All your hard work is paying off.
If you conducted industry and company research early on, you know what issues and challenges the industry and your target companies are facing right now.
You’re prepared to intelligently answer typical interview questions like “Tell me about yourself“, in a way that will position your good-fit qualities.
And you’re well-prepared to answer simple queries like “What do you know about our company?” and “Why do you want to work here?“.
But are you also prepared to ASK intelligent questions, to position yourself as someone extremely interested in the organization?
After all, the interview process is all about you and the company assessing each other for good fit. This is part of your due diligence. Now is the time to find out if this job and company are really right for you.
Ask questions based on your research
If you’re in the interview process, or about to be, and you haven’t done in depth research on your target companies and industry, now’s the time to get to it.
Having at least some insider information means you’ll be better positioned to speak intelligently when you answer AND ask questions.
Prepping yourself in this way will help you avoid embarrassing yourself by asking questions that a simple online search would reveal the answers to.
If it’s clear to your interviewer(s) that you’ve done little to no research, you could be in trouble.
And consider this: Some interviewers are not particularly good at interviewing. Your questions will help ease their burden of keeping the conversation going.
You’ll have a distinct advantage if you also do informational interviews.
These are informal conversations with people working at the companies and in the fields in which you want to work, or people who are within a few degrees of separation from them.
They’re not job interviews and these people do not hold the reins on any particular jobs. Actually asking for a job is never part of the conversation.
Your mission is to gather information for your due diligence and to determine whether that company, the role(s) and you will be a mutual good fit.
You’ll also get meaty tidbits about the company and culture to use in your job interviews with that company. And these informal conversations will help you formulate strong questions to ask the interviewer(s).
Ice breaker interview questions
International coach to businesses and entrepreneurs, Chris Westfall, offered 6 icebreakers to help you connect with your interviewer, including:
“I’m guessing you’re wondering why I’m interested in this position”
“A question that shows that you “get it.” Here, you’re already working to solve problems for your interviewer – you’re saying what’s top of mind, and the reason why you’re here. This simple introduction leads towards your interests, passion and desire for the role. Because wanting the role might be the first step towards getting it. Sharing your interest in a way that guides your interviewer towards your strengths, motivation and values is a great place to start. If you are interviewing for a management or leadership position, this kind of icebreaker shows you know how to lead a conversation.”
His other suggested ice breakers include:
- Let me go beyond what you see on my résumé
- You’re probably curious about why I was in my last job for less than two years
- I’ll never forget the time when…
Some of the more typical interview questions
It’s okay to bring a written list with you for reference, but review your questions to ask several times in advance. If you can ask some of them without referring to your written list, you’ll come off as well-prepared.
- What does your best-fit candidate look like?
- Why is the position open?
- What responsibilities in this job are really going to define success for this person?
- What skills and qualities will be most important in this position?
- If there’s a job description, may I see a copy of it?
- What will my first assignment be?
- What are the prospects for growth and advancement?
- [If this is a short-term consulting gig] How long do you expect the project to last?
- Any major changes coming internally that I should know about?
- Where do you see this division/company in the next five years?
- How can I demonstrate that I’m a good fit for this position?
- What do you (the interviewer) like and not like about working here?
Ask specific interview questions
There may not be time in an interview to ask all the questions you’d like, so it’s best to focus on questions that will pay off the most.
The typical questions I noted above are good questions.
But, if you come prepared with specific questions, based on your research, you’re more likely to stand out as someone who’s truly interested in the company and the position.
For example, let’s say in your research you came across an article quoting someone higher up at the company who mentioned a particular initiative they were launching.
You should wrap a question around that kind of information:
“I read an article in [name of publication] about your COO Susan Smith that mentioned the [name of initiative]. How will this impact this role and the team?”
Often the company’s website will post recent news articles that you can use to write the kind of questions that will help you stand out.
Ask some unique interview questions
Job search expert Hannah Morgan offered several unique questions you should consider asking, making sure the person you’re asking has the right level of responsibility/authority to answer them:
- Of all the projects/challenges the new hire for this position will be responsible for, which one is the highest priority?
- Have individuals in this position struggled in the past? If so, why?
- What does this company do to look after its employees’ mental health?
- What’s something new you’re hoping the next hire can bring to this role?
- What soft skills would make someone successful in this position?
Find out about the company’s mission and vision
Included in career expert Alison Doyle’s 30 questions she suggests you ask interviewers, she offers these 3 questions, to help you assess the company’s mission and vision:
- How would you describe this company’s values?
- How has the company changed over the last few years?
- What are the company’s plans for growth and development?
And she explains another plus in asking questions:
“Asking questions can also give you the opportunity to further highlight some of your qualities, skills, and experience, and show the employer why you’re a terrific match for the job.”
Don’t be afraid to ask some hard questions
Check out FlexJob’s 10 hard questions to ask your interviewer, including:
What makes it a great day and what makes it a challenging day at work?
Rather than a vague question about what a “typical day” may look like, this subtle yet hard-hitting question will allow you to get a much clearer picture of the highs and lows of the job.
How is criticism and feedback handled within the team?
Some managers and teams do a great job of handling feedback and critical discussions in a way that helps everyone grow and evolve, and some just don’t. The answer you receive from this question will help you know what to expect and whether it’s an environment you’d be well-served in.
Do you have any hesitancy in hiring me?
First, this gives you a chance to immediately address anything they might say, and hopefully help the interview move past whatever is making them hesitant about hiring you for the role. Second, this can give you solid information for how to improve for future interviews.
Ask questions to learn about your interviewer
The Muse lays out a whopping 51 interview questions you should ask, including these 5 questions to learn more about the interviewer and build rapport with them:
- How long have you been with the company?
- Has your role changed since you’ve been here?
- What did you do before this?
- Why did you come to this company?
- What’s your favorite part about working here?
Wrap it up with these questions
Always ask questions like these at the end of your executive interviews so you’ll know what to expect in the days that follow:
- What are the next steps?
- I’m very interested in this position, will you consider me for further interviews?
- When will I hear from you?
- May I touch base in a week to see how things are moving along?