Every job interview is different, but there’s one question at the bottom of an interviewer's list that stays the same no matter what position they’re hiring for: “Do you have anything to ask me?”
A savvy interviewee will be making mental notes of questions which come up naturally during the interview, ready to ask them at the end, but many people don’t take advantage of this window of opportunity.
You never want to be the candidate that doesn’t have any questions for the interviewer. The hiring manager is always looking for qualified candidates, and not having questions could mean the difference between you or someone else getting the job. By asking questions, you show the recruiter that you’re interested in the position and you’ve done research about the company. Having the opportunity to ask questions also gives you some insight into the organization that you may not have been aware of otherwise.
20 questions to ask a recruiter or hiring manager:
What are the next steps?
What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this role?
What’s the usual (projected) career path for someone in this role?
What personality traits are important for someone in this role?
Can you give me some examples of projects I’d be working on?
Are there additional training opportunities available?
How steep is the learning curve?
Is this a new role?
What are some goals I should accomplish within the first 6 months?
What kind of challenges will I face in this role?
Is there anything about my background that makes me a less than ideal candidate?
Can you tell me more about the company culture?
What is the team like?
What goals does the company hope to accomplish over the course of the next year?
Are there any challenges the company is currently facing?
Who are the main competitors of this company?
What is the projected future of the company?
What do you enjoy most about working here?
What have you learned from working here?
How do I compare to other candidates?
When it comes to questions an applicant asks during a job interview, the old adage “there’s no such thing as a bad question” isn’t true. For example, you shouldn’t ask a question that could easily be answered by visiting the company’s website and reading the “About Us” page. By doing that, you’re telling the recruiter or hiring manager you didn’t do simple research on the company or role before your interview, which indicates that you may not be the best person for the job.
You should also avoid closed questions, which are ones that only have a “yes” or “no” answer. Ideally, you want your question to start a conversation with the interviewer, and closed questions rarely accomplish that goal. This also may not be the right time to ask about salary or benefits. While you may have a certain number in your head you want to make known early on, the time to negotiate is either when you’re in the finalist stage or have been offered the job – not at the beginning of the hiring process.
What are the best questions to ask in an interview?
Remember, the questions you ask are important and could be the deciding factor on if you get the job. When looking through the following list of suggested questions, make sure you pick ones that you’re interested in learning about, fit the role you’re applying for, and reflect your personality.
1. What are the next steps?
This is a must-ask question no matter what job you’re applying for. Uncertainty about what comes next in the interview process could cause some unnecessary phone calls or emails, annoying the recruiter by asking something you could have asked during the interview. By asking this question, you’ll know exactly when to expect a follow-up call or email, allowing you to leave the interview with confidence and certainty.
2. What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this role?
Sometimes, a recruiter will go through the position’s daily duties, but it’s not a guarantee. To have a better grasp on the day-to-day procedures, ask this question to show you want more information about what it feels like doing the job, allowing you to determine if it’s something you would like to do every day.
3. What’s the usual (projected) career path for someone in this role?
This question is great because it shows the recruiter you’re thinking about your future and wondering if their organization will help you achieve your goals. If the answer doesn’t satisfy you, you might realize this job may not be the best fit.
4. What personality traits are important for someone in this role?
While job interviews are primarily about the interviewer deciding if you’d be a good fit, you also need to find out if the role is right for you. This question will tell you what the company values in an employee and if those traits fit your skillset.
5. Can you give me some examples of projects I’d be working on?
If a large part of the job is working with other teams on projects, a good way to gauge the kind of work they produce is to see past or current projects the team or a previous individual has worked on. While the interviewer may not be able to show you specific examples, they should be able to speak in general about past or present projects.
6. Are there additional training opportunities available?
Workers everywhere have discovered the benefits of continuous learning and are actively seeking jobs which support additional training. This question will tell you if the company values training beyond the onboarding process (which will allow you to keep learning throughout your career) or if you’ll have to seek outside learning sources if you want to accept the position.
7. How steep is the learning curve?
Some jobs are easy to adapt to while others take more time to perform well. Asking this will tell you how long it will take for you to catch on. Plus, it shows the recruiter you’re willing to put in extra work to get fully trained!
