The Questions You Need to Ask in an Interview

7 Jul

We all know that when you’re interviewing for a job, it’s all about the answers you give. Right?

If that was true, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Sure, answering questions that show your experience, knowledge and general ability to string two sentences together back-to-back is an important part of the interview process. But don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking it’s the only part that matters. Toward the end of almost every interview there comes a time when the interviewer will look at you and say “So, do you have any questions for me?” While there are many right answers to this question, there is only one wrong one (hint: it starts with n and rhymes with dough.)

The floor has been opened up to you for questions – this is your time to shine! So why do so many people fail at the very moment when they should be soaring? Simple preparation. Putting the time and energy into coming up with some compelling questions will pay dividends. Knowing this, what kinds of questions should you be asking? How can you ensure that you’re standing out and that you sound like the smart, hungry, savvy professional you know you are? Fear not, friends, for I have put together some questions that are guaranteed to not make you look like an idiot (and some that are guaranteed to do the opposite). These aren’t the only questions you should be asking, and they aren’t even questions that you should necessarily be asking at every interview. But they are some ideas to get your brain working. The questions I like best are the ones that put you squarely into the position in the interviewer’s mind. Instead of asking about benefits or making small-talk about how the interviewer came to the company (which isn’t a horrible question, by the way), create a solid image in the mind of the interviewer of you in the job. Here are some questions that do just that.

  • Day one, what is the most important project/task that you would have me tackle? What’s the most urgent fire that needs putting out?
  • What do you think would be my biggest hurdle in handling this task?
  • Six months into my time here, what has to have happened for you to know you made the right decision in hiring me?

On the other hand, if you find that you really don’t want the job after all and want to make sure you don’t get called in for the next round, here are some great questions to help you achieve your objective.

  • So what are the hours here? Will I need to put in a lot of overtime?
  • I’m looking to keep my stress level down. This isn’t a high-pressure environment, is it?
  • Are there any hot chicks/guys that work here? I’m single, you know.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list by any stretch. There are so many great questions you can use to place yourself in the job and to create the image of you and the hiring manager working together.  And there are even more questions that you can use to ensure that you lose the job. Another solid line of questions would be around specific news about the company. Check your potential employer’s website, Google the company name for any press releases or articles. If there’s been a major announcement, launch, or change recently you want to make sure you know about it before you walk in the door. And you want to make sure you ask about its impact on the company and/or your function.

By positioning yourself as committed, curious, and genuinely engaged, you can help to create the impression you want to make in an interview. And since your questions will usually be at the end of the meeting, this is your chance to end things on your terms. You get to shape the last impression that your interviewer walks away with. So what are you going to do with this opportunity? Are you going to run with it and be the star that you know you can be, or are you going to say “Nope. I think we pretty much covered everything already.”

It’s up to you.

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3 Responses to “The Questions You Need to Ask in an Interview”

  1. Donna Svei July 7, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    “Can I work from home one or two days a week?” is another buzz kill question. Wait until you’ve established trust on the job before floating this one.

    Donna Svei
    AvidCareerist.com
    @AvidCareerist

    • HR Dave July 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

      Amen! I’ve been amazed at how many people bring up flexible work arrangements way too early in the relationship. First show me that you’re committed and that you can be absolutely trusted to go above and beyond. Then, maybe, we can entertain the idea of working around your schedule.

  2. dave May 1, 2012 at 1:30 am #

    My career counselor suggested me to ask the following questions when interview is finished and the employer does not say any decision or says there are couple more
    interviews with other candidates

    a. What are the training and development opportunities available in your company?
    b. Can you walk me through a typical work day for this position?
    c. What is the next step in the interview process.
    d. How long will it take hearing from you ?

    I decide to fire this counselor. Using common sense, know these questions can only annoy interviewers

    a. What are the training and development opportunities available in your company?

    Very inappropriate question when the interviewer even hasn’t decided whether to hire or not, or even the interviewer is just showing door after intervier is finished . If the interviewer decides to hire, he/she will introduce training/development opportunity too

    Plus, are you going to be well trained/developed and then leave company ?

    b. Can you walk me through a typical work day for this position?

    Again. If the interviewer decides to hire, he/she will give such a tour. I’d ever used this piece of advice in an interview for a retail cashier’s position when the interviewer said he
    was going to interview other candidates and let store manager decide – though he’s not
    store manager he’s entrusted by the store manager for hiring issues, plus cashier is an
    entry level position, elements such as being friendly and accurate, having previous
    experience in retail floor, ability to operate cash register , good customer service, are
    enough, in other words, candidates are not so outstanding as to have to be selected by
    bigger boss in the second run, like hiring someone who handles an international project.,
    so the conclusion of that interview was the interviewer did not wish to hire me, period.

    After i asked this question, he said he cannot do so before store manager decides to offer
    me the position. ( he’s annoyed by this question )

    c. What is the next step in the interview process.

    Wow.. The tone of interviewer’s boss . Plus, it’s clear enough, resume screening, interview, and then the interviewer already said clearly the next step is either second
    interview or an offer

    d. How long will it take hearing from you ?

    This question can expose personality weakness , the real face under the mask worn for
    interview, at least the interviewers think so

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