By Mike Simpson
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Have you ever been on a horrible date where the person you are out with spent the whole time talking about themselves without ever asking you a single question?
Ugh, sounds miserable, right?
Would you want to see that person again? Probably not. Who would want to spend any more precious time with someone who was so self-involved?
Dating is a two way street and the goal is to learn as much as you can about your potential partner through a give and take approach to dialogue.
Did you know a job interview is a lot like a date?
You’re kidding, right? Does this mean I have to start bringing flowers and chocolates with me as well as copies of my resume?
No. As charming as that might seem, we don’t recommend that approach at all. In fact, leave the flowers and chocolates at home for your sweetie.
What you should bring with you are questions to ask at the end of an interview!
Wait…questions? Aren’t they interviewing me?
Yes, they are…but like any good date, shouldn’t you try to learn a little bit more about the position and company before you decide to accept the job if they offer it to you? Of course! How else are you going to find out if it really is a job you want to do?
FREE BONUS PDF CHEAT SHEET: Get our "Questions To Ask The Interviewer Cheat Sheet" that gives you 18 more great sample questions you can ask the interviewer at your next interview.
Preparing Good Questions To Ask During An Interview
You can learn a lot about an open position through the basic application process, but to really get the down and dirty about what will be expected of you, you need to make sure you prepare good questions to ask in an interview as well.
Isn’t that awkward? I mean, are hiring managers okay with me asking for more details?
Are you kidding?!?
Asking the hiring manager questions is like bringing flowers and chocolates with you. Not only are you getting more information about the job, you’re showing the interviewer that you genuinely care about the position, the company, and your role should you get hired.
Imagine this…you’re a hiring manager and you’ve just had a potential candidate interview with you. Their answers to your questions are pretty solid and you’re wrapping up the interview.
“So,” you say, giving the eager young candidate a smile. “Any questions for me?”
The candidate clears their throat, nervous. You can tell by the look in their eye all they want to do is get out of there. “No,” they stammer. “I’m good. Thank you!”
You shake hands and they leave. You sigh in disappointment. Such a missed opportunity. Maybe the next one will have some questions for you.
Why Do Hiring Managers Want You To Ask Questions?
Why is not asking questions at the end of the interview a missed opportunity and why are hiring managers disappointed when interviewees don’t ask questions?
Because asking questions not only gets you vital information about the job you’re interviewing for, it also shows that you’re willing to go the extra mile to get that information…especially if you not only come in with well thought out questions…but tailor those questions as well!
(What’s “Tailoring?” Check out our blog article Job Interview Questions and Answers 101 to learn more)
Remember, the ultimate goal is always to be the PERFECT CANDIDATE and that means doing a little extra work before you even get to the interview. By asking the right questions, you are turning the table on the interviewer and taking control of the room.
While this might seem at first like a bad idea, it’s actually a brilliant move.
When you ask tailored questions, you’re showing the hiring manager that you’re willing to do what it takes to get the job.
Psychologically, you’re proving to the hiring manager that you’re a go-getter and go-getters get hired!
Speaking of psychology, what does a hiring manager think of someone who doesn’t ask questions?
Remember our little mock scenario above where our candidate seemed eager to wrap up the interview and get out of there? That can make a hiring manager reluctant to extend the offer of a job.
Who wants to hire someone who seems like they’re more interested in running away than investing a little more time into finding out what the job is really all about?
On top of that, most hiring managers expect candidates to have questions. Not having questions makes you appear lazy, unmotivated, and unprepared…exactly the opposite of someone they want to hire.
Okay, you’ve convinced me. I’m going to ask questions…tons of questions! I’m going to be the best question asking potential hire ever!
Ha ha, slow down there turbo! We love the enthusiasm but before you start charging ahead with “What’s your favorite color” and “If you could be any superhero on the planet, who would you be,” we need to give you a bit more information.
The key to being a good question “asker” is to make sure you’re asking the right questions.
But don’t worry, because we have the right questions for you. We’ve created a free cheat sheet that gives you 18 of the best questions you can ask the interviewer, so you’ll go into your next interview armed with the right questions to ask that will impress your hiring manager. Click here to get your copy of the “Questions to Ask the Interviewer Cheat Sheet.
Absolutely. You want to make sure the questions you’re asking are targeted and fall into specific categories.
Like favorite animals and if they were stranded on an island, who would they want to be stranded with?
No. Serious job related questions…questions that can ultimately make or break your desire to accept the job should it be offered.
Questions that cover every aspect of both the job and the company…and help to ensure that the decision you make to take or leave the position is a 100% educated one.
What if you are offered the job but don’t realize until you start that it’s awful? Nobody wants to do a job they hate or work in a place where they’re miserable…and the fastest way to make sure you end up in work hell is to NOT ask questions.
Remember, this is a lot like dating and you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. So, put on your thinking cap and sharpen your pencil…it’s time to get started.
What Questions Should You Be Asking?
