An interview is a two-way street. Sure, as the candidate, you prepare to be asked about yourself, your experience, your aspirations, your interests and so on. However, the interviewer is looking for you to ask questions too – and the “right” questions. Don’t ask about what the company does (you should have done your research ahead of time) or about how much vacation time you will get.
The interviewer will want to feel like your questions show interest in the role as well as a competency surrounding the business as a whole and, of course, engagement in the interview. The questions below will help you stand out from other candidates in the interview process.
Pro tip: Do not wait until the end of the interview to ask your questions. Allow the conversation to flow naturally from topic to topic. If one of your questions is relevant to the subject being discussed, don’t hesitate to ask it. This helps the interview develop organically and better builds rapport with your interviewer.
Why did you join the company, or what do you like best about working at the company?
Asking a couple questions for the interviewer to answer personally and give their own opinion will provide insight into how they really feel about the company. Not only does it encourage the interviewer to talk about their personal experience (which most people like to do), but you can determine the company’s employee relations strengths based on the answers. For example, if the interviewer answers that the health benefits are the best part of working at the company, it may mean the company culture leaves something to be desired. Answers that call out a purpose for the work or genuine quality about daily work, like collaboration among team members, are signs of a positive work environment.
How would you describe the company culture, or how would you rate the company for living up to its values?
In doing your research, you can typically get an understanding of the company culture, especially if you look on social media. Most companies these days have areas of their website dedicated to sharing this information with candidates. However, it is nice to hear how someone who works in the company every day describes it. Additionally, company values are readily available on the website or other employer branding material, but you are asking how the employer lives up to those values. How the interviewer evaluates the company on each of its values will give you a greater insight into the work environment.
How does this role further the company mission, and what are the role’s biggest challenges?
These questions show that you are already envisioning yourself in the role, which instills confidence in the interviewer that you can perform the duties expected. Asking about how your actions will affect the company overall points to a need to contribute to the organization on a higher level – that you care more about your own paycheck. You should look for the interviewer to explicitly name one or two challenges with the role; every position will have its obstacles. It is a red flag if the response is, “There are no major challenges.” There may be a more significant issue that they are trying to avoid discussing if you’re not getting any specific insight.
How will you measure success in this position, and what has been the point of differentiation of success in the past?
Of course, you want to know how you are going to be evaluated, but this is so often not discussed during the interview process. Particularly, you should ask about a timeline for significant milestones. If the interviewer mentioned that they expect the website to be redesigned by the incoming marketing manager, your follow-up inquiry should be around deadlines. Do they expect this work in 90 days, six months or within the first year? This example question will give you a good idea of general expectations and if you can meet them. Knowing the timelines will allow you to understand accomplishments and plan how you can achieve them. Asking about what has impressed the interviewer about performance in the past will enable you to compare your abilities and determine if you have those qualities. It will also let you in on whether the hiring manager has ever been happy with the performance of the previous employees in the role.
Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?
Typically, you should not ask too many questions about yourself. It may make you look like that is your only main concern. But this question is an exception. It puts you in a vulnerable position but shows the interviewer that you are confident enough to discuss any potential weaknesses. You can talk about how you can overcome any of the hesitations they list. Give examples to prove you are capable, and if it is not something you have done before, explain how you plan to improve in that area.
Remember, an interview is just as much for you to determine if you would be happy in the role as it is a chance for the interviewer to determine if you are the perfect candidate for the position. Therefore, think accordingly and ask away!