When you’re prepping for an interview, you’re generally focused on what questions you’ll be asked and how best to respond. Because of this, many interviewees aren’t ready when the tables turn and it’s their time to ask the questions. You’d be surprised by the number of candidates don’t ask anything at all, either because they’re too nervous to come up with something on the spot, or because they simply don’t know what questions to ask in an interview.
If your interview goes well, you’re going to be spending forty (or more) hours a week working for this company – understand that you’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you!
Often, candidates worry about what to ask, concerned that their inquiries may seem demanding or needy. In the moment, it can be hard to verbalize the questions you have, so we’ve created a list of the 15 best questions to use when it’s your turn to do the asking. These questions will impress your potential employer and help you figure out whether or not the position is right for you.
What’s the timeline for the next steps?
This gets right into what you really want to know – how soon are they looking to make a decision about a candidate? Make sure you understand when you can expect to hear back from the recruiter.
What would a typical day or week look like in this position?
Sometimes, job descriptions mention a combination of different types of duties. It’s important that you understand how your time would be split if you were to be hired. You may find out that a responsibility that you were excited about is only necessary once a year, or that there’s much more administrative work than you initially thought.
A lot of interviewers will respond with, “Every day is different here.” While that might be the case, feel free to ask a follow-up question: “What took up most of the time for the last person in this role?”
How would you describe the culture in the office?
Culture is an important factor in your decision since you’ll be spending a lot of time in the office. If you’re a lover of structure and the interviewer describes their office as very laid-back, you might want to consider other options.
Understanding the type of environment you’ll be working in is essential. Your goal should be to know what you’re signing up for so there aren’t unpleasant surprises after you start.
What type of people thrive here?
Listen carefully to the answer the interviewer gives you. You should feel like they’re describing you, or at least mentioning a lot of qualities that you possess. If the answer you were given sounds like the exact opposite of you, it could be time to pursue other employment options.
What are business hours?
This is often an overlooked question, even though it’s an important one! Some businesses are open 8-5, others 9-5, etc. If you’re used to a late start or flexible hours, accepting a position that requires you to be in the office bright and early might be a bit of an adjustment. Everyone has a different idea of what’s normal, so make sure you’re on the same page as the interviewer.
What kind of software does the company use?
Before asking this question, make sure it wasn’t already discussed in your interview. If it wasn’t, go ahead and ask what kind of software systems the company, or department, use. Familiar with their systems? Now’s a great time to share that information with the interviewer. If you’re not, make a note of the name of the system and research it when you get home.
How would you measure the success of the person in this position?
This is another important question because it gets right to the heart of what you need to know about the job. Pay careful attention to the answer, it should tell you what you’ll need to achieve in order to make your manager happy with your performance.
This is an especially important question if the job description lists varying responsibilities. You may find out that the description needs to be updated and only five out of the ten things listed are truly important to the role. Or, you may learn that the manager and director have different priorities and expectations, which is good to know ahead of time!
If the interviewer doesn’t seem sure what success looks like in the position, be wary. This might be a sign of poor management.
What are some of the challenges of the role?
The insight you’ll gain from this question is something you’d never get from reading a job description. Most interviewers won’t share the worst aspects of the position with you, but you might be able to read between the lines of their answers.
If they mention a challenge similar to one you’ve faced in the past, take the opportunity to talk briefly about your experience and success.
How long did the previous person hold this role?
Remember what we said earlier about you interviewing the company? This question will give you a real look into the culture and turnover within a company.
Sometimes, things simply don’t work out. So, if you hear that one person left after a short period of time, don’t be too concerned. However, if there seems to be a pattern of short-timers, that could be cause for alarm. An interviewer that tries to avoid answering, or is very vague, may also be a red flag.
High turnover can indicate a lack of training, bad management, unrealistic expectations for achievement, or another deep-rooted issue.
Do you have a sense of what has led to the high turnover?
As we discussed above, high-turnover can signal serious issues within an organization. If the interviewer seems to be open to discussing the situation in depth, feel free to dig a bit deeper into the issue.
Something as simple as a recent change in management could explain the turnover. Give the interviewer a chance to explain before jumping to your own conclusions.
What are you hoping this person will accomplish in the first 3, 6, and 12 months on the job?
This question will give you a sense of management’s expectations and the learning curve you’ll be expected to have in the role. Make note of any milestones that are mentioned. If you’re coming in with a lot of experience, you might be expected to make major achievements in the first few months.
Alternatively, you may learn that the first few months will be spent on training. If you’re the kind of person who loves to dive in and get to work immediately, this could be a red flag for you.
This question can lead to a longer conversation about training or upcoming projects.
What are the top skills someone would need to be successful in this role?
This may have been covered in your interview, but if it wasn’t, make sure to ask! A good way to lead into this question is to say, “From reading the job description and listening to your explanation of the role, I think organization, time management, and strong negotiation skills are necessary to be successful in the role. Are there any other skills you feel are vitally important to someone’s success in the position?”
By starting off with your own observation, you show the interviewer your ability to think independently, rather than relying on others for answers. Make a note of the skills the interviewer mentions and use them when writing your follow-up thank you note.
How many people are in the department?
Whether the organization is large or small, it’s always a good idea to understand what type of environment you’re walking into.
Are there any projects you’d like someone to tackle immediately after being hired?
If the position has been vacant for a while, there might be projects that need to be started immediately once someone’s been hired. By asking this question, you’ll gain insight into what your day to day responsibilities could look like for the first few months and learn about key projects that otherwise might not have been mentioned.
When it’s your turn to do the asking, make your questions count. If there’s something you really want to know about the position, ask it! Often, candidates come up with questions after their interview. While asking one or two questions in your follow-up email is acceptable, preparing beforehand will ensure that you don’t forget something important.
We made things easy for you! Download our list of questions, print them, and bring them with you to your interview.
Now that you have a handy arsenal of questions for the interviewer, check out our articles on 10 Common Interview Questions and What Not to Say in an Interview.