Many interviewees spend a great deal of time preparing for the questions that they might be asked in an interview but forget to prepare any questions that they themselves can ask of the interviewer.
Some interviewees don’t even realise that they are allowed to ask questions in an interview. The interview is their opportunity to learn about the company and the role for which they are applying.
The truth is, that hiring managers actually expect the interviewee to ask questions in an interview. In fact, they will usually give the interviewee an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview.
In this article, I’m going to provide you with examples of the best questions to ask in an interview, but first, let’s understand why it’s so crucial that you ask questions in an interview.
A hiring manager will expect questions
It’s not necessarily obvious why you as the interviewee should ask questions in an interview, after all, isn’t it you that should be answering all the questions? It’s actually a mistake to think that a job interview should be completely one-sided.
All job interviews should include a healthy level of two-way communication, and you should consider each and every job interview as your opportunity to get to know the organisation and fully explore the job opportunity for yourself.
Every job interview is an opportunity for both parties, i.e. you as the candidate and the company as the employer, to consider whether or not you are a good match for each other.
The hiring manager will ask interview questions to establish if you indeed have the skills, experience, qualifications, attitude and track record of success that they need in the organisation.
Why should a candidate ask questions?
The candidate should ask questions in an interview in order to establish if the organisation and the role are a good fit for them.
Will the role offer the right level of challenge and support, will the company provide a positive working environment, will the salary meet their expectations, and are the hiring managers' expectations realistic?
If during the interview process both the hiring manager and candidate have asked the right questions, they should both be able to make an informed decision regarding whether or not to become professionally involved.
This is true for face to face and video interviews, you should ask questions in an interview, no matter what format or style of interview it is.
Four reasons why you should absolutely ask questions in an interview
1. You should ask questions in an interview to put your mind at rest
Let’s face it, you will have questions about the organisation and role that you are interviewing for, it would be strange if you didn’t. Whilst you can’t possibly answer every question before actually joining a company, you should ensure that you seek answers to the most important, deal-breaking questions before accepting an offer of employment.
A good hiring manager should understand this and therefore welcome, and not dismiss, your questions in an interview. Remember, a hiring manager or HR team will want you to make an informed decision and to join the organisation only if you are sure of your decision.
2. To demonstrate your interest in the role
It sends a negative message when an interviewee asks no questions in an interview. If a candidate has no questions to ask, are they really interested in the role and in the organisation?
You should always prepare some questions to ask in an interview because it demonstrates that you have thought about the job opportunity and that you are committed to the interview process.
3. Questions demonstrate your level of preparation
By framing an interview question in the right way, you can demonstrate that you have taken the time to conduct some thorough interview preparation.
Take a look at this example of a question being asked by an interviewee;
“Whilst preparing for this interview, I came across an article in which your CEO was quoted as saying that they were committed to improving employee engagement over the next 36 months. What progress do you feel has been made so far?”
Asking this question in an interview would demonstrate that you have done your research, it also demonstrates that you are genuinely interested in the culture of the company, plus it gives the hiring manager an opportunity to communicate their opinion on an important matter.
Most importantly, however, it should help to answer your questions about the company culture before you agree to join.
4. Asking an interviewer questions can give you time to think
We often presume our turn to ask questions in an interview is just for the end of an interview but I find it can also work well to ask questions throughout the conversation. This can help you gain clarity or give you a much-needed break during the interview. For instance, after you have answered an interview question about your leadership style, you could ask ‘What type of leadership approach do you think would work best for this team?’.
Or perhaps you’ve been asked to give a summary of your work. Instead of talking and talking until you are sure you have covered all points, you could give a brief summary and then ask the question ‘Are there any parts of my experience you’d like me to explain in more detail?’ or even ‘does that answer your question?’.
The bottom line is that it’s important to ask some good questions in your interview, so with that said, what are the right kinds of questions to ask in an interview?
Categories of questions to ask in an interview
Deciding on the kinds of questions to ask in an interview is important. Just asking the hiring manager any old question, simply for the sake of it, is not going to demonstrate your interest in the role, nor is it going to provide you with any helpful insight.
There are five categories of questions that you can ask in an interview
1. Ask the interviewer questions about the role
2. Ask the interviewer questions about the company
3. Ask the interviewer questions about the team
4. Ask the interviewer questions about their expectations
5. Ask the interviewer questions about the interview process
We’ll look at each one in turn, and I’ll provide you with some example questions that you can ask in your next interview.
1. Ask questions about the role that you're interviewing for
Any questions that you ask your interviewer about the role should of course be specific to the actual position for which you are interviewing, that should go without saying. Asking your interviewer questions about the role is a great opportunity to demonstrate how committed you are to the process.
Asking the right questions will tell the interviewer that you are already imagining yourself in the role and thinking about how you can help the hiring manager, team and company to be successful.
