Essential Questions You Need to Ask During a Job Interview

John Krautzel
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At some point during a job interview, the interviewer is likely to ask you if you have any questions for her. Don't be like so many job candidates who simply shake their heads meekly and say something like, "No, I think you've explained everything." This is the moment where you can find out some key information about the company and the position you're applying for that might help you decide whether you want to work there or not. Here are some of the essential questions you should make sure to ask in your next job interview.

"What Qualities Do Your Best Employees Have?"

This question allows you to address the issue of "fit" in an indirect manner. Use the discussion this question provokes to show how you have the needed skills and qualities and to demonstrate that you understand the company's values and personality.

"How Can I Help You Meet Your Goals?"

Far too many job candidates make it clear that they're only interested in how this position might benefit them personally. Make those concerns secondary in your interview by asking about the company's short-term and long-term goals. Ask how the position you're interviewing for fits into those goals. This question lets the interviewer know you're a team player. The answer to the question also gives you valuable information to position yourself as a prime candidate who is ready to support the company's goals over the long term.

"Why Do You Like Working Here?"

This question is designed to build rapport between yourself and your interviewer. It also gives you an inside peek into the company. If you're interviewing with your potential boss, you may get a sense of how well you would work with that person. If your interviewer has a difficult time answering this question or hesitates before answering, you may have just discovered that this company is not a place where you want to work.

"Why Is This Job Vacant?"

This is a vital question that can tell you a lot about the company and department you're applying to. Was the previous person in the position promoted? That tells you this job isn't a dead-end position. Has it been vacant for months? If so, you should wonder why the company hasn't been able to fill it. Perhaps the previous candidates knew something about poor compensation, unfriendly co-workers or an unreasonable boss that you wouldn't otherwise learn about until it's too late.

"What's the Greatest Challenge Facing the Person Taking This Job?"

While on the surface this question looks like it's sizing up any problems with the position, it's doing far more than that. Once you get an answer, you're well positioned to describe how you handled similar difficulties in previous positions. You're also well prepared for any second interview. Consider expanding this question to ask about the specific challenges the new hire can expect to face in the first 30 to 90 days on the job. If you're offered the job and you accept, you can use this information to give yourself a head start to success.

"How Successful Was the Last Person to Hold This Position?"

This question sounds like you're asking about the metrics that determine success within the company. While the answer should provide that information, it may also open a door to let you see any hidden problems within the department. If the hiring manager starts to reveal management issues, you may get valuable information to help you decide whether you really want this job.

"Do You See Any Reason Not to Hire Me?"

Posing this question to an interviewer may be intimidating, and the question may seem overly blunt. However, it's one of the most straightforward ways to ascertain where you stand at the end of a job interview. It opens the door to let you clarify anything that's still unclear from your resume or the interview itself. In addition, if it's clear that you're not going to get the job, asking this question gives you valuable information to help you prep for your next interview, information you may not be able to get any other way.

"What's Your Time Frame?"

Once you leave an interview, you may start getting nervous. Why haven't you heard from them? Will they even let you know if they choose someone else? Ask this question to calm your nerves down the road. If you learn you're among the first people being interviewed and that they're continuing interviews for another week, you don't have to feel frantic if you haven't heard anything in a few days. This question also lets you plan your follow-up contacts with the company so you don't inadvertently send a message that sounds desperate.

"May I Contact You With Any Other Questions?"

You may feel awkward getting in touch with a hiring manager once you've left the interview. Asking this question gives you explicit permission to do so. It also keeps the hiring manager from feeling that you shouldn't be calling if you do follow up.

When you close out your interview by asking these questions, you feel much more confident that you've made a good impression and learned everything you need to know. Your interviewer is likely to be watching to see if you're smart enough to ask good questions, so plan ahead to move yourself a step forward in the hiring process.

Photo Courtesy of Slate Missouri Career Center at


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  • Neal F.
    Neal F.

    Research comments from past employees on Glassdoor...if you have ANY doubts about the employer, do not make the jump. You may end up in something worse.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. So true @Jacob, these questions do sound scripted but they are questions that are asked of many job seekers at many interviews. However, it is true that you have to know your audience. @Cory if the interviewer is standoffish, you may have to adjust your questions as well as your demeanor for this interviewer. Every interview is going to be different and you have to realize this so that you can modify your behavior as well as the questions you ask. Just remember that these are suggestions only. @Erin it may be a bit presumptuous to ask if there's any reason not to hire but I have found that many times it brings up more discussion and more questions. It kind of sets the interviewer on his heels so to speak and many times let's him be more honest with you. Look my time is just as valuable as the interviewers - maybe more since he has a paying gig and I don't. So if there's a reason why I can't be hired, I want to know now so that I don't waste my time waiting for them to get back to me and hoping that this is the one. I can just cross them off my list and chock up another interview.

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    While no doubt there is potential to glean some really key information with questions suggested here, the format and approach just sound so scripted. I would rather be engaged throughout the interview process and hopefully put the interviewer a little more at ease than holding what sounds a little like a press conference at the end.

  • Erin H.
    Erin H.

    Isn't it a bit presumptuous to ask a potential employer "Do you see any reason not to hire me?" Yes, it's a bit intimidating, but my first thought was that may throw up a red flag. We live in a litigious society, and the answer to that question could pose a problem for the company. Does anyone else feel that way about the question?

