The more you can think of an interview as a conversation rather than an inquisition, the better. One of the best ways to do this is by asking thoughtful, smart questions.
If you respond to your interviewer’s invite to answer questions with, “You’ve already covered everything” or “No, I really don’t have any,” you risk appearing uninterested. So when an interviewer asks, “What questions do you have for me today?”, be ready!
Start With a List of More Than You Need
To demonstrate your interest and instill confidence that you’re a worthy candidate, create a list of more questions than you need—around 8-10—just in case some are answered during the interview. Plan on asking just your top 3-4 to avoid bombarding your interviewer. Categorize your questions for easy reference, and always keep in mind timing, job level, and interview format, because not all questions work in all situations at all times.
Here are some to get you started:
- Other than what I can gather online about the company values and culture, how would you describe the company culture? This reinforces that you’ve done your research and know about the culture, but you’re looking for the subtleties that only an insider can share. Does (s)he struggle with the question? Then maybe there isn’t a strong culture or perhaps there’s a lack of cohesiveness among groups in the company. (If the company culture is famous for certain things, then it may be best to stick with questions related to the position itself.)
- What traits are valued here? or Who succeeds here? This gives you a glimpse into the skills and behaviors the organization values. Note whether you’d thrive or wither based on what (s)he describes.
- Where do you see this company in the next 3-5 years? Find out where the company is headed and where you fit into the bigger picture.
Make sure you’ve fully dissected the job description so you’re not asking for information that is obvious. For example, if you ask about the nature of the work, and you know it’s a hands-on role, then it could raise a red flag for the interviewer.
- What are the priorities to accomplish in the first few months?
- What is the single most important challenge you face that I could help you solve or address? Asked early on, you can surface the interviewer’s main pain point which you can use to frame your responses.
- Can you tell me about the team or group of people that I’ll be working with, and what do you feel is the main factor that will make the team overachieve in the next year? Not only do you get to find out more about who you’ll be working with, but this question shows you’re focused on results.
- What made you join the company? This shows your interest in your interviewer and gives them a chance to give a more personal perspective.
- What is your management style? Discover whether you’d have a complementary work style.
- What are the common attributes of your top performers? Will help you detect which attributes the manager values.
- If you were to hire me and a year from now you were conducting my first review, how would you know I exceeded your expectations? Gain a clear picture of their expectations so you know what you’re getting into.
What NOT to Ask
At this stage, don’t ask self-serving questions about salary, raises, bonuses, benefits, or vacation. Save those for post-job offer!
For more on positioning yourself for interview success and job offers, get your free cheat sheet with 20 Interview Success Tips.
Some questions adapted from Jay A. Block and The Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches.
I’m Dalena Bradley, job interview coach and career marketer dedicated to helping you communicate your value, stand out from the competition, and win the job!
Contact me to discuss how we can collaborate.