It’s important to have great questions to ask in an interview for a job. In fact, hiring managers expect job candidates to be prepared with job and company-specific questions. If you don’t ask strong questions, your potential employer may assume a lack of interest and preparation on your part. Luckily, asking great questions doesn’t have to be difficult. You can find the right questions to ask by focusing on what’s important to you in your decision-making process.
Questions to ask in an interview for a job should focus on the following areas:
There are specific questions that relate to each area that will give confidence to employers when deciding to hire you. Focusing on these areas shows you want to ensure you’re a good fit with the company and plan to be there for a long time.
Before deciding which questions to ask in an interview, it’s important to understand why you need to ask questions.
Asking questions is a normal part of the interview process. An interviewer will usually give you an opportunity to ask questions at the end of an interview. If you don’t take advantage of this time and ask questions, you’ll leave a negative impression. Not asking questions shows that you’re disengaged, unprepared, and probably not the right person for the job. This may also come off as you being desperate for the job which can be seen as a negative.
The important part here is to write down your questions and have them with you during the interview. This shows the interviewer you’re prepared and put thought into what to ask beforehand. If you try to come up with good questions on the fly, it will be difficult. You might not be able to think of any or they could be irrelevant or ineffective.
In general, asking any questions at all gives the impression that you’re interested. By asking for more information, you clarify important details about various aspects of the position. This tells the interviewer that you’re engaged and concerned with being successful if you’re ultimately hired. Engaged employees tend to be more motivated to succeed and end up being more productive.
Many people consider an interview as the time when an employer determines if you’re a good fit for their company. While this is true, it also needs to be the time when you do the same for the company. Ideally, you’re in a position in which you want the job and don’t need it. If you’re in this situation, the answers to your questions should help determine if the job is a good fit.
Have you ever taken a job that turned out to be completely different from the job description that you applied for? Sometimes this will happen despite our best efforts. At the very least though, ask questions to clarify what’s listed in the job description. This should clear up any possible differences between the job description and the reality of what the job is.
The culture of a company is becoming increasingly important in today’s workplace. More and more workers are citing bad company culture as a reason for looking for a new job. If this is one of the top reasons you’re job searching, consider asking multiple questions that will uncover company culture.
Here are questions you should ask in an interview for a job:
The answer to this question will give you a good idea about the kind of work environment the company has. Whatever the first detail the interviewer gives is likely the most prevalent in the work environment. If the person isn’t able to think of what other employees enjoy most, you can reframe the question. Ask the manager what they enjoy. Be aware though that the experience of a manager can be vastly different from that of an employee.
Any company that cares about their employees will recognize their accomplishments. This can take the form of a traditional system such as an employee of the month program. There are more creative systems as well such as a “weekly wins” meeting or a “celebration board.” The important part is that the recognition is present and aligns with what you prefer.
Knowing whether the interaction is an us vs. them style or a more collaborative approach can be more important. You may prefer to be in an environment where you regularly collaborate with your managers. On the other hand, you may consider this micromanagement and want a less hands-on style. Either way, if you have a strong preference to either method you’ll want the answer to this question.
If you feel strongly about making sure work life doesn’t overwhelm your personal life, this question is a must ask. Work-life balance has steadily grown in importance to workers and forced companies to positively address it. Some of the best responses to this question can include:
-"We strongly encourage all employees to leave on time.”
-"Leadership doesn’t send work e-mail outside of work hours. We expect the same of employees.”
-"When employees take a day off, we make sure that we don’t contact them.”
-”If we notice that an employee hasn’t taken a vacation day in a while, we encourage them to do so.”
-No matter what the answer is, you should be left feeling that the company supports a healthy work-life balance.
An unhealthy work-life balance can lead to developing work anxiety.
The obvious answer is a paycheck. Beyond money though, if you’re looking for purpose in your work the answer to this question will be important. Maybe you want to feel like you’re contributing toward something bigger than a company’s bottom line dollar. Perhaps you need new challenges on a regular basis. Whatever it is that will motivate you to perform your best, make sure the company has it.