  • Ludmila B.
    Ludmila B.

    Which skills are you looking for the job candidate to have?

  • Cory L.
    Cory L.

    I've been in interviews where the person interviewing me has been fairly stand-offish, and I'd have never considered asking questions like these in response. It's great advice, but I'd emphasize that sometimes you might need to soften up the interview in conversation before suddenly flipping the tables on them. Sometimes they're just middlemen looking to get through the interview quickly and will only be annoyed by assertiveness.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    I love "Why is this job vacant?" The answer to that question says so many things about the people in the room with you. Will they divulge information that is potentially an internal HR matter? Will your future boss confide in you? This question lets you know exactly how much the other people trust you. If they answer this question forthrightly and give you an honest reason, that could signal you've got the job since you'll probably hear about your predecessor anyway. If the position opened because the company expanded, then that's another way someone can give you a real reason as to why the company needed the new position.

  • Andrew  S.
    Andrew S.

    "Do You See Any Reason Not to Hire Me" Personally, I wouldn't have the guts to ask this question, but I still think that it is hit or miss. Therefore, the decision whether to ask it or not will depend on the person in front of you. Yes, it can give you a chance to address any concerns the interviewer may have about you, but if it makes the interviewer uncomfortable, then it can backfire really bad.

  • Tina M.
    Tina M.

    Very helpful advice! Please continue to send "great tips", information re: interviewing and/or any helpful insight. It has been quite a while since I have been searching for a job and things have changed immensely! Ty

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Great advice @Duncan and @Lydia. Totally agree that if you are going to ask a question, please listen for the answer so that you can formulate another lead-in question. Remember, an interview goes both ways. Just because you receive a job offer does not mean that you will accept it. Could be that, when you did the interview, something just didn't feel right. Listen to your gut. I have received job offers that I turned down just because something kept niggling at the back of my mind about the position and/or the company that made me nervous.

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    @Tara, I agree that some recommended questions can sound over rehearsed, especially if you're not interested in the response. I recommend asking a question that you really would like to know about the position. Consider factors that would make you want to accept an offer, or factors that would make you walk away. You'll have to think about this before the interview and formulate the question exactly the way you would like to ask it. Be tactful of course. Write the question down so you don't get caught up in the pace of the interview and forget to ask it.

  • Duncan  Maranga
    Duncan Maranga

    I personally find the act of asking these questions to your potential employer quite relaxing. Sometimes the confidence you need to take up the interview with energy and composure is built up when you throw the ball to your interviewer and be the one evaluating answers to questions. However, you should be careful not to sound overly inquisitive as this may actually put off the interviewer.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Tara during an interview you should never ask anything personal. You can ask how he likes working there or what attracted him to the company, etc - as long as they are professional and/or company related. So true that interviewers know that we expect what are your strengths/weaknesses so most of them don't even ask that anymore. They want to ask questions for which answers will prompt more questions. @Laura so true that asking questions shows your interest in the company and the position. Even if you ask something simple like what are the next steps if you don't have any pertinent company/position questions. The questions show that now that the interview is over you are still interested.

  • Tara Avery
    Tara Avery

    These are great questions to ask, I think. I'm curious if there are questions to avoid? I also wonder if asking these particular questions might come off sounding too rehearsed? I'm thinking about the perennial favorite interview question, "What are your weaknesses?" So many answers to that are cliche, now. Are these questions for the interviewer potentially becoming too cliche?

  • Laura W.
    Laura W.

    As someone who has been on both sides of the table, I have to say I love it when people ask questions, rather than just say they understood everything and thank you very much. To me, it shows that they are really interested. Now, I just need to remind myself of asking one of those questions whenever I go to an interview :)

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for your comments. @Mike you are a great guy. We need more like you. Most interviewers would just stop the interview or at least cut it short instead of digging in and trying to find another position within the organization for which they are better suited. @Shannon I totally agree. You can learn a lot about the company just by interviewing the interviewer. After all, that's what an interview is - each side interviewing the other.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    I love asking interviewers why they like their job and have had a lot of success with it. The question reveals so much about the dynamic and culture of the department and company and helps you to see if the people interviewing you have pride in the company or truly love their jobs.

  • June Shankweiler
    June Shankweiler

    Good for you Mike. That's the way it should be done.

  • Mike Van de Water
    Mike Van de Water

    Nancy, I would never end an interview early simply because I realize the candidate isn't a good fit for the current position. If you continue to dig, I believe that you can learn a lot about a candidate and perhaps find another way to fit him into the organization, either through another existing position or into a new one. I would also offer a straight answer if I was asked point blank the question about why he wouldn't be hired, and perhaps give advice where the candidate could shore up his resume or make it sound more professional. Then again, I'm the kind of guy who comments on job boards hoping to help people in the job market now :)

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Abbey I agree with you. If I was interviewing and I knew that I wasn't going to hire the person, I would probably just finish up the interview, thank them and move on to the next one. If asked point blank I would be honest and let them know that they are not the employee I was looking for and then give them at least one reason why. Maybe I was looking for someone with more experience. Maybe I was looking for someone who had more technical knowledge and so on. Anyone have experience in this?

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    I really like the idea of asking if there is any reason the interviewer wouldn't hire you. I can see how that opens an opportunity to give further information and promote yourself. Will you get a truthful answer, though? How often will a hiring manager be willing to share their concerns with you rather than just be polite and brush off the question?

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