Asking Questions In The Interview - Your Turn

You've found a great opportunity, sent them your resume, and even landed an interview with the hiring manager. You've researched the company and this position, and prepared well for the interview. During the interview, you answered every question flawlessly, even the "tell me about a time when..." questions. At the end of the interview, the hiring manager turns the table on you. "What questions can I answer for you?"

If you prepared, you will not freeze, or panic.

Since most interviews don't involve a candidate actually doing the work they'd be doing if they got the job, interviews are a way to see if you can likely do the job, and if you can fit in the company. The bulk of the way this is done is by conversation. So, it shouldn't surprise you to know that your questions can be just as important as the answers you give to their questions. Your questions tell me how well you understand how this position impacts the company as a whole. You have an excellent opportunity to demonstrate critical thinking and synthesis (the ability to create something out of two or more things).

So, besides asking "When do I start?", consider asking:

  • "Why is this position available?" There's a chance that someone else used to do the job you are interviewing for. Of course, it could be a new position because the company is expanding, but if its open because the last person died while actually doing the job, wouldn't you want to know that? You can learn a great deal about the company by asking this simple question.
  • "What are the biggest challenges facing this department?" Most hiring managers will be very open and share details of their business with you.
  • "What do you see changing in this industry in the next few years?" Change is inevitable.
  • "What type of employee have you found to have success in your department?" As a hiring manager, I always enjoy being asked this question. It allows me to tie a bow around all of the things I've said about the role, and describe what characteristics are most common in those that succeed in my department.

It is possible that you prepare a list of questions to ask after the interview but they are answered during the course of the interview. That means you didn't prepare enough questions. This does not mean you can pass on asking questions by saying something like, "I had some questions but they were all answered." You still need to ask a couple of questions. Remember, the questions you ask are just as important as the answers you gave.

The first interview is not the time to ask about compensation or benefits. Your interview should be about what you can bring to the company and this position.

Sometime, I start an interview by asking the candidate if they have any questions before we get started. Sometimes, it can be helpful to a candidate to know some key operational details about the role before they are asked questions. So, prepare some questions you could ask if you are given the opportunity in the beginning of the interview.

What questions do you usually ask?