Questions to Ask an Interviewer


When that point in an interview comes where you're asked if you have any questions, don't be stumped. Here are some suggestions.
Subject: Career

Ask questions about new products, how research and development is structured at the company, management strategies at the company, how the company has changed, and potential product growth.

The Following Areas Should Generally Be Avoided

  1. Avoid asking questions that are answered in the company’s annual report or employment brochure. Recruiters are familiar enough with their own information to recognize when you haven’t done your homework. If some information in the annual report isn’t clear to you, by all means ask for clarification.
  2. Don’t bring up salary or benefits in the initial interview. This is a major mistake. The majority of companies recruiting are very competitive and will offer approximately similar salaries and benefits. The recruiter may choose to bring up the information, but you should not initiate the topic. You will give the impression that you are more concerned with fringe benefits than the substance of the position.
  3. Avoid asking any personal questions or questions that will put the recruiter on the defensive. This includes questions such as the interviewer’s educational background, marital status, past work experience, and so on. This information is none of your business.
  4. Don’t ask questions that have already been answered during the interview. If you have prepared a list of questions and some of them have been addressed during the interview, do not repeat them.

Questions You Should Ask

Now that you know what you shouldn’t ask during the interview, determine what questions you should ask. If you plan to ask a lot of questions, it would be wise to have a typed list.

  1. Ask specific questions about the position. You need to know what duties will be required, and if this hasn’t already been covered, it’s time to ask appropriate questions to find out. You need to know what will be required of the person in the position to see if there is a fit between your interests and qualifications and the requirements of the company.
  2. Try to find out as much as possible about qualities and skills the recruiter is looking for in job candidates. Tom Jackson, an authority on career planning and author of several books including Guerilla Tactics in the Job Market, suggests this question: “Could you tell me what qualities you are looking for in candidates for this position?” Once you determine the necessary qualities, you can then explain to the recruiter how your background and capabilities relate to those qualities.
  3. Ask questions concerning advancement and promotion paths available. Every company is different and most advancement policies are unique. Try to find out what the possible promotion path is to see if it fits your career goals. You may also want to ask about periodic performance evaluations and pay reviews.
  4. Ask questions about the company’s training program. If you are seeking a position with structured, formal training and the company offers on-the-job training program, you know the position may not be right for you. You may have specific questions about the training program not covered in the company literature.
  5. Ask questions about location and travel required. If you have limitations regarding location, relocation possibilities, or expected travel, this is the time to find out what is expected in the position. If you have limitations based on health or family commitments, these should be discussed with the recruiter.

Questions You Can Ask in an Interview

Quality and comprehensive questions score points. Do not discuss job mechanics.

  • What is the number one priority of the person who accepts this job?
  • What do you consider the five most important day-to-day responsibilities of this job?
  • What do you see as the strengths of the department?
  • What does the department hope to achieve in the next two to three years? How will that help the company?
  • How receptive is the organization to new ideas?
  • What training and professional development programs are available to help me grow professionally?
  • What are my potential career paths within the company?
  • What are the organization’s future plans and goals?
  • What is the company’s mission? What are the company’s goals?
  • What is unique about the way this company operates?
  • What are some examples of the best results produced by people in this position?
  • What expansion is planned for this department, division, or facility?
  • What markets does the company anticipate developing?
  • What is the biggest single problem facing the organization now?
  • Currently, what new product/service/client is the company actively pursuing?
  • How do market trends affect company growth and progress?
  • During the training period, how much exposure is there to different areas of the firm?
  • How much of the training program is in a classroom, and how much is on the job?
  • After the training period, how much choice does one have in the area to which one is assigned.
  • How do you feel this firm differs from (another in the same industry)?
  • What do you feel are the key reasons an individual would choose this firm over your competitors?
  • To your clients, what advantages do you offer over your competitors?
  • What do you like best about this company? Least?
  • What skills have helped you the most?

Some More Useful Questions

  • What specifically do you need me to accomplish in the first 30/60/90 days?
  • What do you like best about working for your company?
  • What do you like least about working for your company?
  • What are the company’s goals for the next 2 years? 5 years?
  • What is the best track record of (title of position you are applying for)?
  • Why is the position open?
  • What are the prior problem areas in this position?
  • Where do you see this position leading over the next 2-3 years
  • What are the next steps in this interview process? How many people do you plan to hire?
  • How are people evaluated in your organization?
  • What role does your company play in developing the employees? What type of training is available for someone in my potential position?
  • What did you like most about the person who previously held this position?
  • What are the greatest challenges facing the person in this position?
  • What kind of support does this position receive in terms of people and finances?
  • How will my success/performance be measured and how is successful performance usually rewarded?
  • Would you describe your organizational culture?
  • What do people seem to like most/least about working here?
  • Would it be possible to meet the people who work in the department?
  • Do you encourage participation in community or professional activities?
  • How does the company intend to remain competitive?
  • To whom would I be reporting if I am hired? Tell me about the organizational structure.

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