As exciting as it is to land an interview, it can also be nerve-wracking. That, combined with the research saying it takes three job interviews before 51% of job seekers1https://www.zippia.com/advice/how-many-applications-does-it-take-to-get-a-job/ receive a job offer, means confidently making it through an interview feels important.
Let’s talk about how to prepare for the moment in nearly every interview when the hiring manager finishes their interview list and says, “Do you have any questions for me?
General Interview Tips
Ready for a quick list of ideas to prepare for your interview?
- To naturally relax, practice smiling + breathing = smeathing
- Make a great first impression in the first 7 seconds
- Connect to your interviewer by speaking like a friend
- Write out talking points
- Take notes
You can find more tips in How to Make One-on-one Meetings Impactful and 6 Tricks to Prepare For a Meeting (& Conquer Glossophobia).
These days, the initial interview is often by phone or video call, which requires a slightly different style of prep, like mirroring the interviewer’s words, varying your voice, and other suggestions you can find in 12 Amazing Tips You Can Do to Ace Your Next Phone Interview.
During the interview, it’s important to actively listen to the hiring manager’s responses and use their answers to ask follow-up questions or dive deeper into specific topics. This will demonstrate your attentiveness and genuine curiosity, making a positive impression during the interview.
How can you show you’re listening? We’re so glad you asked because we have suggestions in The 7 Most Charismatic Cues to Use While Listening, like nodding yes, leaning in, and making eye contact.
Top 10 Hiring Questions
If you’re on you’re way out the door and need ideas FAST, here are some of our favorite questions
- “Can you tell me what a typical day looks like in this role?”
- “What needs to be done in this role that’s not being done?”
- “Can you describe the typical career progression for someone in this position?
- “Who will I report to, and how often will I interact with them?”
- “How does the team typically collaborate and communicate on projects or tasks?”
- “Does the work environment promote collaboration and teamwork, or does everyone keep to themselves?”
- “What is the value of this role on your team? How does it contribute to the company’s bottom line?”
- “What has been your biggest professional growth opportunity since joining the company?”
- “Can you tell me more about the company’s approach to work-life balance and employee well-being?”
- “What does success look like for this person on this team?”
Reasons To Prepare Questions For A Hiring Manager
Asking questions during an interview is a valuable tool in your communication kit. It can:
- Allow you to get to know your potential employer better.
- Show you’ve done your research on the company.
- Offer you insight into the company’s culture and values.
- Demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm for the job.
- Help you decide if this job fits your career goals well.
Asking questions demonstrates that you have researched the company before applying for their job opening, indicating both intelligence and preparation for future roles within that organization!
An interview is a two-way process. While the hiring manager’s goal is to determine if you’re the best for their team’s current needs, it’s also your chance to get to know the people you would spend most of your waking time with.
That’s why presenting yourself well in conversation is such a crucial skill!
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Thoughtfully considering questions is integral to your pre-interview preparation.
How To Prepare Questions
Before you ask any questions, knowing what research you can do on your own is essential.
Conduct thorough research on the company to understand its industry, values, recent news, and any specific projects or initiatives they are involved in. Use this knowledge to craft questions that show your genuine interest in their work.
If a company has a website, read through their About page and any other information they have posted there.
Also, check out Glassdoor reviews by current employees (or even former ones) to get an idea of what working at that company is like.
Use a search engine like Google to see if the company has been in the news for any reason. Suppose you’re interviewing for a communications role with an oil company that recently made the news for an oil spill or a research position in a biotech company that just announced a new clinical trial that can help you prepare for your interview.
Once you’ve researched the company, create a list of open-ended questions specific to the company and the role you’re applying for.
- “I noticed that your company recently launched a [new product]. Can you tell me more about the development process and where it fits in the company’s overall strategy?”
- “I read about your company’s commitment to sustainability. How does this commitment translate into day-to-day operations and decision-making?”
Prepare a list of five to seven questions in order of priority. Likely, you won’t get through them all. Some of your questions may be answered during the interview; if so, you’ll still want two or three questions ready at the end of the conversation.
Try framing your questions as though you expect to get the job. The goal here is not to sound arrogant but excited and engaged.
- “Who will I be working with on a day-to-day basis?”
- “How will I get feedback on my projects?”
It’s acceptable to bring your written list of questions with you—in fact, it can be a sign to the hiring manager that you came prepared. That said, focus on actively listening during the interview, staying engaged with the conversation, and adapting to the conversation’s flow. Your notes should be a reference rather than dictating your side of the conversation.
Question Ideas And Examples
Focus On The Role And Responsibilities
Tailor your questions to the specific position you are interviewing for. Ask about the key responsibilities, challenges, and expectations of the role to better understand what will be expected of you.
- “What are this role’s main objectives and goals within the first three to six months?”