10 example questions
• What would success look like in this role?
• How does this role contribute to the overall success of the department or organisation?
• What is the typical professional path for the incumbent of this role?
• What do you feel would be the most challenging aspects of this role?
• What would the first month look like in this role?
• What does a typical day look like in this role?
• What impressed you about the last person that held this role?
• How critical is this role to the success of the team, department or organisation?
• How long do people typically stay in this role?
• How much autonomy would you expect the holder of this role to exercise?
2. Ask your interviewer questions about the company
Asking your interviewer questions about the company is a great opportunity to demonstrate the research that you have completed, and your interest in the organisation. If you can frame your question around a piece of information that you have learned, you should do so.
Don’t forget that you should already know the simple things, such as how long the company has been trading or in which markets it operates, so don’t ask these questions as they will simply expose your lack of preparation.
10 example questions
• How would you describe the culture of the company?
• What excites you about the future of the company?
• What long term goals do you envision me helping the company to achieve?
• What are the biggest challenges that the company is facing right now and how do you see me helping the organisation to overcome them?
• What advantages do you think the company has over its major competitors? (Name the competitors to demonstrate you have done your homework!)
• What attracted you to the company?
• I noticed that the company recently introduced X or changed Y, what other recent innovations have the organisation made and what impact have they had?
• What type of person tends to thrive in this company?
• What do employees appreciate most about working for this company?
• What does the company do to attract and retain the best talent?
3. Ask the interviewer questions about the team
It’s best to reserve any questions you have about the team for the team leader or hiring manager. However, HR might offer a less biased view of the team dynamic, and any areas of weakness that might be present.
10 example questions
• How would members of the team describe the team dynamic?
• What has the team achieved in the last 12 months?
• How would you describe your team?
• How do you like your team to interact with you?
• Are there any specific areas of expertise that are lacking in the current team?
• How is the team structured?
• How is work distributed throughout the team on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?
• What percentage of time would I be working collaboratively vs independently?
• Who would be my major stakeholders and the major stakeholders of the team?
• What does the team do to stay engaged and maintain a healthy working dynamic?
4. Ask questions about their expectations of you and your performance
Again, these questions are best reserved for your hiring manager or direct line manager. Asking your interviewer questions about their expectations of you and your performance can help to demonstrate your commitment to success and that you are taking the role very seriously.
These interview questions are also a great opportunity for you as the interviewee to ensure that your expectations are aligned with that of the hiring managers.
10 example questions
• If I am successful, when would you require me to start?
• What would you expect me to contribute to the team?
• What style of communication do you prefer?
• What would success look like to you in the next 12 months?
• What progress would you expect to see within 6 months?
• What gaps that exist within the team would you expect me to fill?
• What is it about my experience and career thus far that you value the most?
• How autonomous would you expect me to be in this role?
• What do you value the most in a direct report?
• What are your top three values?
5. Ask your interviewer questions about the interview process
Asking questions about the interview process is a great way of getting a commitment from your interviewer and agreement on the next steps.
It also helps you to manage your own expectations and gives you an idea of how long you should wait before you follow up.
10 example questions
• When can I expect to hear from you regarding the next steps?
• How quickly do you need someone to start?
• Who is involved in the final decision-making process?
• Who will contact me regarding the next steps?
• What does the next stage look like?
• What does your typical interview process look like?
• How has the interview process gone so far?
• Is there anything in particular that you would like me to demonstrate at the next stage?
• When do you expect to be extending an offer to the successful candidate?
• Do you have any further questions for me before I leave?
How many questions should you ask in an interview?
The idea is not to overwhelm your interviewer with questions, a maximum of 4-5 good questions should be sufficient enough for you to show your interest in the role, demonstrate your research and gain further insight.
As you hopefully progress through the interview process, you’ll have the opportunity to ask more questions of different people. Some of the interview questions listed above will be more appropriate for later stages of the interview process or would be best asked of the direct line manager rather than HR.
When you carefully select which questions you’re going to ask in your interview, consider how far along you are in the process and whom you’ll be interviewing.
How should you ask questions in an interview?
There aren't any hard and fast rules as to how and when you should ask questions in an interview, as I mentioned above, you can ask questions as the interview progresses, however, you should be mindful not to hijack the interview as this will give the interviewers a negative impression of you and leave them feeling frustrated.
Generally, the best time to ask questions in an interview is at the end of the interview when the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them. If the interview approaches the end and it doesn't seem as though the interviewer is going to ask if you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask if they have time for a few questions from you.
The tone and manner in which you ask questions in an interview are important, you should not interrogate your interviewer, try to catch them out or come across as though you are trying to dig up the dirt on the company or team. Instead, you should be genuinely interested, inquisitive and respectful when asking questions in an interview.