So, you’ve gotten an interview with a company that you may be interested in working for. That’s fantastic! Looking for work can be filled with uncertainty, and landing an interview could signal the light at the end of the tunnel for your job search.
You probably already know that making a great impression on the hiring manager will help maximize your odds of getting hired. And one of the best ways to achieve that is to ask thoughtful questions about the job, company, and anything else you genuinely want to know about.
Asking questions is an essential but sometimes-overlooked skill for interviewees. But if you don’t plan ahead, you may find yourself drawing a blank when the hiring manager asks if you have any questions. You can avoid any awkward silences by coming up with some questions ahead of time -- it can put your mind at rest and help your interview go more smoothly.
Why should you prepare questions in advance?
When you go in for an interview, your main goal is to show the hiring manager why you are the absolute best person for this job. They were already impressed enough by your qualifications to invite you in; now is the time to get to know your interviewer and seal the deal.
While it’s great to show your authentic personality at an interview, preparing some of what you’ll say ahead of time can help you seem more polished and professional than if you just “wing it”. Thinking of questions in advance will show that you took the time to prepare for the interview. You can convey your genuine interest in the job and the company, and you might just set yourself apart from others interviewing for the same position.
But there’s another crucial purpose of asking questions: it gives you an opportunity to learn more about the job and the company. An interview isn’t only about the hiring manager assessing whether you’re a fit for the position; it’s also a chance for you to evaluate whether this job is right for you. And that is every bit as important.
Types of questions to avoid asking
Asking questions at an interview can be a great strategy -- but it’s important to ask the right questions. The wrong questions could create an unfavorable impression, or they might not yield the kind of information you are looking for.
So what kinds of questions are you better off avoiding? First off, it’s best not to ask anything obvious that could be answered through simple research. If you’re interviewing for a job at XYZ Corporation, a quick Google search could most likely tell you basic information about the company -- so asking your hiring manager what year the company was founded or how many employees there are will show that you didn’t do your homework. That’s not a great look.
Another category to steer clear of: the yes-or-no question. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with asking something like “Do people often work weekends here?”, it doesn’t promote further discussion, and it probably won’t give you the information you need to decide if this job’s a fit for you. Asking open-ended questions that require a longer response will spark a better conversation and help you build a stronger rapport with the interviewer.
Finally, hold off on asking any vague or potentially awkward questions. Generic questions such as “What skills are required for this job?” aren’t a bad start, but they don’t go far enough -- instead, think of questions that are more specific and easier for the interviewer to answer. Likewise, don’t ask the interviewer anything too personal, or any question that feels uncomfortable for you to ask. Keep the vibe light, friendly, but professional.
Example questions for your interviewer
Ready to prep some questions for your interview? We’ve got a whole list of ideas here to get the inspiration flowing. The questions are grouped into loose categories; we recommend choosing one or two from each group for starters.
Questions to build rapport with the interviewer
- How long have you been working with [Company Name]?
- I'd love to hear a bit about your career path. What did you do before this and how has your role changed?
- Why did you choose to work at this company?
- What do you most enjoy about your job here?
- Can you give me some insight into the organizational structure at the company? Do you expect any changes in the next 6 months?
- What's the typical career path for someone in this position?
When you start asking questions, it’s nice to begin by asking your interviewer to talk about themselves a little. Hiring managers are people, too, and engaging in some cordial conversation can help you connect with them while setting a warm, friendly tone for the meeting. It’s a win-win situation.
Questions about the company and culture
- How would you describe the company culture?
- What does the work/life balance look like for your employees?
- How responsive are people to emails/Slack over the weekends and after 6pm?
- What challenges and opportunities are the company facing right now?
- How does the company's leadership help employees thrive?
- What kind of diversity and inclusion events and initiatives are there at your company?
The answers to these questions can tell you a lot about the business you’re interviewing with and what it’s like to work there. This information can be key in helping you decide whether it’s somewhere you want to be.
Questions about the specific job opportunity
- What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?
- What’s a typical project that I might work on in this role?
- How does this position contribute to the company as a whole?
- What skills and qualities would make someone successful in this position?
- What opportunities are there for advancement?
- Does the team work cross-functionally? How much collaboration is there between different departments, e.g. marketing, HR, technology?
Questions like these will give you a chance to learn more about the position beyond what you might see in a job ad. You can learn about the day-to-day workflow, the types of projects you’ll be assigned, and how you can succeed and advance in your career -- all of which can be immensely valuable.
Questions about employee performance
- What project do you expect me to first work on? How will success be measured?
- What do you hope to see someone achieve within their first 30/60/90 days at the job?
- What metrics or standards do you use to evaluate employees?
- How and when do you provide feedback to your employees about their performance?
Before taking a job with any company, you’ll want to know what they will expect of you in your role, how you’ll be evaluated, and how they’ll address any issues with your performance. These factors can make or break your happiness and success in a job. Ask these questions to make sure you’ll have the support and feedback you need to do your best work.
Questions about pandemic-specific concerns
- In what ways has the company been affected by the pandemic?
- What changes have you made since the pandemic began?
Many companies have needed to make significant changes due to the pandemic. Hearing about how the business has handled this challenge can provide clues about how well they deal with adversity in general, and how quickly they adapt to change.
Questions to wrap up the interview
- Can I provide any other information?
- Do you have any other questions for me?
- What are the next steps from here?
- Could I get your email address or business card? However this turns out, it'd be great to keep in touch in some way. I really enjoyed this conversation!
Always close with wrap-up questions like these to make sure that you’ve answered all of the interviewer’s questions and provided the information he or she needs. Asking about the next steps will give you an idea of what to expect and when to anticipate a decision from the hiring manager.
Thoughts in closing
Interviewing for a job can be nerve wracking, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little preparation and forethought, you’ll have great questions to ask at your next interview so you can knock the hiring manager’s socks off.