There’s a highly predictable opportunity at the end of every interview that you should take steps to prepare for. It’s the moment when the interviewer turns to you and says: “Do you have any questions for me/us?” Preparing some strategic questions for the interviewer not only helps you to stand out but can also help you to gather important information that will help you determine whether the role is a good fit for you. Here some career experts offer advice on the best questions to ask in an interview.
Top 10 Questions to Ask in an Interview
Jim Dickinson, PhD, is assistant vice president for Career Services at Loyola University Maryland. Prior to taking on this role, he served in several consulting and leadership positions in the talent management space, including at Johns Hopkins Health System where he trained managers on best practices for hiring strong employees.
“One of my favorite pieces of advice for candidates on questions to ask is to reference something the came across in their research on the company,” says Dickinson. “If the candidate starts by mentioning the company’s annual report or a recent news article, it’s sure to get the interviewer’s attention,” he says. “First, it shows them that you’ve been doing your homework, not just on their website, but by doing more in-depth research. Second, it demonstrates your interest in learning about the company more than asking me-focused questions like ‘When would I start?’ or ‘How soon am I eligible for a promotion?’.” He offers a couple of specific examples:
- “I noticed in your annual report that community engagement is a major priority for your company. How have you or your colleagues been involved in these opportunities?”
- “I read about your new line of business in X publication. How will the Information Technology department’s work priorities change in the coming months to support this move?”
Adriana Llames is CEO of XecuCoach and has coached more than 3000 clients on interviewing. These are the top three questions she recommends that they ask in an interview, and why:
- “What one piece of advice do you have for the person coming into this position?” This question provides insight into how to hit the ground running be it objectives, culture or environment, says Llames.
- “Six months from now how will you know you hired the right person?” The answer to this question identifies what to focus on in the first 180 days of the new job, says Llames. It also clarifies for the candidate if the company is organized, goal-oriented and has a clear vision for how to measure success in their new position.
- “What are the top three challenges facing the company, and this division, right now and how can this position help address them?” Asking this question tells the employer you’re focused on them as a company, their strategic goals and objectives, and are looking to add to the company, the division and the team as well as contribute individually, regardless of level, Llames says.
That focus on the challenges and desired outcomes for the position you’re applying form sends a clear message to recruiters, HR professionals and talent managers that you are concerned about providing value to the organization and interested in knowing how you will be able to make a measurable impact while on the job.
Dan Clay, a career strategist and the author of How to Write the Perfect Resume, offers some additional recommended questions designed to convey a strong focus on performance outcomes:
- “What are the most important skills that someone in this job needs to be successful?” Understanding the skills that lead to success in the role you’re interviewing for will help you determine whether or not the role may be a good fit, says Clay. “It’s usually a more effective strategy to leverage and build on strengths you already have rather than try to correct and develop any weaknesses, so it helps to know which camp you’ll likely fall into should you land the role,” he says.
- “How will my goals and objectives be set for this role, who sets them and how often?” Your success is only as good as the people defining it, says Clay. “You want to make sure that the people doing the goal-setting are approaching it in a fair, equitable way that won’t leave you out in the cold. Asking this question will also position you as someone who’s goal-oriented, which employers always like to see,” Clay says.
- “What’s important to know about this role that isn’t mentioned in the job description?” Clay says: “I love this question simply because of how open-ended it is. When you ask it, you never quite know what you’re going to get. Your interviewer might be inclined to share something he otherwise wouldn’t and give you information that most candidates would never receive. Of course, you could get the standard corporate-speak, but it’s worth rolling the dice to find out.”
- “How does the company recognize and award outstanding performance?” The subtext of this question is actually more important than the words in the question itself, says Clay. It says, “I plan on being a top performer here. How will I be awarded for that?” This positions you as hungry and ambitious, someone who cares about being the best and is willing to put in the hard work to make it happen.
- “If you could change one thing about this company, what would it be?” Part of being interviewed is being subjected to your interviewer trying to sell you on why her company is a great place to work, Clay says. “This question can help you get past the canned fluff and uncover potentially concerning aspects of the company that could affect your decision to work there.”
Coming Up With Your Own Questions for the Interviewer
The questions above are a good starting point as you prepare for a job interview. But you should also consider more specific questions based on your career objectives and the industry, and company, you are applying to. Doing thorough research prior to the job interview can help you to position yourself as a top candidate. That research should naturally lead to some insightful questions that can help you make a very positive impact.