As workplace culture became more important, many companies increased social events and gatherings. From group lunches to holiday parties, these situations let workers get to know one another beyond daily work interactions. If you feel passionate, one way or the other, about these get-togethers you’ll want to ask this. Don’t show too much excitement for socializing though. Your enthusiasm may send the message that you’re more interested in having fun than working.
“If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Many people are familiar with this quote and skeptics rightfully argue against this idea. Work is still work no matter how much you love your job. However, few people will disagree that if you’re passionate about your work, you will be more motivated to succeed. Employers are looking for this enthusiasm and passion during a job interview. There is even a trend in people choosing careers based on their personality for this reason.
Below are questions that will let an employer know you’re interested in a job:
-How will my success be measured in this position?
This is an extremely effective question as it does two things. First, it gives you great information about how the company defines success for your role. Second, this shows the interviewer how important success is to you. If the answer you get isn’t specific, don’t be afraid to ask if they can elaborate on it. This is an area where you want to be sure that there are no misunderstandings.
Other ways you can ask this question include:
-How do you measure performance for this role?
-What are your expectations of success for this position?
-What data do you use to measure my performance?
-What key performance indicators (KPI’s) do you use to measure performance for this role?
-Of all the skills listed in the job description, which do you feel is most important for success in this role?
We absolutely love this question. You acknowledge you’re aware of the skills and experiences listed in the job description and you’re wanting further insight. This is better than asking “What are the most important skills needed for this position.” Asking that question can come off as sounding like you didn’t bother to look at the job description.
Before asking this question, make sure the job description doesn’t already highlight one specific skill as being the most important. If the interviewer’s answer mentions a skill you feel is one of your best, explain that and give examples. See the example below.
Interviewer: We feel strongly that great organizational skills are important to the success of this position
Your Response: That’s great to hear. I pride myself on having strong organizational skills. In my previous job, I stayed organized by...
You shouldn’t do this for every question, but giving evidence that proves your skill set is a valuable strategy.
For more on job skills, we have additional articles available for you. Skills For Success: Technical Skills vs. Soft Skills explains the difference between the two and when to emphasize each one. What Are Transferable Skills discusses this topic and how it plays a role in the job search process.
While this question is more about gathering information, the interviewer should still recognize your interest in fitting in within the team. You should find out the experience level of the team members, as well as how the different positions interact. The knowledge level of the team will be especially important if you lack experience or are making a career change. You’ll want to know that you have support as you learn new information and skills in your role.
There are other ways to ask this question, but the information will be more valuable when you ask this way.
This question is a better alternative to:
Can you tell me about the day to day responsibilities for this job?
What are the primary responsibilities for this job?
Just like the skills needed for the position, the answer to these questions is likely listed in the job description. However, you don’t know how these responsibilities balance out to a normal day. Knowing what tasks make up an ordinary day will help you decide if you’ll enjoy most days in that role.
If the interviewer’s description of a typical day sounds tailor-made for your skills and preference, express your excitement.
Interviewer: During a normal day, you’ll work on…
Your Response: That’s perfect. I have a lot of experience working on projects like that and I really enjoy it.
Along with the first question in this section, this one seeks to establish your performance expectations. Unlike the first question, asking about your impact on others gives you a broader picture of your role. The role may be in place to solve a particular problem. It could be that the company is growing and simply needs more employees to handle the workload. Whatever the reason, it’s helpful to know exactly what the position means to the company.
This question is less about impressing and more to assure you’re equipped to handle the difficult aspects of the position. It’s ok if you don’t feel fully capable at the time of the interview to handle the biggest challenge. Knowing what that main difficulty is gives you time to work on strategies to better manage it. If you do already feel comfortable tackling the challenge, it’s helpful to explain.
