Great interviewees don't just want to know what interviewers think; they want to know what the company plans to do and how they will fit into those plans. A chance to ask questions at an interview allows you to demonstrate to prospective employers that you are thinking from the perspective of someone who is already part of the organisation.
And remember that although you’re being interviewed, you’re also interviewing the company. When the interviewer says, “Have you got any questions for me?”, take the opportunity to find out if the company and the role you’re applying for are the right fit for you and align with your goals.
How do you come up with the right questions to find out what you need to know and show that you’re the ideal hire? Take a two-pronged approach: think about your professional aims and what an ideal job and workplace would like for you. Then conduct some research on the company to make sure the questions you’re asking are relevant to the company’s vision and objectives as well as your own.
As a general rule, you want to have more questions than you need prepared because some of them are likely to be answered during the interview. Ideally, you’ll have two or three solid questions to ask before the interview wraps up. Focus on asking open-ended questions, as these will give you a chance to further develop a rapport with the interviewer.
Steer clear of overly personal questions (finding out your hiring manager’s favourite snack from the vending machine should probably wait until you actually have the job), and unless the interviewer instigates it, don’t ask about salary just yet. Wait until the appropriate time during the final stages of the hiring process when you’ll be able to negotiate salary with HR or the hiring manager.
Above all, asking the right questions is what separates exceptional job seekers from the average, and shows that you're interested in the opportunity, not just the pay cheque.
Here are our top seven questions to ask in an interview to help you stand out from the rest.
1. What do I have to do to succeed in this role?
As an employee, you are an investment to your employer and will be expected to generate value for the company in return for your salary. One of the ways this is achieved is by exceeding performance indicators, and asking about those indicators is a great way to show that you don’t just want a job; you want to thrive in your position. Great professionals will want to know what truly makes a difference in an organisation, and they understand that helping the company succeed means that they succeed as well.
2. Do you think I will be a good fit for the company?
Asking this will show an employer that you are eager to succeed in the role and are an individual who strives for success in whatever you set out to do. It’s one thing to ask objective questions about your aptitude for a position, but asking for a subjective opinion shows your openness to constructive criticism, especially as the person who interviews you for a position will often end up being the person you’re working directly under. Having their opinion of you from the start is useful in forging that relationship down the line, and the question itself also tells the interviewer you are serious about the job and forward thinking in nature. True warriors at work embrace challenges and plan around tackling these challenges.
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3. What are some of the challenges that the predecessor faced in this role?
This question can be scary, but also beneficial. While the interviewer might not expect it, the answer will be telling. A straight, direct and positive affirmation with an explanation would be a good sign, while a hesitant reaction should be taken as a red flag.
Remember, the interview is as much about you assessing the company as it is about the interviewer assessing you. Smart interviewees will always want to know what they are in for – understanding the immediate challenges of the job will help determine if it is a role in which you can truly excel.
4. What are you hoping to see from the next person to fill this role that was missing in the last?
A question like this will demonstrate your ability to address and tackle possible problems before they even surface. The answer can shed light on what might have made the last person lose or leave the job, as well as tip you off on the path to success. In an interview, you are selling yourself as the perfect potential employee, so it’s important to demonstrate that you are a team player who is not only interested in excelling at what you do but also in what your colleagues value.
5. Do you have any reservations about my fit for the position that I could try to address? Is there anything that is missing from my CV that you need?
Asking an interviewer if there’s something missing or of concern on your resume is a great opportunity to address any gaps before your potential employer makes a decision.
Not only does it give you a chance to resolve any hesitations the employer might have about you, but it also demonstrates that you can take constructive criticism and are eager to improve – valuable qualities in any new employee. This is a good practice even if you don’t get the job, as it shows you what you might add to your resume before your next interview, particularly if you’re applying within a specific industry.
6. What would you like to see this role producing in the future? Are there any roles similar to this one that you’re looking to fill soon?
Ask your interviewer where the role will be headed in the next month, six months, even up to five years. This shows you are ready to hit the ground running on any upcoming projects, and are already trying to see where you can fit in and what you will be expected to start working on.
If it’s a temporary or contract position, are there any other similar positions you can keep your eye on? If you know your contract is coming to an end soon and you would like to stay on board, you’ll already know what similar roles are available, and it’ll give you the chance to prepare to apply for another role at the company.
7. What is the company culture like? What is your favourite thing about it?
It’s important to know the finer details, like the expected dress code and how the people in the company relate if you want to know how you’ll fit in with them. The social aspect of a company structure can be incredibly valuable to forming lasting and productive relationships and asking about this early on shows that you’re thinking long-term. It’s also useful to gauge from a current employee what they think of the company before you come on board; even if you’ve done your own research on the company, an insider perspective will give you a deeper understanding.
As to that one question you should always try to avoid asking, at least at the first interview stage...
What sort of salary are you offering?
Or something to that effect. Yes, you need to know whether you're wasting your time going after a role that pays significantly less than your previous (or current) one. Understandable, that you have a mouth (or several) to feed and a roof over your head to pay for. But just as you wouldn't ask someone on the first date if they're interested in having children, you hold off on this question until you're on firmer ground. The last thing you want is to be viewed as someone who values money over the new opportunities the role can bring.
Searching for a new job? Take a look at our other interview tips.
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