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What Questions to Ask in an Interview

Everyone expects to be questioned during an interview, but not everyone realizes that they should be asking questions as well.

It’s important for candidates to ask questions because it shows that they are interested and prepared. If a candidate doesn’t ask questions during an interview, the interviewer may come to one of several conclusions, including the candidate:

  • Did not care enough to prepare questions beforehand.
  • Did not take the time to think about what they are looking for in the job.
  • Is not committed to the position they are applying for.

How Many Questions Should I Ask?

Some swear that three is the golden number because it saves time. Others say that you should ask more than three to show you are committed and care about the job.

The real answer is — it depends.

When asking questions, context is everything. Let's take a look at some factors that affect the number of questions you should ask:

Body Language

Does the interviewer seem fidgety? Have they mentioned they are short on time today? If so, it’s probably wise to ask only the most important questions you have and save the rest for another day.

What position you're applying for

While a candidate applying for a high-level position might need to ask several questions about workplace infrastructure, this could be overkill for a candidate applying for an entry-level position. Stick to questions that are relevant to you and the position you’re applying for.

The rapport between you and your interviewer

If you and your interviewer are getting along well, asking a few informal questions such as, “What do you like best about working here?” may be appropriate. However, if you are short on time or the interviewer is keeping things strictly about the interview, asking more pertinent questions will leave a better impression.

The round of the interview you are on

The stage of the interviewing process you are in matters. Typically, only asking 2 to 4 questions during a first or phone interview is appropriate. However, the further along in the interviewing process you get, the more questions interviewers will expect you to ask.

Be wary of interviewers who expect you to accept a job offer without answering all of your questions. No good employer will want you to take on a job you aren't fully committed to or informed about.

What Makes a Great Question?

Not all questions are created equal. A great question will:

Demonstrate an understanding of the company

Asking questions that demonstrate an understanding of the company shows the interviewer that you have kept up with what they are doing in the world and are motivated to understand the way they work.

Highlight your positive attributes

Asking interviewers questions that highlight your positive attributes will help call their attention to where you excel. This will help them get a better idea of who you are and how you will fit into the position they are filling.

Show your commitment

By asking questions with a long-term relationship in mind, you are communicating that you are ready to invest yourself in the right job.

Help you stand out

Interviewers talk to hundreds of applicants. Use this time as an opportunity to stand out and ask questions that make the interviewer remember you.

Give you information you couldn't find elsewhere

As a job-seeker, it’s important for you to find a job that is a good match for your skills and disposition. Learning more about the position you’re applying for and what it entails helps both you and the interviewer make informed decisions.

While the above qualities are essential factors of a great question, context matters here as well. Understand who is interviewing you. Is it an overworked director? A laid-back recruiter? Your questioning strategy should be tailored toward who is interviewing you.

Also, take into account what round of interviews you are on. Asking about a company’s organizational infrastructure may be appropriate for someone who has progressed to the second or third round of the interview, but it is usually overkill during the first round of the interview. Take into account where you are in the interviewing process and adjust your questions accordingly.

Finding out as much information as you can about these factors before going into your interview will help you strategize which questions you should ask.

Is There Such a Thing as a Bad Question?

Now that we know what makes a great question, you may be wondering if there is such a thing as a bad question. The answer is YES!

Bad questions can raise red flags for an interviewer and drastically reduce your chance of getting the job you're interviewing for. Bad questions are subtle, and candidates don’t often even realize these questions are hurting their chances.

Here are some bad question types to avoid:

Questions about salary

Salary information is typically handled by the HR department.  Asking a hiring manager questions about your salary can lead to an uncomfortable situation because they may not have all of the information on hand. Instead, save these questions for when you’ve received an offer.

Questions about references or background checks

Asking the interviewer any question about references or background checks is likely to raise a red flag.

Questions about promotions

Asking questions about promotions can make you seem arrogant. The interviewer may be thinking, “You haven’t even gotten the job yet; you shouldn’t be worried about getting a promotion.” However, this doesn’t mean you can’t ask about what career advancement is like within the company! You can put forward the question tastefully by framing it within the context of the company rather than yourself. For example, you can ask, “What opportunities are there for career advancement within the company?”

Refraining from asking bad questions can be difficult because they are often the questions you are most interested in. However, there is a time and a place for everything. If you make it through the interview process, you will get your answers in due time.

Great Questions Separated by Topic

Now that you know more about the difference between a great question and a bad one, let's look at some great question examples separated by topic:

Challenges and Expectations of the Position
  • What are the top priorities to accomplish in this role?
  • What would you expect a successful candidate to achieve or deliver in the first 3-6 months here?
Company Culture, Growth and Challenges
  • Can you share a little bit about the culture of this company?
  • What type of people thrive in this company's environment?
Information About the Interviewer
  • In your opinion, what is the best part about working for this company?
  • Why did you join the company?
  • What led you to pursue a career in this industry?
Leadership and Management

        • What kind of leadership/management style do you promote in the company?
        • How is employee feedback incorporated in day-to-day operations?
        Next Steps
        • What is the next step in the interview process?
        • What is the general timeline of your recruitment process?
        • If I were hired for the position, what would be the ideal starting dat3e?
        • Are there opportunities for applicants to job shadow before accepting an offer?
        Personal Growth
        • What are the prospects for growth and advancement?
        • What kinds of opportunities for professional development or continuing education are offered to employees?
        • What is the typical career path for someone in this role?
        Position Logistics
        • What is the onboarding process like for new hires?
        • How much travel is expected in this role?
        • Is overtime allowed or expected?
        • How would you describe a typical day or week in this position?

        • What has been your team's greatest accomplishment?
        • What are some of the team's recent success stories?
        • Will I have the opportunity to work with any cutting-edge tools, technologies, or methods?
        • What tools are used to share information across departments?

        Like what you see? More questions in each of these categories are provided in the premium version of the training program.

        Exiting the Interview

        Typically, the interview draws to a close after the question portion of the process is completed. When exiting the interview, there are a few things you should do:

        Find out about the next steps

        Clarify with the interviewer what you can expect within the next few weeks. This will help you know when you can expect a callback and when it is appropriate to follow up.

        Collect a business card

        Asking for a business card is an easy way to get all of the interviewer's information at once. 

        Ask them if they have any questions or doubts you can clear up for them

        You want to leave the interviewer with a positive impression of you. Take this opportunity to clear up any doubts they might have and put their worries to rest.

        Shake hands

        A firm handshake is a great way to build trust and familiarity with the interviewer. 

        Thank them for their time

        Interviewers see dozens of candidates each day — be sure to thank them for their hard work and for giving you the opportunity to interview with them.

        What's Next?

        This is just a preview of the actual Questions to Ask the Interviewer Guide. We've outlined some necessary information here but go into much more detail in the real thing. Here is the information we cover in more detail:

        • Why it’s important to ask the right questions in an interview.
        • How asking bad questions or no questions can ruin an interview.
        • An extensive list of great questions you can ask!

        Getting access to the tools and information you need to interview successfully and get the job you want is as easy as becoming a member of