The following list will give you ideas about what to ask for two purposes: to find out what you need to know, and also to impress the interviewer as a smart and seriously interested candidate.
The best questions accomplish the following:
- Lead to information you’re sincerely interested in knowing.
- Show a strong interest in the company and/or the work.
- Demonstrate good judgment and communication skills.
- Show you’ve done your homework.
- Sound friendly and optimistic more than skeptical (which is largely a matter of your body language).
Examples of smart questions to ask the interviewer
About the company and the department:
- What’s ahead for this company in the next five years, and how does this department fit into that?
- What is this department’s most urgent priority in the next (three or six) months?
- What makes this department successful?
(Remember to do your own research first. Referring to what you already know can make your question more intelligent and interesting.)
About the manager (for clues about how you’ll like working with him/her):
- What are some good ideas you’ve gotten from your direct reports, and how did they make a difference?
- What kind of person fits best with your management style?
- How would you and I work together to make me successful in this role?
About the position:
- What are the most crucial skills and strengths you need from the person in this position?
- What would a very successful year look like for this company, and how will this position help achieve those goals?
- Is this a new position? If not, what did the previous employee move on to?
About expectations and evaluation:
- How will my performance be reviewed, and when does that occur?
- What is the highest priority for the person in this role to achieve in the next six months?
- If you were to hire me now, and a year from now give me a stellar performance review, what will I have done to earn it?
- Assuming someone has proven to be ready for more responsibility, what are the career paths in this department?
- What are the opportunities for training and development within this position?
- How much assistance are employees given in developing their careers here?
About your strengths and weaknesses as a candidate:
- Now that we’ve talked a while, what do you see as my greatest strengths for this position?
- On the other hand, do you have any concerns, or is there anything you see as an area for growth?
- If I could add/change anything about myself and my experience to make me a better fit for the position and the company, what would it be?
About a question that you’re not sure how to respond to:
- Before I answer that, may I ask you…
About the next steps:
- What are the next steps in the process?
- I’d like to give you a call next week to check in and offer any additional information that might be helpful. Is there a good day for me to do that?
- What can I do to prove to you that I’m the right person for this job?
If you’ve made it to the C-level interview, read my blog post on questions to ask the CEO.
How many questions should you ask at the end of the interview?
Anyone should have at least two or three questions to ask, and most people – especially for higher-ranking jobs – should plan on asking more. It’s a good idea to bring a list or 10 or so. You probably shouldn’t ask them all, but you need that many options in case some of the questions are answered earlier in the meeting. Never get stuck having to say “No, I don’t have any questions – you’ve answered them all already.”
As you’re choosing your questions, say them aloud. If you stumble over the words or feel awkward, the question may not be right for you, or maybe you need to re-word it to fit your own style and situation. Prepare your questions just as carefully as your answers!
For a more complete list of good questions to ask in your job interview, see Chapter 9 of Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview.