In this guide, MockQuestions explains the importance of asking great questions in a job interview. We walk you through the best questions to ask, and which topics to avoid. We visit a few core examples and explain what you, as a discerning job seeker, should look for in a hiring managers' response.
WHY IT'S IMPORTANT TO ASK QUESTIONS
At the end of most interviews, the hiring authority will ask, Do you have any questions?
If you fail to have questions prepared, this can be a negative factor in the eyes of the hiring manager. Job seekers often believe that having zero questions shows they are listening and have a complete understanding of the role. However, this isn't the case.
Think back to a time when you were on a first date. If you did not have questions for the other person, they would likely believe that you are rude or uninterested. On the flip side, if you had insightful questions prepared, this person would consider you a fantastic first date!
A great interview will go far beyond a question/answer drill session. After all, the opportunity at hand is a two-way street. As much as the hiring company needs to know that you are the right person for the job, you need to be comfortable knowing that you are making a lucrative move.
THE RESEARCH YOU SHOULD BE DOING
There are many questions you could ask your interviewer; however, having insightful queries prepared will require research. We recommend visiting the company's website, as well as its social media profiles.
On the company's website, pay special attention to:
- The 'careers' page
- The 'about us' page
- Any pages that discuss the company's mission or vision
On the company's social media profiles, pay special attention to:
TYPES OF QUESTIONS TO ASK
- How does the company position itself to the public?
- How many followers does the company have?
- How often does the company engage with its followers?
- How do they react to publicly posted customer service issues or inquiries?
There are endless topics to approach when asking questions of the hiring manager. It's essential, however, to remain on topic and professional. Consider asking questions related to:
TYPES OF QUESTIONS TO AVOID
- The job and your day-to-day activities
- The team you will be joining
- The training and tools you will receive
- The company culture
- The company's performance expectations
- The interviewers' own experiences with the company
- The company's future goals and objectives
Although you should feel comfortable asking nearly any job-related question, there is a time and a place for specific conversations.
Avoid highly personal questions.
For example, asking the interviewer about their personal or family life could feel intrusive. If the interviewer starts talking about their kids, then you could ask, How many kids do you have? However, it's best to avoid initiating these questions.
It's natural to be curious about what happened to the person who held this role before you; however, use caution when asking questions related to former employees. For example, outright asking why the previous person left would be too bold. A softer approach would be to ask, Is this a replacement search, or a newly created position? Then, allow the interviewer to give the information they are comfortable providing.
Avoid obvious questions.
Obvious questions are queries that would be very easy for you to answer through simple research. For example, How many years has the company been around? This company fact is one you should already know, based on basic research.
Avoid salary-related questions.
This point is especially true when you are in the first stages of the interview process. As you progress through the interview stages, the hiring manager will likely initiate a compensation conversation. If you aren't sure how to handle salary-based discussions, we have help for you here
SAMPLE QUESTIONS & THE ANSWERS TO LOOK FOR
We recommend having at least three insightful questions prepared for your interviewer. By preparing multiple queries, you will still be ready with great questions, should some of your points be answered organically throughout the flow of the interview.
Below are 5 insightful questions, and what to look for in the hiring authorities' response:
QUESTION #1: How would you describe your management style?
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
This question is straightforward, and asks the interviewer to give you a thoughtful reply regarding how they plan to manage you, should you be the successful candidate.
There are a variety of management styles out there. Before your interview, put some thought into the management styles you appreciate the most. Common management styles include:
- Administrative = process, process, process!
- Authoritarian = they thrive on expressing authority
- Democratic = participative decision making
- Laissez-Faire = minimal direction, you are self-guided
- Leadership Focused = motivating and influential
- Political = all tactics and strategy
The answer you receive will help you to determine if this opportunity is a good fit for your needs and career desires.
QUESTION #2: What is the average employee tenure in this role, and your company as a whole?
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
Essentially, you are asking the interviewer if their employees are happy, and how long they typically stay with the company. Numbers such as employee turnover, and average tenure, are stats that every employer should have committed to memory.
