Questions an Interview Candidate Should Ask

If you’re interviewing for a job, you probably did some preparation for that interview.  Ideally, you were ready for some of the most commonly asked interview questions.  [If not, you really have no excuse: a Google search for “common interview questions” yields more than 600,000 results.  You ought to take a look.]

You also ought to be prepared for the question that turns the tables, when the interviewer asks you “What questions do you have for me?”

The worst possible response is “I think you’ve covered everything, so I don’t have any questions.”  That’s a huge red flag: it shows that you have no curiosity, no initiative, and no business thinking that you’re going to get the job.  If that’s your answer, it’s over: I’m not going to hire you.

Here are a few cautions:

  • Don’t ask things that you ought to already know (like anything you could have gleaned from the company website). 
  • Don’t ask things that aren’t relevant to the position you’re interviewing for.
  • Don’t pick from some list you found online (not even mine!) or in a book.
  • Don’t make it appear that you’re already looking to leave the job for which you’re interviewing.

Obviously, you ought to ask about something that you actually want to know.  You want to ask questions that reinforce the positive impression you’re hoping to make.  Here are a few examples to consider:

When you think about other people who have been in this role, what separates the great ones from the merely good ones?

This indicates that you want (and expect) to do a great job, not just a good job.  It also creates a bit of a partnership between you and the interviewer – it’s almost like you’re getting him to be invested in your success.

What is the organization’s plan for the next few years, and how does this department or division fit in?

What types of people seem to excel here?

What makes this company a great place to work?

If you’re talking to the hiring manager who will be your boss:

What are the success factors you’ll use (after 3 months or 6 or 12 or whatever) to determine if hiring me was a good decision?

This is similar to the “great vs. good” question above.  You’re demonstrating that you have high expectations of yourself and you’re asking the hiring manager to help you identify how to meet those high expectations.

For now…I’ll leave you with this thought:

If I interview you, don’t use all of these questions when you talk to me.  While you’ll get extra credit for reading my blog, you’ll get a zero for creativity.

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