Questions That Show Whether the Company Values Its Employees

A great company to work for values its employees and wants to see them succeed. Ask how risk-taking or creative initiatives are rewarded at the company and how outstanding employees are acknowledged or rewarded. If the job interviewer waffles on the answer or shows any hesitancy, you may be getting a hint that the company's attitude toward employees is not what you might hope for.

5. Questions That Make You Look Good

Of course, you've already done the research you need to understand everything you can about the company from the outside. Use this research to come up with questions that can start a real conversation between you and the interviewer. If you're an expert in an area that impacts the company, show off your knowledge and skills by framing a question that directs the conversation to show you at your best. Don't forget to ask whether the job interviewer has any hesitations about your background, experience or qualifications. Though this questions looks like you're making yourself vulnerable, it's also another opportunity for you to point out how well you fit the position.

6. Questions That Reveal Team and Company Culture

You may be a perfect fit for the position you're applying for, but you have to fit with the team you might be working with as well. Ask direct questions about the team and how it meshes with the larger department. Ask about the management styles that work best with this team. You can even ask about the specific team members you'd be working with the most. Pay attention to whether the interviewer offers to introduce you to the team at an appropriate moment. 

7. Follow-Up Questions

Don't forget to open the door to continued contact with the job interviewer. Ask what the next step is. If you had a truly great interview, ask if the interviewer is ready to make a decision and what it would take for her to be ready. Let the interviewer know when you plan to check in with her; this gives you tacit permission to continue the conversation.

Your job interview isn't just about answer the questions that you're asked well. The questions you ask can actually leave the most positive (or negative) impression on the job interviewer, since you typically ask them toward the end of the interview. Plan ahead to your next interview to be prepared to ask questions that truly make you shine as a candidate.

Photo Courtesy of Abhishek Sharma at Flickr.com


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Mike goes without saying that you would have to temper the questions depending upon how the interview is going. As @Erica stated - it depends upon the flow of the conversation whether or not you would discuss any of these. But remember - this is your interview also. You are interviewing the company to find out if you want to work there. So why wouldn't you ask some of these to make sure that this is the company and culture that you are looking for in a new position. If you don't ask, you will never know until it's too late. No one wants to go through all of the hoops to get a position only to find out that it's not for them and that they would not have accepted the job offer if they had just asked some of the tougher questions in the interview.

  • Mike Van de Water
    Mike Van de Water

    This is certainly an aggressive strategy for an interview. How do you make sure that you don't come off as too confrontational and demanding? I don't want to give the interviewer the wrong idea and start off on the wrong foot.

  • Erica  T.
    Erica T.

    I think the types of questions people should ask oftentimes depends on the conversational flow during the interview. I remember the worst interview I ever went on - it was a struggle to get through a simple conversation let alone find out any useful information about the company. I was nervous and the hiring manager was not good at interviewing people. At the end, I didn't have any questions because I know I didn't want to work there. I smiled politely, got up and left. I guess they didn't want me either because they never called back.

  • Jacqueline Parks
    Jacqueline Parks

    There are some great ideas for questions here. I also like to ask questions directly of the interviewer to get more information about the company. For example, I might ask the interviewer how long she has worked at the company or what she likes best about the company. This moves the conversation past quick answers that the interviewer might have prepared in advance.

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    This article really flips the script, reminding us that we also have opportunities to find out more about prospective employers. We may need jobs, but we can also be discerning about the companies we work for. There's little point, after all, in signing on with a firm only to discover that it doesn't value its employees.

  • Shaday Stewart
    Shaday Stewart

    @Duncan, When you don't ask for more details about the job, you may miss out on important details about what's expected of you when you start. Companies vary widely in how well they outline the job description in their postings, and the same position at two different companies can have vastly different duties and trajectories. This especially true in small companies where employees take on more responsibilities or companies where they have high turnover for reasons that aren't immediately obvious. You also have to consider that most people apply for multiple jobs at once, so asking about the specifics of the position can help you compare the benefits of each workplace.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Abbey if you don't have any questions at the end of the interview, that's fine. Just ask for the next steps. You could also ask if you can contact him/her if questions should arrive after you depart. Kind of leaves that door open just a little bit. @Shannon it certainly can be an eye opener when you turn it around and start asking them the questions. It's interesting that they all responded with pretty much the same response but probably pretty telling about the company. If you could hear enthusiasm from them when they answered your questions, then yes it certainly is worth continuing to pursue. And don't forget - send in those thank you notes.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    I have always hated getting to the end of an interview and being asked if I have any questions. Most often, this wasn't something I had planned for in advance, and most questions I really did have have already been answered. In this case, is it okay to let the interviewer know that all my questions have been answered throughout the interview, or should you have backups just for instances like this?

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    My most successful interview experience occurred when I asked a panel of employees what they liked most about their jobs. It was enlightening to learn that almost all of them mentioned the cohesive work environment and camaraderie that existed. This made me want to work for the company even more.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks @Jane. Most of us don't think about intellectual property until we are made to sign a form after we are hired. @Lydia certainly it is fine to concentrate on the company's need at the present time rather than on personal long-term goals. But, you don't want to get into a dead end job, either. So I would think that you would need to temper it on both ends and find a way to ask what you need to know without pinning the hiring manager against the wall.

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    Some companies have budget issues, and may not be able to give definitive answers about issues like professional development. Sometimes you might be interviewing for a position or to be part of a team that will help company out of a rough patch. Is it sometimes better to focus on the value you would bring to the company in the immediate future rather than on your long term plans?

  • Jane H.
    Jane H.

    Because I'm in a creative field, one of the questions I always ask employers is about intellectual property. Some companies attempt to own everything you make, even after hours, and oftentimes for a year or more after you leave the company. This is never acceptable to me. If I make something outside company time, I own it. Therefore, I always make sure I ask about that and if it's in the employment contract, we negotiate the wording to my satisfaction.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    I agree you should ask questions about the team and the company culture. The answers let you know if you can get along with your co-workers and what expectations your supervisor may place on you. For instance, should you expect to put in 20 hours of overtime each week, or do you get to leave early each Friday for working your butt off the other four days of the week?

  • Duncan  Maranga
    Duncan Maranga

    I have to politely disagree with the idea of asking questions about the job itself in order to decide whether or not you want to take the job. I believe by the time you decide to go for that job interview, you have already made up your mind to take up the challenges that come along with whatever job you land. For this reason I think its needless to ask such questions.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Jacob I guess it's a personal decision. I ask questions as we go along in the interview. At the end, the interviewer will typically ask if you have any other questions. If you do, this is the time to ask. Maybe it does feel a bit rehearsed but at least you get your questions answered so that you know whether or not you want to continue pursuing the position. And they don't have to be stock questions, either. The questions that you ask should be on issues that are of importance to you. Just don't be asking salary or benefits questions UNLESS the interviewer brings it up at which time all bets are off! Always remember that you are interviewing the company at the same time as they are interviewing you!

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    Is it just as effective to ask engaging and well thought out questions throughout the interview as it is to have a list at the end of the process? Having a list of prepared, stock questions at the conclusion of an interview always feels a little rehearsed to me and feels a bit out of the flow of the conversation.

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