It’s a well-known part of the interview process for any job – when the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for us?” – but so often the section where candidates stumble because all their prep has been about proving themselves, rather than interrogating the hiring firm. However, it’s important to have questions for the company and interviewer as this demonstrates your seriousness, engagement and attention to detail regarding missing info from your job description and interview preparation.
So, what are the kinds of questions you should be asking interviewers?
Today, we’re here to help with the Top-10 best questions to ask at interview.
Some of these may not be needed, so its up to you to pick and choose, but remember the time allotted to this at the end of the interview is usually limited, so choose carefully.
1. Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of the role?
Of course, you will most likely have a decent overview of the responsibilities for the role from the job description, but this is a good time to drill-down a bit deeper into some of those responsibilities – exactly what skills will be needed, what groups you’ll be working with - both inside the organisation and externally - and how your time will be divided up percentage-wise.It will also help to paint a picture of what the average day in the job will look like for you.
If the interviewer tries to answer this with the “everyday is different; we need someone who can adapt” response, it’s worth trying a follow-up question – “What did the last month look like for the incumbent role holder?. If there’s no clear response to this question, it indicates that the role is not defined, or that the business is disorganised, and can serve as a valuable warning flag.
2. What are some of the challenges you expect the person in this position to face?
Following on from the responsibilities question – finding out about the key challenges in a good idea and is information that rarely appears on the job description except indirectly. Examples include having to negotiate with some change-resistant internal stakeholders, or an expectation to do what you can with limited budgets, or maybe you’ll have to use some legacy software systems until the organisation is able to replace them. Any kind of change/transformation role or post-company merger position would expect to see some of these challenges arise.
In fact, this can also be an opportunity to highlight how you’ve approached similar challenges in the past, which could be a big tick for the interviewer in your interview process.
3. How will you measure the success of the person in this position?
Again, it may well be that the job description covers some of this already but it’s very common for job descriptions to get reused over the years, even when the job itself and the criteria for success have changed over that time. References to success tend to be vague such as ‘hitting KPIs’ – so what are those KPIs? Are they genuinely achievable? What’s the timeframe? Again, asking this to the hiring manager may get a different response from what’s been posted publicly by HR and many job descriptions simply don’t go into this at all.
This is an opportunity to really get under the skin of the job and is one of the most important questions to ask, as knowing where the goalposts are in the only way to win. It’s also a good follow-on question from one about responsibilities because, while the role may have x-number of responsibilities, success in the role may hinge more or less on just two or three of those.
4. How long did the previous role holders stay in the role and what did they do well?
Naturally, if people are not staying long in the role, it’s likely that either the manager is not great, or the expectations are unrealistic, or both. One person leaving quickly could be for any reason, but more than one usually indicates that something is wrong. If the position is new, this question is irrelevant – but you could ask about turnover on the team instead.
The second part of the question is powerful – showing that you’re interested in how to excel in the position and also what the manager liked about certain qualities of previous role holders, an indirect question that can reveal a lot more about the route to success than simply the criteria and KPIs.
5. Can you tell me more about the team I would be working in?
It’s important to get an idea of the way the team, division and/or company is structured, who you'll report to, who they report up to themselves, and how the department the role sits in is connected within the organisation overall. The immediate team are the people you'll work most closely with, so it's worth trying to find out about the team’s dynamic, working methods, practices, tools etc. Getting an overall picture of the organisation will help you understand how your work fits in to the bigger picture.
6. Can you describe the working culture of the organisation?
Asking this question is a great way to assess the working environment of the company and it gives you the opportunity to discover whether you'll fit in. You'll understand how/whether the organisation prioritises employee happiness, any benefits on offer and what the work-life balance and home working policies are like in practice.
Note that sometimes hiring managers aren’t good at describing the culture on their teams – either because they’ve not really considered this in detail or because they look at it from a totally different, personal, perspective. Terrible managers often think they are great managers. Therefore, take this potential bias into consideration when listening to managers describe the culture of the team under them. Ideally, you should get to speak with the role incumbent or another team member to sound them out as well.
You might consider asking about how people thrive and why people struggle in the role – this can reveal many things – such as what the manager cares about in the role, whether they’re invested in their staff success, what you might clash over with them in the role and also what kind of management style they are used to.
7. What do you enjoy about your job?
This is a good question to get a personal response from the interviewer and the answer can be very revealing. They may talk about the nuts and bolts of their job with passion, they may also talk about working with a great team or the contribution they are making to the company overall. Giving the interviewer space to talk about their position is a good way to establish an understanding of them as a person and to develop a rapport with them – especially over shared experience or goals.
8. Are there opportunities for training and progression within the role/company?
Asking this question shows the interviewer that you're serious about your career and invested in a future with the organisation. Equally, you don’t want to be stuck in a role where there is no upward progression, so getting this clear at the start is very important. What should you be aiming for? How do you get there? For example, if there is a rigid structure in place where you are always waiting for the person above you to move on, then a long-term career with that company may not be viable. But remember progression is not always linear and there may be sideways moves from this role that are possible and allow progression.
9. Where do you think the company is headed in the next five years?
This is a question to gain insight into the company's progression plans and where it sees itself in the market, relative to competitors. It can also give you some indication of job security. You could learn about any major projects that are on the horizon, potential mergers and any transformation initiatives that are just starting.
10. That question you had when reading all the info…
There will almost certainly be questions that come to you while reading through the job description and doing all the prep that we haven’t listed here. Maybe it’s around performance appraisals, or about the key challenges facing the department, or maybe about the social life of the team. You may also be interested in what happens at the next stage of the interview process and how fast that can happen. All of these are very valid questions so you should ask them.
Making sure this role is the right fit for you requires interrogation and some work to uncover what the key questions to ask might be. Therefore, the questions section at the end of interview is actually one of the most important parts of the hiring process for both parties – a chance to get missing info and also to iron-out any misunderstandings. Be sure to make the most of this opportunity to best inform your decision making.