50+ Good Questions to Ask in Your Job Interview
By Susan P. Joyce
The best way to avoid taking a job you will hate (resulting in another job hunt too soon) is to learn as much as you can about the job, the employer, your boss, your coworkers, and the environment before you accept the job offer.
Job interviews should be as great a source of information for you, as they are for employers. Be ready to answer the common interview questions, but also be prepared to ask your questions in every interview.
Don't feel obligated to wait until the end of the interview to ask your questions. Some questions are appropriate at different times in the interview, as described below, and at different stages of the interview process which often goes several rounds.
5 Reasons to Should Have Your Own Questions Ready
Typically, a job seeker with no questions is assumed to be either not interested in the job or not very bright. Employers aren't interested in a candidate who isn't really interested in them or the opportunity.
Specifically, asking your own questions will:
- Leave a positive and memorable impression on the interviewers, particularly important if many candidates are being interviewed and you are one of the first interviewees.
- Demonstrate your interest in the employer and the opportunity, preferably by referencing something you found in your research (e.g., a new product recently announced, a location, a competitor's name).
- Help you gain information you want or need to decide if this job and employer are a good fit for you.
- Assist in diverting the interviewer's attention in uncomfortable situations (like after you have answered why you were fired from your last job).
- Turn the interview into more of a conversation than a grilling (with you on the hot seat).
Generally, asking good questions shows that you are both interested and prepared, which will impress the interviewer, and the answers to those questions should also help you decide whether or not you want to work for that employer.
If this is your second interview with this employer, read The Second Interview: 5 Key Questions to Ask. Also, read 45 Questions You Should NOT Ask in a Job Interview for questions to avoid asking.
Different Questions for Different Stages of the Interview Process
The job interview process may be simple. You may come in for one set of interviews and be hired. Or, you may have several different interviews on different days and in different locations.
With larger employers, the process is usually longer and more complex with an average of well over 3 weeks to fill a job. Typically, the interview process is comprised of several "rounds" of interviews, and making it past the first round is usually considered a good sign.
If the employer is not local for you, the first interview may be a phone interview, a Skype interview, or a one-way video interview.
If the employer is local for you, the first interview may also be a phone interview which is often called a "phone screen" because that's what usually happens. They screen applicants to determine who may be a qualified candidate to be invited in for a face-to-face interview.
Most of these questions are appropriate for every round of interviewing when you are interviewed by new people (to you) in each round.
If you see the same people again in a 2nd or 3rd round, as part of the interview process for the same job, you probably should not repeat a question unless you want to follow up on something another interviewer said. Hopefully, by that point in the interview process, you hopefully will have learned enough about the person and the job to have developed new questions to ask.
Questions to Ask at the Start of the Interview
At the start of the interview, understanding the people who are interviewing you will help you provide answers appropriate to the person's role in your work life. You will also become a bit more comfortable talking with the interviewer(s), hopefully turning the interview into a discussion rather than a series of questions and answers.
Ask These Questions to Learn About the Interviewer
You should be introduced to each person interviewing you before an interview begins. Make note of the person's name, and ask for their job title if it isn't provided. Ideally, you should receive a business card from the interviewer that contains all relevant information, including their contact information.
Particularly if the person will be a co-worker or your manager, understanding what motivates their questions and interest in you will give you more insight into both them and the job. You will also be able to ask the most relevant questions.
- How long have you worked here?
- How long have you been in this job?
- Who is your boss? Where is your boss located?
- What do you enjoy most about working here?
- Why are you successful here?
- If the interviewer would be your boss, ask: How would you describe your management style?
- If the person is not a recruiter or the hiring manager, ask: Will we work together? How?
Understanding more about the person will help you choose the next questions to ask, and also help you keep their responses in perspective.
These questions are most relevant when you are meeting an interviewer for the first time. If you are returning for a second or third round of interviews with the same person, you should already know the answers to these questions, so repeating them is not necessary or smart.
Questions for the Main Part of the Interview
Once you understand who is interviewing you, you can move on to asking these questions as appropriate during the interview.
Ask These Questions to Learn About the Job
Ask questions that will help you determine if you would actually like the job, and be able to do it well.
- Why is this position open? Is it a new position or a replacement for someone?
- New position is usually good (sign that the organization is probably growing).
- If the job is a replacement, ask if the employee transferred to another part of the company, was promoted, or left the employer.
NOTE: Be wary of an employer with many employees leaving constantly. People leave for a reason, and the reason may be because this is not a good place to work.
- How long does someone typically stay in this job?
- Who does the person in this job report to? What is the boss's job title, and where are they located?
If the manager and the person in this job don't work in the same location, ask where the manager is located.
- What is the salary grade for this job? What is your lowest salary grade? The highest?
- What can you tell me about this job that isn't in the description?
- What is the key to success in this job?
- What are your future plans for this job?
- What are the prospects for growth for the person in this job?
- How do people grow in this job?
Do they have OJT (on the job training), pay for training, or are you responsible for your own training?
- How often is this job open?
- What is a typical (day, week, month, or year) for a person in this job?
Choose multiple time frames, if that feels appropriate.
- What is the toughest time of (day, week, month, or year) for a person in the job? Why?
- What is the key thing someone does to be successful in this job?
- How is success in this job measured by you? By the organization?
- What are the most important skills of the person who does this job?
- What is the biggest challenge someone in this job faces on a daily (or weekly or monthly) basis?
- If anyone has failed at this job, why did they fail? What mistakes did they make?
- Who does the person in this job report to?
