What you should realize before you go to a job interview is that it’s supposed to be a two-way street. This means that the interviewer wants to ask you questions to get to know you and learn about your skills. But it also means that you should use the opportunity to ask the interviewer questions about the position, management, and the company itself to figure out if this is the right position for you. Furthermore, if you do not prepare questions to ask the interviewer, there’s a chance that the interviewer might think that you’re not interested or that you’re not well-prepared. The bottom line is that you should always ask the interviewer questions during a job interview.
The questions you ask the interviewer in a job interview are one of the most overlooked keys to success. These questions can even be the deciding factor in whether or not you will get the job. It’s therefore important that you prepare yourself as well as possible to come across as genuinely interested and a suitable candidate for the position.
In this article, we discuss why you should ask the interviewer questions and what smart questions to ask are. Also, read about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist here.
Why you should prepare questions to ask the interviewer
Just like you should prepare for frequently asked job interview questions, it’s just as important to prepare questions to ask the interviewer. The questions you ask should be smart questions that need to be related and focus on the position, and open-ended. An important aspect of asking questions is that it’s a key opportunity to further highlight your skills, qualities, and experience. Take advantage of this opportunity and show that you’re the best candidate for the job.
The questions to ask the interviewer are meant to make him (or her) sit up and take notice of your suitability and level of preparedness. Therefore, you need to make sure that you demonstrate that you did your research on the job, that you share core values with the company, and that you understand what is required for the position.
Your goal when asking the interviewer questions is to make a personal statement in the form of a question. This statement should:
- Highlight your skills, abilities, and qualifications
- Demonstrate that you’re confident in your suitability
- Show your commitment
- Show that you understand the challenges the company is facing
- Reinforce your suitability for the job in general
The opportunity to ask questions is usually at the end of a job interview. Make sure to prepare two or three good questions that demonstrate one or more aspects mentioned above.
How to come up with questions to ask the interviewer
The best way to come up with questions to ask the interviewer is to take notes when you’re conducting your pre-interview research. During this research, you will most likely run into information that you can ask smart questions about. In short, your pre-interview research about the company should include the following actions:
Thoroughly analyzing the job description
What are the skills and experience that the company values? What are the job requirements? Etc. You should find out what the company looks for in a qualified candidate. If you know this, you can position yourself as the right candidate for the job. Also, it allows you to ask the interviewer the right smart questions that will get his or her attention.
Taking a tour around the website of the company
Besides analyzing the job description for specific information about the job, you should also gain knowledge about the company as a whole. The best way to find this information is by taking a tour around the company’s website. Read about their mission statement, the company goals, in which markets they’re active, in which countries they’re located, etc. Also, find out who the key players are in the organization and research them. Key players can be directors, managers, and the CEO/board.
Reading news and recent events regarding the company
Find out what the company is up to and make sure you know the company’s latest news and updates before you go to the interview. Google the company and check the news section of the company website for press releases.
Find out more about the company’s clients, products, and services
Make sure you have an idea of the type of environment that you will be active in if you would get hired. Also, focus on getting to know who the clients of the company are, and which products and services the company offers.
Putting your LinkedIn network to use
If you know people who worked or work at the company where you’re applying for a job, approach them. They can get you the inside scoop to discover inside details that cannot be found online. Ask them about their experience and how their application process went.
Research, the person that’s interviewing you
In your pre-interview preparation, you should always find out who you will be interviewing with. This can give you a serious advantage during your job interview because you have a higher chance of actually connecting with them. Also, there’s a better chance of sparking a meaningful and in-depth conversation.
Guideline for questions to ask the interviewer
There are many types of questions you can ask, and there are probably a lot of different ones you think of right now. When preparing your questions, please take the following guidelines into consideration.
- Avoid asking self-centered questions. This is especially important in interviews early in the application process. Questions about salary, benefits, number of vacation days, overtime work, or any other question that puts yourself ahead of the company is a no go. Your initial goal is to demonstrate that you can add value to the company, not how you can benefit from them.
- Avoid asking multiple questions in one. Make sure your questions are focused and well thought out. This means asking one question at a time.
- Ask open-ended questions. You should avoid asking simple yes or no questions to the interviewer. Simple questions that the answers to are already available on the company website will not leave the impression that you want. Go for questions that create a dialogue and conversation.
- Vary in topics. Ask different kinds of questions about different kinds of topics. In the step-by-step guide below, we will go more in-depth on this.
- Stay professional and don’t get too friendly. Asking personal questions is great to build a relationship with the interviewer, but always keep them on a professional and suitable level.
