Best questions to ask in an interview

When preparing for a job interview, many applicants simply think about the questions that the interviewer will ask them. But an interview is a two-way street that is just as much about how well you will fit with the company as it is about whether you are a good candidate for the open position.

Interviewers often complain about their frustration with candidates who give blank stares at the end of an interview when asked if they have any questions. Not asking questions of the person conducting the interview can make you look disinterested in the job or unprepared for the experience.

It’s smart to start looking up information about the company before you even submit an application for a position. You can find a lot of information online through the company website as well as through news and press channels. Review current happenings and any items that might be cause for concern should you choose to work for this company. If any questions occur to you during your research, make a note of them so you can ask about them during the interview.

After you’ve submitted the application, you can start thinking about what questions you might be asked during the interview. As you prepare and consider your answers, this is also a good time to think about questions to ask at the end of the interview. You should prepare at least two, but it would be better if you prepared a few more, just in case some of your questions are answered during the interview.

Avoid asking anything that could be considered rude or offensive, such as inquiring about negative feedback, financial issues, or other sensitive topics. Keep your questions open-ended so you can get as much information as possible instead of just a “yes” or “no” response. It’s also important to avoid asking very personal questions of the person conducting the interview. This isn’t the right time to ask if you got the job or discuss planned vacation dates. Some candidates go into an interview with questions about logistics and work schedule, but these types of questions are best saved for after you receive an offer.

Focus your post-interview questions on topics that will help the interviewer see that you are prepared and that will help you understand what the day-to-day responsibilities would be in the position. When you ask thoughtful questions, you can also gain a better understanding of the company culture and the overall feel around the office. Companies are often looking to reduce turnover, so asking questions to ensure that you feel you would fit in well can help in hiring the right person for the job the first time.

Good interview questions

Some of the best questions to ask after your interview include:

  • What are the main day-to-day responsibilities within this position?

You can only learn so much from a job description. When you ask this question, you open the door to learn as much as possible about the position, which may help you decide if the responsibilities listed are of interest to you. The daily tasks will also give more insight into the skills and strengths that are necessary for success in this role.

  • Is this a new position or was it previously filled by someone else?

Understanding whether the position is newly created or vacated by another team member can help with your expectations as well as those of the company. If someone previously held the position, you can follow up with a question about expected training. When the position is brand new, there could be additional growing pains as the department nails down the specific responsibilities and role within the team.

  • If the position was previously held by someone else, what did that person go on to do?

This question can help you learn the potential for growth and advancement from this role. If the previous employee left for a position outside the company, the interviewer might not disclose the information. But if the employee moved to another position within the company, you can get a better idea of the organization’s culture for promoting from within and advancement opportunities.

  • What are your expectations for the person in this position during the first month, six months, year?

For many new employees, the first month in the role is often a blur of information, meeting co-workers, and trying to wrap their heads around the responsibilities. Asking this question can help you get a sense of the expectations for getting up and running in the new role. When you ask about expectations in the first 6-12 months, you can also get an idea of any possible responsibilities or tasks that may be assigned after the new hire starts.

  • Can you describe the overall company culture?

Company culture is an important aspect to consider before you decide to accept a position. Some companies are more laid back, with time set aside during the day for fun and interaction with co-workers, while others have strict “work while at work” policies.

Some startup and tech companies also offer perks to their employees, such as free food and drinks, pool tables and TVs in the break room, and company-hosted retreats. If you’re considering a job with a health or wellness-focused company, you might hear about on-site gyms, daily walking groups, or company softball leagues. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer to this question; rather, you should ask it to make sure that your expectations of the culture are in line with reality.

  • What is the management style of the supervisor or manager of this position?

Managers have different styles in the way they supervise their team members. If they expect their team members to check in often on the status of projects, it’s best to know that up front. If the person conducting the interview isn’t the supervisor or manager, you may want to ask if you can meet the manager before accepting a position. Personalities and management styles can clash, so it’s smart to have at least a phone call before making a decision.

  • What are some of the main challenges faced by other members of the department?

Understanding what challenges the department is facing will help you get an idea of what challenges you would likely face every day.

  • What is your favorite thing about working for this company?

The person conducting the interview should have no problem providing an answer to this question. If he or she struggles or strains to think of something, view this as a red flag.

  • Does this company support growth and career advancement?

By asking this question, you can get a better sense of how the organization handles internal applicants looking to advance in their careers. Most people are always looking to grow and move up, so working for a company that doesn’t support these goals may not be a great fit.

  • What is the potential career path for someone working in this position?

As with to the previous question, this query will let the interviewer know that you’re not interested in remaining stagnant in your career. While some may view this as a negative, since it could mean they would have to fill your position again, most will appreciate your interest in moving up and achieving greater success. If you do choose to ask this question, avoid phrasing it in a way that makes you sound self-centered. Asking “when can I expect a promotion?” is not a good way to find out if there are opportunities for growth.

  • What are the next steps in the interview process?

It’s always frustrating to the applicant to sit and wait for a response after the interview. When you ask about the next steps, you’ll get a better sense of what to expect after the interview.

  • How soon can I expect to hear back?

Some companies move a lot more quickly than others when it comes to hiring. You could hear back within a day or two, or the process could take several weeks as the hiring manager continues with interviews or checks references and backgrounds.

Asking questions after your interview helps demonstrate your interest in the company and the position, allows you to decide if this employer will be a good fit, and helps to eliminate any reservations that the interviewer might have about you. It’s smart to come prepared with 4-6 questions that you can ask following the interview, but plan to ask 2-3. You may find that several of the questions you came with were already answered during your interview, so having a couple of extras on hand can help avoid the awkward silence and blank stare that often occurs when the interview is complete.

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