- “What opportunities are available for professional development?”
- “Can you describe some current projects and how I’d fit into them?”
You can also take this time to learn about the people you’d be working with regularly.
- “What’s the management style of the person who would be my direct supervisor?”
- “What role does each team member play in his or her day-to-day work life?”
The goal here is to understand the relationships between yourself and others within this new organization as clearly as possible.
- Pro Question: “What was it about my experience and skills that made you interested to meet with me?”
Asking this question encourages the hiring manager to actively think about why you’re a qualified candidate. It’s important to know how your skills and experience will be used; this is a way for you to know what the interviewer values about you.
Similarly, you’ll want to clearly understand how this role fits into the team and how it adds value to the company. You want to understand what contribution you will be making and if it’s worth your time and effort.
Here are some sample questions:
- “What are the key responsibilities of this position? And how would they change over time as I grow into my new role at [company]?”
- “What are some examples of projects/challenges that demonstrate success in this field or industry sector (or other areas where applicable)?”
- “What’s the history of this position?”
- “How has this role changed since it was created?’
Understanding the history of your potential new job helps you learn if this position is brand new and requires developing policies and procedures or if you are stepping into a role with a lot of structure in place that you’ll need to learn.
Ask About The Interviewer’s Experience
Showing interest in the interviewer’s perspective can help establish rapport and create a more engaging conversation. Why? Because according to research, talking about oneself2https://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/brain-health-news-80/people-love-talking-about-themselves-brain-scans-show-664505.html triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food and money.
Ask your interviewer about their personal experience working for the company or in their specific role.
- “What do you enjoy most about working for this company?”
- “How have you overcome challenges that come up at work?”
- “What gets you the most excited about the future of this company?”
This is a great way to get a feel for working in this company and give you a sense of the hiring manager’s personality.
Learn About The Team And Company Culture
Many companies have an official mission statement, but that doesn’t mean it reflects their actual values as an organization or even how employees actually behave day-to-day in their jobs.
Asking about the company culture is an excellent way to gauge whether or not the job is right for you. It’s also a great way to learn more about what kind of people work there and what they enjoy doing when they’re not at work.
Some questions to ask:
- “How would you describe this company’s culture?”
- “How does this compare with other companies’ cultures?”
- “How would you describe the team dynamic and how individuals collaborate to achieve goals?”
- “With such a creative role, I get a lot of value from interacting with others regularly. What kind of interactions are normal on a day-to-day basis?”
- “Are employees expected to interact with coworkers regularly, or is it more of a “do your own thing” kind of place”
- “Can you provide an example of a recent challenge the company encountered and how the team collaborated to find a creative solution?”
- “How does the company foster a culture of learning from failures and turning challenges into opportunities?”
- “What are some of your team’s greatest strengths?”
If there aren’t clear answers here, consider whether or not this position aligns with your professional goals—you might find yourself unhappy later if this isn’t an area where there’s overlap between what you want out of life and what they expect from their employees at work!
Get a Sense Of Expectations
Asking questions about what the hiring manager expects will give you a sense of the company’s priorities and if the role will be a good fit.
- “What does the ideal candidate for this role look like?”
- “What are the company’s goals for this position?”
- “What are the company’s immediate priorities, and how does this position fit into them (if at all)?”
- “What does success look like in this role?”
- “What skills do you think are most important for a person in my position to have?”
- “Is there a process for performance evaluation? Can you describe it?”
In addition to understanding the expectations of this role, you need to know how you’ll be evaluated. The hiring manager should be able to tell you exactly what success looks like in this position and how they plan on measuring it.
Express Interest In Future Plans And Opportunities
In most cases, hiring managers are looking for someone interested in a long-term career with the company. And it’s no wonder since the cost of replacing3https://www.peoplekeep.com/blog/employee-retention-the-real-cost-of-losing-an-employee a single employee can be up to 2x their annual salary when things like recruitment, onboarding, and lost productivity are taken into account.
Demonstrate your long-term mindset by asking questions about the company’s vision, growth plans, and potential career advancement opportunities. This shows your desire to contribute and grow within the organization.
- “Can you share any success stories of employees who have excelled in this role and moved into more senior positions?”
- “What leadership development programs or mentorship opportunities are available to employees?”
- “What do you think is the biggest opportunity for [insert department] at [insert company]?”
You want to ensure you’re working on projects that challenge and allow you to learn new skills. At the same time, if you’re going to grow as an employee, the company needs to have some kind of training or development program in place.
Ask About What Matters To You
According to research, you may spend up to a third of your life4https://www.freshbooks.com/hub/productivity/how-many-hours-does-the-average-person-work at work! With that being the case, you will want to know how the company engages with topics that are important to you. You may want to ask about a number of issues, including…
- “Can you share an example of a time when the company embraced an unconventional idea that became a significant innovation?”
