It’s a familiar ritual at the end of a job interview, when the interviewer asks, “What questions do you have for me?”  Many candidates freeze as they were so intently focused on answering the questions that they have not thought about what to ask when they get a chance to do so.

As much as it is essential to answer both the standard interview questions as well as the inane interview questions, the opportunity for the job candidate to ask questions is fantastic for more than one reason.

Why ask questions in an interview?

  1. It is an opportunity to clarify your burning questions.
  2. It is another way you can showcase your knowledge and intellect by asking intelligent questions.
  3. You can make a strong last impression at the end of the interview session

The essential factor for success in asking the right questions in an interview – as you may have rightly guessed – is preparation.  You should not leave things to chance and mumble through an incoherent question. Instead, browse through the following top questions to ask in an interview. Prepare for what questions to ask for in an interview, but don’t just shoot them off verbatim but tailor the question based on the context, the prior discussion, and what you might genuinely want to know about the job and the employer.

What type of questions to ask in an interview?

Below you will find a list of top questions to ask in an interview.  But, in general, the questions should be open-ended and be able to elicit more than a yes or no answer from the recruiter or the hiring manager. Also, avoid questions that you should know or can find out easily from public sources.

Broadly, the questions a job applicant should ask in an interview range from the following subject areas.

Ask questions about the Job: For example, a good question may be, “While I am generally familiar with the position based on your job description, can you describe the day in the life of the <role name>?”

Ask questions about the Company: Go beyond simple questions that you may find by Googling. For example, “I have read news articles about your digital transformation program. If I may, how is the transformation progressing and what stage are you?”

Ask questions about the Process:  You can ask questions about the interview process, such as, “Assuming today goes well, what are the next steps in the interview process?”

Ask questions about the Interviewer (without crossing the “personal” line):  Don’t ask any question that is deeply personal or crosses a line. For example, a question like “Based on your LinkedIn profile, it seems you have joined <ABCD Company> a year ago. How has been your experience thus far?” is perfectly valid and encourages the interviewer to talk about their own experience.

How many questions should you ask in an interview?

The number of questions you, as the candidate, may be able to ask will be dependant on a variety of factors, including how much time do you have.  And, remember it is more than quantity – the goal of candidate questions is to demonstrate curiosity and engage the interviewer in a conversation.  So, don’t fire off a dozen questions in rapid succession.  It is important to note that you don’t need 50 or 100 questions to ask in an interview – all you need is about a dozen good ideas in your back pocket that you can pull out based on the context and the specific nature of how the interview went to that point.

Now, let’s dive deeper into the top questions to ask in an interview and why those questions make sense.

Top Questions to Ask in an Interview (and why the question makes sense):

  • Top Questions to Ask in an Interview “What does a typical day in the life of <position name> look like?” (The question goes to the heart of what you will doing in that role and is an open-ended question that will elicit more than one-word answer.)
  • “In your perspective, what would be the profile of an ideal candidate for the position?” (Early in the interview process, this question can help as a treasure map as the hiring manager or the recruiter will be describing their ideal candidate. And knowing that allows you to tailor your responses and approach to be as close to the ideal candidate as possible.)
  • “What skills and competencies will a person need to be successful in this role?” (As with the previous question this goes to the heart of what will make someone successful in a role and will allow you to match the skills and competency profile. Furthermore, this question will portray your confidence that you are looking beyond the interview process and thinking about success in the job.)
  • “Can you share some example activities and work projects you may assign the person in this role? (The question shows your curiosity to understand the role better and again will you improve your understanding of the role and present yourself as an expert in the types of activities and the projects the interviewer may point out.)
  • “What will be the biggest challenges one must deal with in this role?” (Again, the question is a reflection of your desire to look beyond the interview process and understand the obstacles to overcome to be successful in the position. Again, the interviewers’ response can help you demonstrate your experience and expertise in facing similar challenges.)
  • “How do you evaluate employee performance in this role? What factors do you take into consideration?” (The question has two benefits – one is that you will get to know how the performance evaluation process works. Secondly, it also shows your self-confidence as you are thinking about job performance, not just about how to ace the interview.)
  • “What would you want the employee in this role to accomplish in the first 30-days, 100-days, and the first year?” (How the hiring manager answers this question will help you understand the expectations of the role and can be a determinant on pursuing the job opportunity. For example, if the expectations are too stringent, you may not want the job.  Or on the other hand, if there are no clear expectations, it may not bode well as well if you are counting on your superior performance to drive your career trajectory.)
  • “There are a lot of challenges facing the <XYZ> industry. How have you been dealing with such trends and what are your plans to address them over the next several years?” (This question is a great way to establish your credentials and knowledge of the industry. The answer to the interviewer can help you position yourself as someone who can help with the general trends and factors driving the industry in general and the company in particular.)
  • “Where do you see the company in five years from now?” (An open-ended question that sheds light on the company’s future strategy and can be a great spark for how you position yourself as a contributor to the future.)
  • “Can you shed some light on the team that I will be a part of?” (The answer to this question will clarify the structure and team dynamics which you can use to your advantage in future stages of the hiring process.)
  • “How long have you been with the company and how your role has changed over the years?” (The enthusiasm and excitement with which the hiring manager answers this question may be a reflection of the company and may influence how you feel about joining the company.)
  • “What does the reporting structure look like? Who will I be reporting into and who will be my direct reports?” (It helps to know more about the job and the up and down reporting structure provides valuable information about the relative importance of the position.)
  • “What is a typical career progression for this role?” (Understanding what’s next in your career progression is an important consideration for taking the role.)
  • “Can you help me understand the company and the team culture?” (While it is unlikely that the interviewer would say something openly such as “the company culture is toxic,” you can read between the lines and look for subtle hints that may be warning signs.)
  • “Can you tell me a bit about the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts?” (Research has reinforced that diverse workplaces perform better. But there is a shift between just being diverse and being inclusive. Understanding the D&I efforts will help you make a judgment call about the company, and its commitments and plans.)
  • “What type of training and development opportunities does the firm provide?” (The answer to this questions sheds on light on how the company values its existing human resources and provides opportunities for growth.)
  • “What are the next steps in the interview process?” (A process questions that helps you understand the steps and stages in the recruiting journey.)

And now to the questions, you should NOT ask in an interview:

While the conventional wisdom is no question is a stupid question, in a job interview situation there are indeed questions that don’t fly well, and you should avoid asking them.  For example, don’t ask a question such as: “You are a senior manager as well, the same level I am applying. So, what do your salary and bonus look like?”.  And whatever vibes you feel you are getting, don’t ask, “So, what are you doing Friday night? Up for a drink?”

Now you know the top questions to ask in an interview. Ask them judiciously and adjust to the circumstances.  Remember, asking the right questions is as relevant and as significant an opportunity as answering the interview questions.

Onward and Upward.

Please share your ideas on other top questions to ask in an interview.



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