Top questions to ask in an interview.

When searching for questions to ask in a job interview, you’ll be confronted with lists of questions covering every possible aspect of the role, company, interviewer, and more. Unfortunately, there aren’t typically opportunities in an interview setting to run through the “top 50 questions to ask in an interview” list you found online. You’ll need to pick your spots and prioritize the questions you’ll ask.

Below you’re find:

  • 4 important questions to ask in an interview
  • 4 things to remember about your interview questions
  • Additional questions to ask the interviewer (if you have time)

4 important questions to ask in an interview

1) What about my resume caught your eye?

This is a question that should come early in the conversation, perhaps even before the interviewer dives into their own questions. However you word it, asking them to describe the reasons they wanted to talk to you over other candidates helps set the course for the rest of the interview in two key ways.

One, it gives them an opportunity to speak positively about you right off the bat. It might have been a few days since the interview was scheduled, so they’ll be reminded why they were so excited about you in the first place. It might also give you a needed shot of confidence.

Two, you might be surprised by the answer. Many candidates submit resumes with similar qualifications. For all you know, a piece of experience that you’re taking for granted might be the reason you’re there. For example, the hiring manager might have been attracted to an unrelated side hustle that demonstrates more entrepreneurial spirit than other candidates. Where you might have devalued that experience, you now know to play it up.

2) How is the department structured?

This elegantly rolls up what could be multiple questions about who you’d report to, which positions you’d collaborate with, and perhaps even the future of the department. It can also give you an idea of how much upward mobility you might have. Some interviewers will even draw up an organizational chart on the spot to show you how it all fits together.

Asking this demonstrates that you’re team-oriented and can see the bigger picture. If you’re able to ask this early in the interview or during one of the early interview rounds, the answer will also help you contextualize your responsibilities and provide tailored answers throughout the process.

3) What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) for this position?

Asking what defines success for the position will give you a lot of valuable information to work with during the interview process. You learn which results they value most, which will help you tailor your responses to future questions.

The interviewer’s response can also provide clues as to how numbers-driven or goal-oriented the company or department is, or how much pressure there will be to meet tangible targets. This is a question that will help you see how compatible your personal work style is with the department’s.

4) How is your mission statement reflected in the company culture?

Do your research and see if you can find a mission statement or list of values for the company. If you can’t find them, start by asking if there are formalized corporate values. Then, by asking how they tie into the culture, you can get a more specific answer about whether there is a cohesive company culture. You can also get an idea whether the company practices what they preach.

Simply asking the interviewer to describe the company culture will often elicit a broad, phony response that doesn’t really tell you anything. By adding constraints in the form of mission and values, you can get a more thoughtful, complete answer.

4 things to remember about your interview questions

1) Yes, definitely ask questions

An interviewer will be worried if you don’t have any questions about the role or company. Some of the benefits that come out of proactively asking questions include:

  • Proving that you care and are excited about the opportunity
  • Demonstrating your communication skills and ability to collaborate
  • Determining whether you actually want the job in the first place
  • Crafting better answers to future questions as the conversation continues

2) Don’t wait until the end of the interview to ask questions

At the end of the interview, the interviewer will probably ask, “Do you have any questions for me?”

Waiting until this moment to rattle off your questions is a missed opportunity. By waiting to ask questions, you pass up information that might help you provide better answers. Make the interview more of a conversation by distributing your questions throughout.

3) Most interview processes last multiple rounds

While there are always exceptions, the interview loops for most corporate roles require 2-3 conversations at a minimum. The more responsibility, competition, or salary attached to the role, the more interviews you can expect. Some interviews can last 5 or more rounds.

You don’t need to have all questions answered during your first interview. Getting ahead of yourself could put a bad taste in the interviewer’s mouth. For example, while the interviewer is still trying to figure out whether you’re even capable of doing the job, don’t ask about opportunities for advancement. That question would be more appropriate late in the process when you’re nearing or already weighing a job offer.

4) Keep an eye on time

Again, rattling off dozens of prepared questions isn’t realistic in most settings. If the interviewer scheduled half an hour for an initial phone call, or an hour for the first in-person meeting, be mindful of that. They have other things to do so pushing the meeting into overtime to ask your questions might stress them out or come off as annoying. That’s not the first impression you want.

More job interview tips and examples

Additional questions to ask in an interview

Have time for more interview questions? Be curious and ask what you actually want to know about the role and business. Here are some ideas:

Ask questions that show you did your research. Do some googling of the company before your interview. Did you find something amusing or interesting? Ask about it. Did you learn about their top competitors? Ask how the company differentiates themselves.

Ask the interviewer about their career trajectory. Once you’re interviewing with the hiring manager, asking them about the path they took to get there can help build rapport, reveal their ambitions, and show how advancement works within the company.

What does a typical day look like for this position? Hopefully day-to-day responsibilities will be covered by the job listing and the conversation in general, but if you aren’t sure, ask!

What is the biggest problem I could solve for you or the company? Showing that you’re a problem-solver is a great way to differentiate yourself from other candidates. If you ask this, be prepared to demonstrate how you approach problems. The interviewer might want to hear your ideas.

How do you describe what the company does to friends or family? If you understand the business, skip this. But there might be times when you’re having a hard time understanding what the company actually does. For example, you might be applying for a non-technical role at a high-tech artificial intelligence company. Having the interviewer lay it out simply can help you provide better interview answers going forward.

What are the next steps? Don’t put pressure on the interviewer by asking when you’ll have your next conversation. Do ask about how they’re structuring their interview process and when you should expect to hear some news.

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