As we said earlier, there are specific categories you want to stick to when thinking about questions to ask an interviewer.
What are you getting hired to do? Sure, you know what the job posting said, but is there anything about the position you’re trying to get that wasn’t in the posting? What are you going to be doing exactly? How long will you be doing that job and will the job evolve as you continue to work there?
Speaking of doing a job, are you fully prepared to start if you are hired? Is there anything you need to know in order to do the job? Is there any special training or any classes you’re going to be required to take if you’re hired?
How you do your job is also equally important…and what they expect from you as you do it! The best way to meet the goals of your employer is to know up front what they are. What do they expect from someone who is hired for this position? How do they evaluate that performance? Are there reviews?
By the way, who are you actually working for? Not just your supervisor, but the company overall. Yes, you should already have a good base of knowledge…you got that information during your fact finding and research phase of the job hunt…but there are things you can’t get from research that can only come from someone on the inside…and the hiring manager is a great resource!
Don’t forget, no job is a final job…you’re always on the hunt for that next step in your career…and now is the time to ask if this job is going to be the next step forward for you. Speaking of moving forward, is this a job with room for growth and advancement?
How about your fellow co-workers? What about the people that make up the roster of employees? Who are you going to be working with? Are you working with a team? If so, now is the time to ask serious questions about who you’re going to be spending your time with. The best job in the world can easily turn into the worst job if you find out you can’t stand the people you’re assigned to.
Another important consideration to keep in mind is the culture of the company you are going to work for. What kind of place is it? Are you going to be expected to be 100% buttoned-up and professional at all times or does the company allow a more relaxed approach to work? Is it a suit and tie sort of place or are employees allowed to be a little more casual?
THE WAITING GAME
Now what? If you’ve completed the interview and it all feels right, how long should you expect to wait before hearing about the position? Are there further steps that need to be completed?
Now that we have the categories outlined, we can start really drilling down with these questions to ask the interviewer. Yes, we sort of roughed out quite a few when we described the categories, but those are general questions. The questions you want to ask are going to be specific…researched…and tailored!
But you just gave me seven categories! If I ask a question out of each category it’s going to take forever! I’m sure the hiring manager is going to get sick of me long before I get a chance to go through all my questions… Or worse, what if my questions are dumb and the hiring manager thinks I’m an idiot? Nobody wants to hire an idiot!
First off, take a deep breath and relax. We promise, the hiring manager isn’t going to get tired of you…and we already established the fact that you’re more likely to look like an idiot for not asking questions…but yes, that is a lot of categories to cover…which is why making sure you’re asking the right questions is so important.
How do I know which questions are the right questions to be asking?
Ahh, so glad you asked! The easiest way to figure out which questions to ask at an interview is to start out by asking them before you get to the interview.
As you’re preparing for your interview and doing your research on the job and the company, make sure you’re also taking notes about things you’d like to ask about. Remember too that the best questions are the ones that lead to discussion and back and forth between you and the interviewer.
Try to avoid any question that has a simple yes or no answer, but at the same time, don’t make your questions so broad that they confuse the interviewer…or worse…stump them.
This is an opportunity to mine for knowledge, not show off or make the hiring manager feel stupid or confused. To keep going back to the dating analogy, you want to ask questions that get you both talking…and give you the opportunity to learn.
So how many questions should I be asking? Is there a magic number? 3? 10? 25?
You should prepare at least four to five solid questions…more is acceptable, of course (exercise your best judgment here…let’s not go overboard!), but less can lead you down a dark path.
Important: Because odds are some of your questions might be answered during the course of the interview and if you haven’t prepared enough, you run the risk of ending up at the end with nothing left to ask…and we’ve already covered how that looks.
Okay, I’m ready…let’s get started!
Before you run off and begin writing down your questions, remember…tailor, tailor, tailor! Just like you’ve tailored all your responses so far, tailoring your questions only helps to reinforce the idea that you’re the perfect candidate!
How do you do this? The same way you do for traditional and behavioral questions. Do your research. Find Qualities, and infuse them into your questions to ask. Here’s an example of a question to ask with a Quality (leadership) infused:
“In my past role I was leaned on heavily to provide leadership to a team of individuals, which I felt was an area that I succeeded in. What are the main responsibilities I would have that would require an elite level of leadership and could you see my past experience as a team leader benefiting me?”
Wow! If I were a hiring manager, I would be blown away by this question. The candidate is proving that they really care about the job and making sure they’re able to do their absolute best if they were hired.
Disclaimer About "Over-Tailoring"
14 Great Example Questions To Ask Interviewer
We’ve prepared 14 solid example questions for you to help kick start your creative juices as well as included why they’re good questions to ask in an interview.
Just to be safe, we’ve also put together a free cheat sheet with 18 more questions that we have handpicked to ensure that you really leave the hiring manager impressed. Click here to get your copy of the “Questions to Ask the Interviewer Cheat Sheet now.
Of course, as always, these are example questions meant to help you write your own.