(If this job reports to more than one person, ask who writes the performance report.)
- Is there much travel associated with this job? Where and how often?
- What hours are typically worked in a week for someone successful in this job? Is overtime expected or accepted?
- Where is this job located?
Ask this question if it isn't clear where the person will be working. You might be able to work from home, or the job might be at a different location than where the interview is happening.
Understanding more about the job will help you decide if the job feels like a good fit for you.
Ask These Questions to Learn About the Organization
Visit the employer's website and do some quick Google research before the interview, .
- What can you tell me about this organization that isn't widely known?
- What is the key to success in this organization?
- How many people work in this group (department, office, and/or company)?
- How many have joined in the last year?
(In a fast growing company, several people could have been added. In a tough place to work, several people could have left.)
- How many people have left in the last year?
- Where do people usually go when they leave this group (another company or another part of this company)?
- How long do people usually stay in this organization?
- How do you define (or measure) "success" here?
- How would an employee know if they were considered a success or not?
- How does someone get promoted in this organization?
- How does senior management view this group?
- Where do you see this group in five years?
- When and how is feedback given to employees?
- If regular performance reviews are done:
- What is the time frame between reports?
- Who writes them?
- Who contributes to them?
Ask about anything else in your preparation that raised questions for you. [Read Smart Google Research for Successful Job Interviews for leveraging Google before the interview.]
Ask These Questions at the End of the Interview
As the interview winds down, or when the interviewer has indicated that the interview is ending, you need to ask these end-of-the-interview questions.
Tell the interviewer that you are very interested in the job and enthusiastic about joining the organization. Then, finish by asking these questions.
Ask These Questions to "Close the Sale"
Use your judgement about the interviewer and the situation. Some interviewers will like this approach and the confidence you are demonstrating by asking these questions, but others will not. Do what feels comfortable and appropriate to you.
These questions are usually best in one-on-one interviews. If it feels appropriate, ask:
- Do you think I could be successful in this job?
- Is there any other information you need? Any concerns or questions about me or my qualifications for this job?
If they answer these questions (and they might not!), those answers will give you an indication of how well you did in the interview and perhaps an opportunity to clarify a question they might have about your qualifications to do the job..
DO NOT LEAVE Without Asking These Questions to Learn About the Employer's Hiring Process and the Next Steps
You want to be sure that you understand what happens next, and how their hiring process works, and this information may not be volunteered by any of the interviewers. So, ask them of the hiring manager, the recruiter, or the HR person.
Don't expect that the timetable described will be met. Filling a job usually takes longer than people anticipate (or plan), so be prepared to wait. By asking these questions, you will know what they are planning to do, and you will also have permission to stay in touch as well as a contact and timing indication..
- What happens next in your process? (another round of interviews or reference checks or...)
- Who should I stay in touch with (get name, job title, and contact information if you don't already have it)?
- What is the best way to stay in touch (telephone or email)?
- How will you get back in touch with me (telephone, email, or something else)?
- Is it OK if I call you in 2 weeks (or some point after the date they mention when answering the question above) if I don't hear from you?
- How soon do you think you'll be making a decision on which candidate to hire?
- When do you expect to make an offer?
- If you make me an offer, when would you expect me to start work?
Don't offer to leave your current job instantly or make a starting date commitment you can't keep.
Even if you hate your current boss and job, give the amount of notice required (typically 2 weeks). This employer will worry that you would do the same thing to them, if you are willing to leave your old job without proper notice, and that may end this opportunity. Plus, that old employer may be contacted by future potential employers, and leaving abruptly without notice, can ruin opportunities for you.
If you don't ask these questions, you will have no idea when you will hear from them next or where they are in their process which will be very stressful for you.
DO's and DON'Ts for Asking the Best Questions in Your Job Interview
Your goals are to gather as much information as you can about the job and to make a good impression on the interviewer(s). Asking good questions, as above, will help you do both.
Be sure to send a thank you after EVERY interview! For help, see the articles in Guide to Writing Thank You Notes After a Job Interview including Sample Thank You Notes (and Emails)
DO Ask Good, Relevant Questions in Your Job Interview
- Try not to ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. You want more information, and people will usually provide that if you ask "open-ended" questions, like the questions above.
- To make your best impression and be well-prepared, take the time to research the organization and the people before the interview. This research will help you formulate the best questions and also understand the organization and opportunity much better.
- Presumably you know the job title and job description, so ask other relevant questions about the employer and the job.
- Take notes. Bring a notebook or note pad, and write down relevant information as your questions are answered (like the names and job titles of the interviewers).
Important Do NOT's:
- Don't feel obligated to hold your questions to the end of the interview.
- Based on the answers you receive, don't be afraid to ask follow-up questions. Ask! Turn the interview into a discussion.
- Don't feel that you must ask all, or even half, of these questions or that these are the only questions to ask. Use this list as a starting point. Pick out the questions that are the most important to you, and add more based on your experience and interests.
- Don't ask personal questions about the interviewer or anyone else who works there.
Don't just mechanically go through the list of questions above -- that will be interpreted as lack of interest and/or lack of intelligence. Neither interpretation will be good for your candidacy.
For more, read Killer Do's and Don'ts for Job Interview Success.
Gather as much information as you can in the job interview. Decide if you really want this job in this organization working with these people. Then, be prepared for the whole process to take too much time. NEVER stop your job search and wait for a job offer to come. You are probably one of at least three other candidates for any job, and they may well choose someone else -- or not fill this job.
About the author...
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.