A step-by-step walkthrough for questions to ask the interviewer
First off, let’s discuss a general step-by-step guide that you can apply to the questions that you’re preparing for your interview. There are certain aspects and steps to focus on that can help you figure out what you should and what you should not ask the interviewer.
Clarify anything that’s not yet clear
As soon as you get the opportunity to ask the interviewer a question focus on the position and anything about it that’s not yet clear to you. However, make sure you do not ask questions that you could have known the answer to by analyzing the job description or researching the company website. Questions should be well-thought-out and actually show that you thought about the position and that you’re trying to clarify your uncertainties. Think of questions such as:
- What does a typical workday look like?
- How will the job performance be reviewed?
- What are the challenges that someone in this position faces?
- How will I be trained?
- What is the most important performance expectation in the first year?
- Can you give me an example of current projects that I will start working on?
Remove any doubts the interviewer may have
The opportunity to ask questions is one that you should take advantage of. Therefore, ask questions to discuss your strengths or achievements that were not yet covered during the interview. This way, you can get clear what the company is looking for but also demonstrate that you are the right person for the job. Make sure to play into the answer that the interviewer will give you to show that you are that person they’re looking for. Example questions are, for instance:
- What skills and abilities does the ideal candidate have for this position?
- What key trait should someone have in order to be successful in this position?
- Is there anything about my background or resume that makes you doubt if I’m the right candidate for the job?
Uncover critical organizational information
It’s important to get an idea of how the company is doing, what the status is of the team that you will be working in, and any other red flags you may want to uncover. Think of questions such as:
- How would you describe the company culture?
- Can you describe the team that I will be working with if I’m hired?
- Is this a new position? If not, what did the previous employee move on to do?
- Can you tell me about the career paths in this company if I were to start at this job?
Go in-depth to uncover the company’s future goals
By showing interest in the company’s future, you can get a perspective on what they are trying to achieve and what their targets are over the next years. Also, it gives you information on the fact that if you were to be hired how your chances are of staying and growing within the company. Furthermore, it shows the interviewer that you’re interested in the future and that you are more than likely to stay there for a longer period of time. Example questions are:
- Where do you see the company in the next five to ten years?
- What are the company’s plans to expand and grow in the future?
- Can you tell me about the training, learning, and development programs that are available to employees?
Ask personal questions to create a bond
It’s always good to try and build a relationship between yourself and your interviewer. Besides the fact that people, in general, like to talk about their own situations, it’s also good to get a little bit more inside information. Ask personal questions, but don’t make it too personal. Stay professional. Example questions to ask are:
- What is your personal favorite aspect of working at this company?
- How long have you been working here?
- What did you do before you came to this company?
- What was your reason to start working here?
End the interview strong
Wrap the interview up by asking about the next steps in the application process. Emphasize your interest in the position again and ask questions about what you can expect next. Think of questions such as:
- What is the next step in the application process?
- Is there anything that’s not fully clear to you about my background, or resume that I can further clarify?
- When can I expect to hear from you?
General example questions to ask the interviewer
Below you can find some more general example questions (or variations to earlier mentioned questions) that you can ask the interviewer during your job interview:
- What do the day-to-day responsibilities of this position look like?
- How does success gets measured in this particular role, and how often are employees evaluated?
- Which programs does the company use to manage workflows and communication processes?
- What is your favorite part about working at this company?
- How many people work in this office (or department)?
- What do you see as the most challenging part of this position?
- What are the company’s plans for growth and development?
- With whom will I be working most closely in this position?
- What can you tell me about the position that is not described in the job description?
- What is the company’s (or team’s) biggest struggle at this moment?
- How does this company encourage continued learning and development opportunities?
- What is the toughest part of this job?
Questions NOT to ask at a job interview
Just like there are questions that you should ask there are questions that you should avoid asking because they will not leave the right impression that you’re trying to make. Most of these questions you should already know the answer to before the job interview. Other questions on the list are inappropriate to ask during the interview.
- What is the company’s core business? (You should already know this)
- How much will I get paid? (Avoid this question in the earlier stages of the application process. This will get discussed at an appropriate time)
- Do you think I will get the job? (This comes across as impatient. The interviewer probably speaks to multiple candidates, and he or she will let you know)
- How many days do I get off each year? (If this is your point of focus during a job interview you will not make the right impression)
- How many hours do you expect me to work? (This question is inappropriate and shows that you focus on the wrong aspects of the job. Based on the job description and type of company you should already have a good indication of what’s expected of you)
- After how many years will I get promoted? (Nobody can answer this question because there are a lot of factors involved in a promotion. Focus on the current job that you’re applying for and don’t get ahead of yourself).