This is one question that you can almost guarantee getting at your interview. This frequently under-utilized opportunity allows you both to find out a bit more about the job, as well as continue to impress the interviewer.
In fact, if you don’t ask any questions, the interviewer may be worried that you are not genuinely interested in the job. Many candidates just don’t seem to realize that an interview works both ways – the interviewer wants to find out if you would fit in well, but also, and at least equally important as far as you are concerned – you need to find out if you will enjoy working there. Asking good questions makes you look engaged, intelligent and interested, and places you squarely ahead of the competition.
Here are 10 questions to help you stand out.
1. What do you like about working here?
This question provides a great opportunity to delve a bit deeper into the company culture. It also allows you to find out more about the interviewer. It is usually a fairly easy question for the interviewer to answer and can help you understand what motivates the hirer. It can also be piggy backed from to other questions and building a bond between you and the interviewer, as you express an interest in the things they are saying.
2. How do you do [insert task] here?
Asking this simple but insightful question can help you to understand how the company works on a very practical level. It can give insight to process and culture and “the way we do things around here”. While the question is basic it will help you to understand all kinds of factors related to the job such as time frames, resources, team working (or lack of it), collaboration and the likely expectations of your manager. The question provides the opportunity for the interviewer to provide you with straightforward information about how you might imagine your days to be spent.
3. What do you like/not like about the people who work for/with you?
If you ask about what the interviewer (your potential boss) likes about their favorite employees, it helps you to determine if you have these same traits or not. It will help you to better understand if you will fit in naturally. It is best to be honest with yourself about this one. This question also provides you with behaviors to display and avoid if you do get the job.
4. What do you delegate to your team?
The interviewer’s response to this can give you all kind of information about their style of working as well as any opportunities that might come your way if you take the job. It will also give you an idea of the types of tasks that you might expect to do, from a very practical perspective. If the person struggles to answer this question it may indicate that they are not very good at delegating, and this might not be attractive to you, in a job, if you are hoping to have lots of new opportunities coming your way.
5. What happens here when something doesn’t run according to plan or goes wrong?
This question offers insight into the company’s culture. It answers other ancillary questions that you cannot directly ask, but which may be important, e.g.: “Is there a blame culture?” The best answers to this question focus on how people work together collaboratively to fix the problem and preventing it from happening again, rather than, for example, finding out who was the cause of it. Asking this will also lead you to understand how much scope you may have in the job to take a risk, or to learn from mistakes, and how well the situation will be tolerated (or not) if a mistake is made.
6. What are the most important characteristics you are looking for in the right person for this job?
In response to this question you are hoping not just for a repeat of the essential and desired experience listed in the job advertisement, but rather, the key attributes that the interviewer is specifically looking for, the priority of which can sometimes be hard to determine from the job advertisement and interview. Directly following this question, if it feels appropriate to do so, you can highlight how you have these characteristics, but it may be better still to write to the interviewer following your meeting and emphasize how you demonstrate all of these qualities, as well as thanking them for the interview and reinforcing your interest in the job, following the interview.
7. When was the last time someone from your team was promoted, and how did this come about?
Asking a question along these lines will help you to understand how frequently promotion opportunities are available so that you can determine if this fits with your ideal time frames. It may also be useful in understanding what types of promotion may be open to you. Not only this, but it will provide helpful information about how people get promoted – for example, do they get promoted through recognition for hard work, or do they apply for positions? How hard do they have to push to get promoted or is there a process that is followed? On what basis are people promoted? All of this can be used to compare to your needs of a new company and make sure the organization is a good fit for you.
8. How would you describe your management style?
While no manager is going to openly or knowingly admit to having poor people management skills, the interviewer may still make comments that indicate that they might not be the best boss for you. You could pick up on points that you feel uncomfortable with. For example, if the interviewer says that they like to be involved in the detail of what is going on in the team, this could indicate that they micro manage their staff. In that case, you could ask something about how they delegate to double check on this potentially difficult behavior. The answer will also probably provide you with some level of detail on how they collaborate with their team members and what their expectations of you are likely to be, including how much support you may expect from them (or not).
9. How are decisions made in this team?
Providing another different insight into both company culture and management style of the person that is interviewing you, the answer to this question should help you to understand if your working style will gel well at this organization. If the person says that they make all the decisions, you might ask if they seek input from others first. If not, this may be a place where employee feedback is not highly valued, which might be frustrating if you like to have a say.
10. Given my performance in this interview, are there any weaknesses in my application?
A bold question to ask, the answer can nonetheless be invaluable in helping you to reinforce and solidify your application by handling any perceived weaknesses that the interviewer raises. This question provides an opportunity to remove any doubt that may exist in the interviewer’s mind.
Other excellent questions that may generate enlightening responses and impress the interviewer may include:
- What are your expectations for this company over the upcoming few years?
- How does this company make strategic decisions?
- What is this company’s biggest problem right now?
- How do you work with your team to deliver projects?
- How do you work with other departments to deliver projects?
- How is performance management handled in this organization? (How and when will I be reviewed?)
- How does this team fit into the company?
- How might I help your team meet your goals?
- How can I meet and exceed your expectations of me?
- What do you think are your (or your team’s) key strengths that you bring to this organization?
- What are the key strengths of this company in this industry, in your opinion?
- What does this team do really well?
- How will this company win market share from its competitors?
- Why is this job opportunity open? (What happened to the last person)
- What is a typical day like, working in this team?
- What types of tasks do you anticipate me doing over the first few weeks?
- What do you like/not like about working for this organization?
- Will I get an opportunity to meet my new boss/my new team?
- What opportunities exist for advancement and/or promotion?
Useful concluding questions that make sure that you have covered everything off include:
- Is there anything else I can tell you about me?
- What happens next in the interview process?
Questions to never, never ask in a job interview situation
Equally important are the questions not to ask. These can make you memorable in the kind of way that you don’t want. If you ask any of these types of questions, your name may well be struck from the list. All of these suggest you to be a less than favorable employee:
- What will my salary be?
- Do I get a company car? Do I get X or Y benefit?
- When can I take vacation?
- How soon will I be promoted?
- Are the hours flexible?
- Can I work from home or telecommute?
- What does this organization do?
- So, have I got the job?
- Is Facebook blocked in the office? Is internet use monitored?
- I heard that X person is leaving because of Y…is that true?
- Are you married? (or other personal questions about the interviewer)
The “your questions” section of an interview are frequently an underused opportunity to shine. If you apply the suggestions here, you’ll be able to not only add additional bonus points to your application, but also you’ll be able to determine if the organization and job is a good fit for you at this time. Don’t miss this golden opportunity by being unprepared!