Interviewer: The most difficult part of this job is managing multiple projects and tasks at the same time.
Your Response: I’m glad to hear that. Very rarely do I ever have only one project or task to complete. I find that I actually do my best work when I have many things to do.
It’s probably that after answering the question, the interviewer will ask if you can handle that challenge. If you don’t think you’ll give a good response, you might not want to ask this question. Responding with something generic like “Yeah, I can” or “Sure” doesn’t instill confidence.
The wording of this question is very purposeful. Asking the question this way gives the interviewer the opportunity to elaborate without you having to be nosy. For positions that recently became open, it’s helpful to know the recent history of the job. Did the last person get fired, were they promoted, did they retire? Knowing what happened can provide you with some great insight.
If you ask this question and the interviewer says it recently became open and doesn’t explain further, take notice. This could be harmless, but it could also be a sign that something bad happened before. Be on the lookout for other questionable signals combined with this that may indicate a potentially undesirable job.
Unless you’re interviewing for a short-term position, you’ll want to prove your commitment to the job. Employers likely won’t want to hire you unless you have plans of remaining with the company. If things are equal between candidates, it can come down to who shows a desire to stay long-term. One of the best ways to do this is by asking questions that focus on your future within the company.
The following questions focus on your potential future with the company:
There are two purposes for this question. One, it lets you prove to the interviewer that you’re thinking about your long-term future with the company. Two, it gives you insight into planned changes that may be in store for the position. Many people can relate to accepting a job and then later having it be completely different from the original plan. Asking this question attempts to avoid this unwanted situation. Of course, an employer may not anticipate changes for a position, but they can end up happening anyway. All you can do is ask.
Ding, ding, ding! If your goal is to move up within the company, this is the winning question. Asking this will immediately let the interviewer know that you’re looking for a career with the company. When listening to the response, pay attention to what’s said and implied. The interviewer should be able to fully explain how the position can lead to career growth in the company. If the job does have a growth path, show excitement at the opportunity.
Interviewer: In the past, people in this position had an opportunity to move to a new role. This usually occurred after being successful in the job for 3 to 4 years.
Your response: That’s exactly what I’m looking for. I hope to be able to advance within the company after proving my value and having success.
If you’re unsure of your own career path, check out our Plotting Your Career Path article. In the article we discuss helpful tips on choosing your career path based on interests, skills, and more.
Showing excitement for training proves that you’re interested in more than just a job. You want your potential employer to know that you plan to grow with the company. Taking advantage of training programs is one way to show your commitment. There are many places outside of your employer to take advantage of career and skills training. However, if the company doesn’t offer much career advancement training, this may be a sign of their lack of employee engagement.
If you’re interested in this topic, we wrote an article that takes a deeper look at continuing education opportunities.
This question may have been answered if you asked “What projects and tasks make up a typical day for this position.” If the interviewer didn’t discuss upcoming projects though, it’s appropriate to ask this question. Once again, you’re proving to the interviewer that your focus isn’t just on your immediate future with the company. When the response includes projects similar to what you’ve worked on in the past, take a moment to discuss.
Interviewer: In a few months, we plan on launching a new marketing campaign. This new campaign will focus on…
Your Response: That’s awesome! I worked on a campaign like that with my previous company. I helped make sure the campaign was successful by…
While this question may not specifically tie to your role, it can give a clearer picture of the company’s future. Even though the employer is looking to hire, this might not be part of a larger effort to grow the company. If the interviewer can provide you with specifics about the company’s growth plans, this is typically a good sign. This can include plans to open a new branch/location or expand a company’s line of products and services.
All of the questions covered thus far we recommend asking in an interview. However, there are questions you shouldn’t ask, or at least be careful when doing so. Some interviews and interviewers are unconventional and normal rules about what’s appropriate to ask don’t apply. Gauge the situation carefully before deciding to ask any of the questions below.
Even though you’ll want to know this information, asking in this way is unprofessional. The question itself implies that raises are automatic and not based on performance. This is rarely ever true. Employers also don’t want to discuss giving a raise to someone until they’ve seen their work performance.
A better way to ask this question: How often are formal performance reviews conducted?
Asking this question will immediately raise concerns about your character. Employer’s will likely assume that you use drugs and want to avoid being caught. If you’re interviewing with a large company, you may be able to locate their policy through an online search. Otherwise, completely avoid this question.
It’s certainly important to know this, but the interview isn’t the time to ask. If you end up receiving a job offer, this is when you can ask about pay and benefits.
A better way to ask this question: Does the company provide benefits including insurance and time off?
You should know going into an interview whether working remotely is a possibility for the job that you’re interviewing for. If it’s not mentioned at all in the job description, it’s best to not bring it up. It’s possible that there may be opportunity to work remotely later on. However, the company will generally want you to prove your abilities before addressing the idea. If working remotely is a must for you, search for jobs that specifically include mention of that opportunity.
Another bad way to ask this is “So, did I get the job?” Both questions present a picture of desperation and lack of confidence. At the end of the interview, you should have a good idea of how it went. If you don’t and you have to ask, this might mean you don’t pick up on social interaction well. This could be a significant knock against you if the job you’re interviewing for requires this skill.
A better way to ask this question: When do you expect to have a decision made for this position?
This is another question that shouldn’t be asked until at least after you’ve received an offer. You very may well need to have flexible hours to accommodate your family’s schedule. Most employers are understanding and will work with you on this. However, you want to sell them on your skills and value before asking for accommodations.
Once you’ve received an offer, be specific about when you’ll need flexible hours and for what reason. You don’t want it to seem as if you’re asking for no reason.
Compensation is obviously one of the top considerations when taking a job. Before pay is discussed, both sides (you and the employer) need to be confident about the match. You may be convinced of this at the end of your interview, but that doesn’t mean the company is. Discussing pay too early can send the message that you’re more concerned with pay than job performance.
However, if you’ve been recruited and invited to interview for the position, it’s ok to discuss pay beforehand. Since you didn’t initiate the conversation, you can explain that you don’t want to waste anyone’s time. In this case, asking what the low-end range of the position is appropriate before moving forward.
With all of the questions listed in this article, it can be difficult to decide how many to ask. You don’t want to ask too many, but you certainly want to get all of the information that you need.
While there isn’t a definitive amount of questions you should ask in an interview, 3 to 5 is appropriate. You want to respect the time of the interviewer and not come off as annoying by asking too many questions. It’s acceptable to ask more questions in certain situations. This includes needing to relocate to accept the job or making a career change.
A good strategy to use is to write down 10 questions that you want answered. Be sure to write them down in order of importance. During the interview, it’s possible that the interviewer will answer some of your questions without you needing to ask them. If this happens, write down the answers to these questions and cross them off of your list. When it’s time for you to ask questions, ask the remaining 3 to 5 most important, unanswered questions.
If you feel like the interview is going well and is more conversational than formal, you can ask more questions. Just be mindful of some important signals from the interviewer like checking their watch or giving you short answers. If they do this, then it’s time to stop asking questions. You can always ask more questions during the offer/negotiation process. Although, at that point the questions should primarily focus on benefits and compensation.
If you’re not invited to ask questions during an interview, this can be somewhat of a red flag. This could be a signal that the employer isn’t seriously considering you for the position. It could also mean that they don’t want to provide you with any additional information. Either way, this is a bad sign.
In this situation, you should still make an effort to ask questions. You shouldn’t leave the interview needing more information to make a decision. If you attempt to ask questions and the interviewer says they don’t have time, this might confirm the bad feeling. At the very least, they should invite you to e-mail the questions so that they can answer them later. Of course, you can also try to find the answers on your own by doing research on the company.
Did you use any of our questions in an interview? Let us know how they worked for you. Leave a comment below and join the conversation.