In order to prove to the hiring manager that you’re the PERFECT CANDIDATE, make sure you use these questions as inspiration for your own…don’t just take them word for word from here. Remember…go the extra mile!
— THE JOB —
1. "Can you tell me exactly what I would be expected to do if I were hired for this position? "
This question helps to make sure you know exactly what you’re going to be doing and what is expected of you. This is a great way to make sure there are no nasty surprises waiting for you when you start. Having your job explicitly laid out for you not only allows you to know what you’re signing up to do, but can also help you decide if you are not only willing to do the work…but also able!
2. "Can you walk me through a typical day here at Company X?"
Having the day laid out for you from beginning to end is a smart way to get a quick overview of what is expected of you outside the job description. I was hired for a job once where all the employees were expected to participate in a group physical activity before starting our day.
Had I not asked about a typical day I would have been completely unprepared for my first day and unable to participate. Not a great way to start out a new job!
— THE REQUIREMENTS —
3. "If I were hired for this position, would I be going through any training prior to actually starting the work?"
This is a great question to ask…especially if you are concerned about your ability to do the job. With the right training, an employee can quickly be brought up to company speed. If no training is offered and you’re not sure you know enough to do the job…this would also be a great time to get clarification on that.
4. "How will I be trained?"
Again, you want to make sure you’re going into the job with your eyes wide open. Training could be as simple as watching a video or reading a brochure or it could be a much more thorough and in-depth process. The point is, you want to know before you go.
— THE EXPECTATIONS —
5. "What are the performance expectations for this position? Will that expectation change the longer I am doing the job?"
This is a two part question…but knowledge is power and the more you have, the better off you are! You want to make sure you and your employer establish early on what they expect from you performance wise and not just for the immediate future. If this is a job you plan on sticking with for a period of time, make sure early on that you know what they want you to do and if that will change over time.
6. "Is there an employee performance review process? How often does that occur and can you walk me through a typical one?"
Again, a two part question but this information is absolutely critical…especially if the results of those reviews impacts your ability to advance either your career or your position within the company.
— THE COMPANY —
7. "Where do you see the company in five years? 10?"
This question is important because not only will it give you a sense of how stable your job might be, but the job you take today should always be in line with your long term career goals. The last thing you want to do is take a job that won’t benefit you in the long run or help advance you towards the next step on your career path. Finding out early on where the company is headed in the long term can help you plan your own trajectory.
8. "Can you tell me what the career paths are for this department and what sort of advancements I could work towards?"
This question can give you a solid idea of the mobility within the company. Again, as we’ve said over and over again, the ultimate goal of any job you take is to help advance you on your career path and the last thing you want to do is take a dead end job with no hope of ever moving forward or growing.
— THE PEOPLE —
9. "Will I be working with a team and if I am, can you tell me a little about each of them?"
This question is a MUST! The last thing you want to do is get stuck with a bunch of people you can’t stand. Finding out early on if you’re going to be working with a good team or a horrible team can make your decision process an easy one.
10. "Can you tell me about my direct supervisor? Is there anything I should know about working with them that will make my integration a smooth process?"
Another two-parter, but again, you’re showing that you’re serious about doing what it takes to not only get the job, but do the job right. It’s also a great way to get a bit of information about your supervisor. Like the rest of the people you’re going to work with…if it’s not a good match, then it might not be the job you want to take.
— THE ATMOSPHERE —
11. "Can you tell me what you love the most about working here?"
This is information you need to know! The last thing you want to do is to work somewhere where you’re miserable and a good way to get a feel for that is to ask the hiring manager what it is that keeps them coming in day after day.
12. "How would you describe the working environment here? Is work done in a collaborative style or are employees more independent?"
This is a question that is going to not only give you a good heads up on what you are potentially walking into as far as atmosphere goes, but also lets you know what the expectations are for your own performance. Again, two-parter, but the information you’re going to get in return is pure gold.
— THE WAITING GAME —
13. "What are the next steps in the interview process?"
This is not only a question you can ask to show you’re interested in where the hiring process is going to go next, it’s also a great way for you to get some reassurance. Nobody likes waiting to hear back from a company and getting nothing…at least this way you’re prepped for how the process will continue and what to expect…and when.
14. "Is there anything else I can provide you with that would be helpful or questions I can answer?"
This isn’t so much a fact finding question as it is one last opportunity to let the interviewer make sure they’ve covered all their bases. Brownie points!
Putting It All Together
So there you have it…not only do you now know why you should have good questions to ask during an interview, you also know how to ask them and what to ask them.
Make sure you take the same amount of time to prep these as you spend on the rest of your interview prep and above all, be yourself, be genuine, be the PERFECT CANDIDATE…
FREE: "Questions To Ask The Interviewer" PDF CHEAT SHEET
Get our handy "Questions To Ask The Interviewer" cheat sheet.
In it you'll get 18 more powerful sample questions you can ask the interviewer.