- “How does the company encourage employees to think outside the box and contribute innovative solutions?”
- “Can you share an example of a time when the company embraced a bold or unconventional idea that led to significant innovation?”
- “How does the company encourage employees to think outside the box and contribute innovative solutions?”
- “How does the company engage with the local community and contribute to social causes?”
- “Can you share an example of a recent community initiative or philanthropic project the company has been involved in?”
Some topics will only be appropriate in certain circumstances.
- “Can you tell me about the flexible hours policy?”
If the job description mentions flexible hours, clarifying what that means is a great question. This could mean working from home, or it could just mean the ability to work in the evenings or on weekends.
On the other hand, if the job description is explicit about this role being in person 9-5 because of the nature of the position (for example, reception), bringing up the question of flexibility may be a red flag for the hiring manager.
- “I noticed the position has been listed for [x] months. Is there something specific you’re looking for in this role?”
If a position has been open for several months, they may be having trouble finding someone who is a good fit. This could be due to their requirements or high standards when it comes to hiring new employees.
If this is the case, ask yourself if those same requirements would apply to your own personal style and personality. If not, then perhaps this isn’t going to work out after all!
Questions Not To Ask During An Initial Interview
There are several categories of questions to avoid so you can focus on the purpose of the meeting, namely, to discuss the role and determine if you are a good fit.
Salary, benefits, and other HR issues.
- “Can you tell me about the pay scale for this position?”
- “When can I start using vacation time?”
I know, I know. This is what you actually care about. But diving straight into these topics gives the impression you care more about the compensation than the work. There will be plenty of time to discuss these topics before you accept the job offer.
- “Will I receive feedback on my performance?”
- “Do employees have the chance to attend professional development workshops?”
These could become great questions with just a little tweaking to change them from yes/no to open-ended questions:
- “How will I receive feedback on my performance?”
- “What can you tell me about the company’s policy on professional development?”
Anything already answered on the company’s website.
- “What does your company do?”
- “How many employees does the company have?”
- “Who are the company’s main clients?”
- “Can you explain the core values of the company?”
Rather than asking about something that you could research on the website, find ways to connect your specific role to the company’s larger vision:
- “How does my role fit into the company’s mission of [reference mission statement]?”
- “I know the company values [core value]. How does that show up in day-to-day work?”
Questions that can’t easily be answered:
- “What do you think the future holds for your company?”
- “What are the biggest challenges the company will face in the future?”
Personal questions that could be seen as offensive or inappropriate.
- “What do you dislike about working for this company?”
- “Why did the previous employee in this role leave?”
Questions that require the hiring manager to speculate or require sensitive information.
- “Will this job give me the chance to travel internationally?”
- “Can you share any upcoming projects or initiatives that haven’t been announced yet?”
Things that aren’t relevant to the position you’re applying for.
- “Do you have kids?”
- “Are you into sports?”
Some friendly conversation is a great way to break the ice but stay focused on the task (clearly defined in the job description).
Ask About The Next Steps
Once you’ve asked the questions above, it’s time to ask about the next steps. You want to know what the hiring manager expects from you and when they expect it. They may have already decided who they want for this position, so be sure to ask what kind of feedback they will provide if you don’t make it past this round of interviews.
Other good questions include:
- “What are the next steps in the hiring process?”
- “Do you have a timeline in mind for moving forward?”
- Pro Question: Near the end of the interview, you may ask, “Is there anything else you’d like to know about me that would make this an easy decision for you?”
On Your Mark, Get Set, Interview!
Preparing for the interview process is essential to increase your chances of success. Here are the key takeaways to remember:
- Interviews can be nerve-wracking, but with the proper preparation, you can confidently navigate through them and increase your chances of receiving a job offer.
- Ask questions during the interview is a valuable tool to help you learn more about the company, showcase your preparation, and decide if the job aligns with your career goals.
- Prepare a list of open-ended questions based on thorough research about the company and the role you’re applying for. Prioritize your questions and bring them with you to the interview.
- Show interest in the interviewer’s perspective by asking about their personal experience can help establish rapport and create a more engaging conversation.
- Tailor your questions to the specific position and inquire about the key responsibilities, career progression, team dynamics, and company culture.
- Express interest in future plans, growth opportunities, and the company’s vision to demonstrate your long-term mindset and desire to contribute and grow within the organization.
Remember, an interview is a two-way process. It’s not only an opportunity for the hiring manager to assess your fit but also a chance for you to evaluate the company and the people you’ll be working with. By asking thoughtful and engaging questions, you can leave a lasting impression and make an informed decision about your future.
For that next interview round, or when (hopefully) you’re meeting with your new boss, check out 140 Questions To Ask A Boss (Ace Your Next Encounter!).
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