8 Questions to Ask Your Interviewer That Will Make Your Candidacy Stand Out

A job candidate asks the interviewer questions about the company culture and position responsibilities

Almost every interview ends the same way—with the interview asking the applicant if they have any questions. This exchange is pivotal. By asking questions strategically, you can learn more about the organization and determine how to support their goals. If an employer has any remaining concerns, you can address them at this time and potentially reposition those qualities as assets. It’s also an opportunity to engage with the interviewer candidly, setting the tone for all your future communications on a personal level.

If you’re preparing for an interview, create a list of at least 3-4 questions you can ask at the end of the appointment. The following list includes a few question samples to help you get started. Take these as inspiration and be prepared to respond and adjust according to the rapport you develop with your interviewer and the culture of the company.

What Should You Ask an Employer During a Job Interview?

1. What would you like me to accomplish in the first six months?

This question works well because of its specificity. Understanding the answer will also help you determine if you’re a good fit for the position and should help you understand the workload expectations.

2. What is the average tenure of your workforce?

Matthew Ross, cofounder and COO at The Slumber Yard, recommends asking this question to understand if employees are generally happy with the company culture.

Two businessmen meet for a job interview3. What performance milestones would lead to a bonus or promotion?

Sarah Stamboulie, career consultant and executive coach, suggests asking this question because:

  • It will help you determine the scope of the position and its responsibilities.
  • It shows that you’re dedicated to going above the employer’s expectations.

A similar approach is to ask, “What does success look like in this role? How are those outcomes measured?” This tactic is slightly less assertive but might be more appropriate if there have been recent pay freezes or financial downturns.

Learn about Sarah’s advanced interviewing tips in a free Ivy Exec webinar

4. What’s instrumental to your organization that an outside person wouldn’t know about?

Most interviewers are prepared to answer a standard repertoire of questions, which can make it difficult for candidates to uncover information that’s unrehearsed. This question is about the interviewer’s personal experiences and therefore could yield results that are candid. It will likely disrupt the interviewer’s routine and force them to think about the conversation in a new light—which also makes your interaction more memorable.

5. How do I compare to the person who last filled this position?

The employer’s answer to this question could give insight into their priorities, which you can use to better position your candidacy.

6. What makes this company unique/special/different?

This question aims to reveal information about the interviewer’s personal experience with the company and can help them relax and open up to you. Pay special attention to the nonverbal cues—does the interviewer appear positive and happy about these differences, or are they withholding?

7. Ask a question that’s specific to the business.

Jim Dickinson, PhD, assistant vice president for Career Services at Loyola University Maryland, says to reference a piece of research that goes beyond the employer’s website. Here are some examples from Dickinson:

“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?”

These examples not only show that you’ve taken the time to prepare for the interview, but they also demonstrate investment in the organization’s objectives. By discussing points that are specific to the employer and not just in relation to yourself or your candidacy, you’ll appear team-oriented and committed to the big picture.

8. Is there anything about my background or resume that concerns you?

This question gives you an opportunity to address any of the employer’s concerns before the end of the interview. Before the interview begins, look at your application materials and try to anticipate any potential weaknesses in your candidacy.

Watch out for these 4 red flags during the job interview

A businesswoman works at her desk and smiles softly, thinking about the futureWhen you ask an interviewer questions, try to be conscientious of the time and natural cadence of the conversation. After 20 minutes or so, thank the interviewer for their time and give them a polite exit. For example, you might say, “I’ve really enjoyed talking with you about [insert topic], but I want to be respectful of your time.”

At this point, the interviewer can close the meeting if they need to move on to other tasks. This strategy shows self-awareness and emotional intelligence that the interviewer will appreciate. Anything you can do to inspire goodwill helps to support your case—after all, most interviewers are evaluating not just your qualifications but also if they want to continue working with you as a colleague.

The most important thing to remember during a job interview is to be other-centric—most of your questions should center around the employer’s needs. If you prove you’re genuinely interested in the organization and their mission, you stand a better chance of receiving a favorable offer. Not all of these questions will fit every interview, but they should give you a good idea of how to ask unique questions that will make your candidacy memorable and your chances stronger.

To learn more about preparing for an interview, check out Ivy Exec’s job search column. Or, if you’re ready to have a practice interview, work with a coach one-on-one.

Need to prepare for an upcoming interview? Get matched with a Career Coach who can prep you!

About the Author

Rachel Lake is a writer and editor in New York City. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. To get in touch with Rachel, contact her on LinkedIn.