If you ask the interviewer about employee tenure, and they do not know - this is a red flag. Any company with low turnover will be proud to tell you so. Beware if you don't hear the interviewer proudly say, 'We haven't lost an employee in (X) months!'
Another way to find out about employee tenure is to go to LinkedIn and search for employees of the company. Select 'Past Employees' in your search criteria. If you see many people who have remained with the company for a short time (under one year is a good benchmark), then you may want to re-think accepting a job from the company.
QUESTION #3: How do you set clear goals and targets for your employees?
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
An employer who sets clear expectations is the best kind of employer to have. Most people thrive when they work for a company that gives direction. When you have goals to work towards, you will be able to measure your success better and become a high performer.
Ask the interviewer about specific goals and targets. Avoid accepting a general answer. If an employer is unable to tell you precisely what their objectives are, this is a warning sign that they are likely just trying to find a warm body to put in a seat. This behavior is an indicator that you would not be joining a team of high performers.
Try to get examples of specific numbers, actions, and rewards they use in the workplace. This example could include daily targets, internal contests they may run in the office, and other ways they measure success and recognize accomplishments.
QUESTION #4: How do you encourage continued learning opportunities and professional development?
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
It's crucial for your career growth that you join a company that will put energy and resources into your professional development. Nobody wants to remain stagnant in one role for years on end!
The interviewer should be able to give you specific examples of initiatives the company takes when it comes to employee investment. Some common ways that companies will develop their team:
- Cross-training in other departments
- Tuition reimbursement programs
- Experiences such as trade shows, conferences, or workshops
- Regular feedback meetings and performance reviews
- Gifts of leadership and business books or other tools
- Access to learning portals for self-guided online coursework
- Team-building activities and training events
- Supporting volunteer efforts or providing group volunteer opportunities
As you can see - it is effortless for a company to find ways to invest in their employee's growth and happiness. If the company you are interviewing with does not offer any of these types of experiences, you may wish to reconsider jumping on board.
QUESTION #5: What is your ideal timeline for this hiring decision?
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
When you are interviewing with multiple companies, it can be tricky to get the timing right with interviews, offers, and final job acceptance. Juggling three interviewers who are all moving at a different pace can be chaotic.
Asking the interviewer about their ideal timeline when it comes to putting out an offer of employment will tell you a few things.
- You will see the company's urgency. A company that wants to hire a quality candidate will be on the ball with their decision making. Preparedness is a great sign; however, you want to make sure they aren't skipping steps in the hiring process. If they are moving quickly but still reviewing you correctly, this is a good sign. If they are not reviewing your application carefully, then beware. The company may be making decisions from a place of panic.
- You will see how interested the company is in you as a candidate. If they genuinely think you could be a great fit, the interviewer will ask you what your timeline is in return. They will want to know how much time they have before another company makes an offer and scoops you up!
- You will see how well-organized the company may or may not be. If the interviewer doesn't know the hiring timeline, or cannot tell you what the next steps are in their interview process, this is a potential warning sign of a disorganized employer.
- You will be able to see how hierarchical the organization is. Does your interviewer seem empowered to make decisions as they see fit, or do they need to consult with a million other people before making a final decision? You may want to avoid joining a hierarchical company with decision paralysis.
With the right amount of research, there are dozens of questions that you could think of to show the hiring authority that you are interested in the job and engaged in the interview process.
If you are comfortable with asking more direct questions, you could also inquire with:
- Is there any reason why you feel I would not be a good fit for this position?
- How do you think I stand out from your other candidates?
- Do I meet the essential criteria for this job?
The best way to finish up an interview is to ask:
Is there anything I can clarify for you, today?
By asking this style of question, you can overcome any potential objections right away, further securing your position as the top candidate.
Going into your interview with insightful questions will help you to make the most informed decision. A well-researched approach will also show the hiring company that you have put thought and care into the interview process.
Read these tips and more in our complete 'Ask the Interviewer
' question set here.