8. Is this a new role?
Finding out if this position is new to the company will give you the opportunity to make the job your own and bring fresh ideas to the table. If it’s not a new position, you can also ask about how the position has evolved over time and even mention things you would like to add to the role if you get hired.
9. What are some goals I should accomplish within the first 6 months?
The answer to this question will help you determine how the organization measures the success of their employees. The answer should also give you a better idea of what the expectations are, allowing you to determine if you’ll be able to meet them or not.
10. What kind of challenges will I face in this role?
By the end of the interview, the interviewer should have a general idea where your strengths and weaknesses are. Asking this question will tell the recruiter you’re willing to take preparatory measures to foresee these challenges and find appropriate solutions.
11. Is there anything about my background that makes me a less than ideal candidate?
This is a risky question to ask because some interviewers may feel uncomfortable answering it. They may also be tempted to lie and say you were great when that isn’t necessarily true. But if you ask the right person, they may be able to give you some feedback on what their concerns are, giving you the opportunity to address and hopefully alleviate them.
12. Can you tell me more about the company culture?
An organization can work to make their company culture known through marketing efforts, but the best way to learn about it is by asking the employees. The interviewer should be able to tell you how diverse the organization is and what the company culture is like so you can determine if it’s a good fit for you.
13. What is the team like?
The people you’ll be working with are just as important as the job itself. Conflicts at work – even minor ones – can derail productivity and create a negative workplace environment. Asking this question will give you some insight on the project team you’ll be working closest with, allowing you some time to foresee any conflicts.
14. What goals does the company hope to accomplish over the course of the next year?
Company growth has a lot to do with the number of opportunities available at a given moment. Whether it’s seeking new investors or investing in technology, learning about the current company goals will allow you to determine how much growth is expected in the immediate future.
15. Are there any challenges the company is currently facing?
No organization is completely challenge-free. Learning what some of the company’s issues are and what they’re doing to face them head-on will tell you how tenacious and innovative they are when it comes to moving forward and overcoming difficulty.
16. Who are the main competitors of this company?
It’s easy to find out a general list of competitors the company you’re interviewing with has, but the organization which they consider their top competitor should be of interest to you. The answer to this question will start a conversation on what they’re doing to excel over their competition and how you can help them achieve optimal success.
17. What is the projected future of the company?
You don’t want to join a company that might not even be around in a few years or has no plans for future growth. By asking this, you’ll learn what the long-term plans of the company are and decide if that aligns with where you want to be in your professional life in the foreseeable future.
18. What do you enjoy most about working here?
Engaging with the interviewer can be a great strategy to help you stand out from the crowd, but asking this question is important for other reasons. You’ll get insight from someone who spends a lot of time working for the company and speaking to engaged employees.
19. What have you learned from working here?
The best jobs are ones that help you grow and teach you new skills. It’s unlikely a job that sticks with the status quo is going to engage you and allow you to become a greater employee. When you ask this question, the interviewer will be able to reflect on some of the opportunities this job provided them that they weren’t able to experience elsewhere.
20. How do I compare to other candidates?
This is another risky question you should only ask if you feel like you’re not overstepping a line. Some recruiters will refuse to answer it, but those who do will be able to provide you some comfort on where you stand against other candidates and their relative candidate experience.
The importance of asking questions
Now that you have an extensive list of questions to ask, you might be wondering why it’s important to do so. Questions are a great way to engage someone in a conversation and learn more about a topic. In an interview setting, questions can open the recruiter up about content not included in the job description.
Asking questions also tells the interviewer your level of interest in the job position. Job applicants who have no questions for the recruiter show they didn’t bother to look into the company beyond the job posting, giving an impression that you don’t care if you get the job or not. Questions can also trigger a deeper conversation, allowing you and the interviewer to connect by discussing other aspects of the company or role in depth.
If you’re prepping for an interview, you should prepare no fewer than three questions so you can help diversify some of the conversation. You should also alter any question above so it matches your speaking pattern and the job itself.
Tamara Gravelle is a Senior Content Writer and Competitive Research Analyst at VidCruiter. She specializes in writing about video interviewing software, HR technology, and the greater human resources industry. She tweets at @VidCruiter