“What questions do you have for me?” Most job interviews include this question, and it’s important to ask good questions, even in an HR phone interview or video screening. However, the interviewer may not know much about the job you’ll be doing, so what’s left to ask them about?
Plenty. Their answers can provide unique perspectives on the company and the team you’re interested in joining. Later, compare their viewpoints with those of the hiring manager (the person who would be your boss). You may learn something important from the differences as well as the common themes.
First, do your homework.
The first step is to do your homework. Research the company online, and through word of mouth if possible, as soon as you apply. This will enable you to ask much better questions in the screening, which could occur almost immediately and without notice. Then create a list of your top 10 questions, drawing from the list below as well as your own research and interests, and keep it handy at all times, along with the job posting and your resume.
Prioritize the questions so you can ask the most important ones first, because the interviewer probably won’t have time to answer them all. Use your social intuition to judge when it’s time to smile and say, “I have more questions, but I don’t want to keep you all day. I can ask them in the next interview.”
Asking the right questions says a lot about you.
Don’t ask, yet, about benefits, salary, time off and so on, unless if they bring it up. Demonstrate your motivation and interest in what you can do for the company, not what they can do for you. You can find out more about the money and perks once you’ve got a written offer in your hands, when you’re in a much better position to negotiate.
Asking the right questions–and not the wrong ones–will not only help you decide whether you want the job, but may well influence whether you move forward. Your questions reflect your judgment, critical thinking skills and level of interest in the role.
Questions to ask HR about the company:
- “How did you join this company? What makes you stay?” (A good icebreaking question for getting rapport.)
- “I’ve read some descriptions online about this company’s culture, but I’d be interested in your own perspective on that. How is the culture here different from other companies?”
- “If this company were a person, what kind of a person would it be?” (Say this question with a smile; it’s a bit quirky but may get a more revealing answer than a direct question about company culture.)
- “What’s ahead for this company in the next five years?”
- “How does this company provide opportunities for training and advancement?”
- “How would you describe work-life balance in this company and in (target department)?”
- “What are the greatest strengths of this company? And since no company is perfect, what could be improved upon?”
Questions to ask HR about your target department:
- “What do you think other departments admire about (target department)?”
- “Can you give me examples of recognition people in (target department) have received?”
- “What kind of person succeeds on that team?”
- “Will I have an opportunity to meet my prospective co-workers during the interview process?”
- “What’s the structure and hierarchy in the department?”
Questions to ask HR about the hiring manager (your prospective boss):
- “Who is the hiring manager?”
- “How would you describe his/her management style?”
- “What do you think is the key to working effectively with (hiring manager)?”
Questions to ask HR about your target role:
- “What positions have people moved to from this role, either within the company or elsewhere?”
- “Is this a new position? If so, given that it’s not easy to find the budget for a new position, what need was great enough to require it?”
- “If it’s not a new position, may I ask what the previous person moved on to?” (Note: Ask this instead of asking why that person left, which would put the interviewer in a difficult position. That said, how they answer the recommended question may provide clues about a possible issue.)
- “What is the biggest challenge the team has faced in the past year?”
Questions to ask HR about your candidacy:
- “Now that we’ve gotten acquainted, I wonder what you see as my greatest strengths relevant to this role. What advantage do you think I have?”
- “If I could change anything about myself to make me a better fit for the company and the position, what would it be?”
- “Is there any reason you would not recommend me for the next round of interviews?”
- “How many other candidates are there at this point?”
- “What are the next steps in this process?”
- “When should I expect to hear back from you?”
- “What would be a good day for me to follow up?”
Beyond generic questions:
All of the questions above are generic; they could be asked by nearly any candidate. Do some thinking about questions you could ask specific to your industry or occupation. For example, if you’re interviewing for a customer-facing role, asking about the company’s customer experience philosophy is a good idea. Of course you will have already researched that, but your interviewer may offer a less formal take on it, which could give you useful insights.
Choosing the best questions to ask in the HR interview can make a big difference in how well you understand what you’re getting into, discovering what other questions you want to ask going forward, and making it more likely that you’ll move forward and get the job.