A crucial part of the interview process is putting your interviewer in the hot seat. Anticipating the questions that HR or a hiring manager might have for you is important, but coming to the meeting prepared with points you want to go over is also necessary.
You want to show that you've seriously imagined yourself taking on the role — something that would likely prompt some questions on your end. However, you want to be as sure as possible that you thoroughly understand the job at hand, what you would expect, and that you'd be ready, willing, and able to take it on. In other words, asking questions is your chance to make sure the job is the right fit for you, not to mention that it has the potential make your prepared answers really come to life in the interview — so don't forfeit the opportunity to stand out.
Ahead, Kelly Finn, the principal consultant for the Information Technology Search division at WinterWyman, presents nine questions you should consider asking in your next interview. You can take them as is, or tailor them for the job you're interviewing for.
1. What are some of the common traits among the most successful people in the company?
"This is a good way to find out which traits, both tangible and intangible, are most valuable to the company," Finn says. "Ask this question with the goal to find out what the interviewer is looking for, and use their answers to draw parallels with examples in your background."
Keeping their explanation in mind, she adds, sell yourself as you continue the discussion, which is really what a good interviewee question does — it creates a dialogue. Show how certain traits you have are similar to successful people in that company.
2. Why have you ruled out other candidates?
Your interviewer's answer to this question presents another opportunity to market yourself, Finn says. If they explain that other candidates have been passed on due to a lack of a specific skill or a personality trait, you can "talk about the attributes you do have and how they would make you a great fit."
3. Where do you think I will have the biggest learning curve?
"Asking this question is a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition, as most other candidates won't ask it," Finn notes."If your interviewer can answer this question, it gives you a great opportunity to clarify any hesitations he or she may have over a perceived weakness in skill or ability."
You might be nervous about opening the door to criticism, but it's better to tackle that head on while you're still in the running for the job by going into more depth and reframing any experiences that show you are indeed qualified, or illustrating ways you might approach any initial obstacles.
4. Ask about a recent news article or press release you've seen about the company.
"This shows you've done your research on the company, and can prompt additional questions you might have about the company's growth, news, etc.," Finn says. "It can also give you an understanding of the direction the company is heading."
5. What is the five-year plan for this company/department?
"Asking about the five-year plan for the role gives insight into the career path for this position, and helps you determine if this path lines up with your career interests," Finn explains. "Additionally, the answer can give insight into where they’re heading both as a company and as a department."
Understanding whether the role provides opportunities for growth, or is more of a stepping stone (or dead end), can help you choose the best job for you, especially if you may be considering more than one prospective employer.
6. What do you personally like the most about working here?
"Asking this question can help you make a connection with your interviewer on a personal level, and can tell you about work-life balance, professional development, etc.," Finn says. "The answer can give you clues about what it is like to work there on a daily basis and a view into the corporate culture."
7. What would you change about the company?
If you're at a point in your life or career where you feel you can be choosier with jobs, you might be willing to turn down a job where the culture clashes with your personality. Company culture isn't always easy to determine beforehand; just like you, interviewers are also putting their best foot forward. But if you think about the environments where you work best and compare them to the environment your interviewer is describing, you may get a better sense of what the day-to-day is like.
8. How does my background compare to that of other people you've interviewed?
Your interviewer is a person, too. (Even if they seem to hold power over your future in the moment.) So, just like most people, they might make assumptions, assume they understand everything, or simply shy away from pushing too hard. That's why it is important to get a feel for where you stack up; you want to make sure that when you are compared to other job candidates after you're gone, the right information is being processed.
"Asking this question gives you an opportunity to address any concerns or perceived weaknesses on the spot. It is also helpful to clear up any miscommunications that might have occurred," Finn says. "For example, the interviewer may tell you that while your background is similar to others they have interviewed, you have less project management experience than others. This is the ideal time to clear up any confusion and promote the experience you do have."
She adds that asking this question also shows how interested you are in getting the job, "which is always a plus in the eye of an interviewer."
You're demonstrating that you're not afraid to assess yourself with them, and get "a window into the market and how your experience stacks up against others you are competing with" — something that could help you even if this particular job doesn't work out.
9. What is the number one challenge the person hired will face in the first 30, 90, and 180 days on the job?
"This is almost like asking for the answers to the test!" Finn says. "It is an ideal time to show the interviewer how you have tackled similar challenges in the past and can be a great way to sell your experience. It also gives you insight into what you will be getting into if you are hired, and can help you decide if this is the right challenge for you."
It's great to be ambitious in a role, but when someone hires you, they usually want to make sure you can tackle the job they actually hired you for first. Getting a sense of what your first days, weeks, and months might be like in a new job or role can help you pace yourself — while keeping your goal in mind.
10. What can I clarify about my background/experience?
It's easy to worry about how an interview went if you don't feel you represented yourself well. Make sure that your interviewer isn't holding back on a concern out of politeness by giving them an opening.
"Ask this at the end of the interview, in case you need to reiterate or clear up any miscommunications," Finn suggests. "For example, he or she may ask for clarification about your role in a project you managed, or for more details about your experience with a specific skill. It is important to phrase this question with what," she adds, "because asking 'Can I clarify anything?' may only prompt a yes or no answer, without leaving an opportunity to continue the conversation."