Questions to ask in a job interview

25th November 2020
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So, you’ve charmed the panel with your small talk, nailed those tricky questions about your skills and experience, and shown that you’ve done plenty of research into the company. Now, there’s just one last hurdle to face before your job interview wraps up: “is there anything you’d like to ask us?”.

Many candidates typically find this part of the interview quite intimidating, but there’s really no need to fear the final part of the interview process. When done right, asking the interviewer a few carefully chosen questions can be a golden opportunity to set yourself apart from the other candidates. It can also give you a valuable chance to learn more about the role and the company, to see if it’s going to be right for you.

As with any part of the jobhunting and recruitment process, preparation is key. So, it’s sensible to take the time to think of a few questions in advance. To help you get ready for your next career move, we’ve shared a few of the best questions to ask in an interview, as well as some other tips for closing and following up an interview successfully.

  • Why should I ask questions at an interview?
  • 10 examples of good questions to ask at an interview
  • Following up: tips for closing an interview 

Why should I ask questions at an interview?

You might be wondering why hiring managers are keen for candidates to ask their own questions during an interview. The answer is simple: because it’s beneficial for both parties in terms of working out whether or not an applicant is right for the job.

For the employer, it’s a chance to gauge how invested in the role you are, and what your goals and aspirations might be in the long term if you do land the job. Asking the right sort of questions will show the panel that you’ve thought long and hard about the role, and that you’re enthusiastic about joining the team. Additionally, if you’re keen to learn more about things like progression or training, it will help to demonstrate that you’re ambitious, forward-thinking, and likely to be a great asset to the company in the future.

For candidates, asking the interviewer a few questions offers a vital opportunity to get a glimpse into the inner workings of the company. Although the panel will be doing most of the questioning throughout the process, it’s important to remember that any interview is still very much a two-way conversation. This is your chance to learn as much as possible about the particulars of the role and the wider company culture, to see if it will suit you. So, you’ll certainly want to make the most of it to get as much information as you can prior to accepting a job offer.

10 examples of good questions to ask at an interview

To help you prepare for your next big career opportunity, we’ve put together ten examples of good questions to ask in an interview. These are worded in such a way that will help to make you come across as professional, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic, while also giving you a chance to learn more about the company and the role. By keeping these questions in mind, you can ensure that you’re not left tongue-tied when the panel ask if there’s anything you’d like to quiz them about.

You should remember that it’s likely that some of these topics will already come up during the course of the interview, so be prepared to skip certain questions as needed. Some questions might not be applicable to every job or company, so use your judgement when considering which ones to ask, too. But, as long as you think on your feet, you should be able to show the interview panel that you’re engaged, enthusiastic, and a great fit for the role.

1. What does a typical day look like in this role?

The job description listed on the application might give you some understanding of what your overall responsibilities will be, but it won’t necessarily tell you exactly what you would be doing on a daily basis. By asking for more detail, you’ll be able to get a better idea of whether the role will suit you — and it will also present you with another valuable opportunity to talk up any strengths you have that would help you succeed in the role.

2. What do you like most about working here?

This is essentially the same as asking “what is it like to work here?” but, by addressing the interviewer personally, you’ll get a more direct insight into what it’s like to be an employee. Remember to keep things professional and positive, and don’t ever press them to disclose negative aspects of their job or to criticise their employer — the last thing you want to do is make them feel uncomfortable!

3. How will my performance be measured in this position?

What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the role, and how are they measured? Asking how your success in the role will be measured will help to give you a good idea of what the company’s expectations are like, and how employees are managed and supervised.

4. Can you tell me more about the projects that the new hire will be working on immediately after starting?

This question will show the interviewer that you’re keen to get started on the job and enthusiastic about the sort of work you’ll be doing. If you can think on your feet and explain how you would handle any problems or projects the company is currently working on, be sure to do so!

5. What are the biggest challenges that the company/department is facing right now?

Again, this type of question will show that you’re already thinking ahead to how you’d perform in the role. It also demonstrates that you’re invested in helping the company advance and succeed.

6. Is the work typically collaborative or independent?

It’s important to get a sense of how much teamwork is required in the role. Be sure to play up your strengths as both a collaborative and independent worker, mentioning past examples of this from previous roles where you can.

7. What opportunities for progression and development does this company offer?

Asking about progression and advancement will show the interviewer that you’re ambitious and invested in a long-term career with the company. Plus, it will give you some idea of just how far you could go in this job, as well as help to flag up any roles that seem a bit limiting or dead-end. Just be sure to phrase your question in a positive way — in other words, don’t ask when you can expect a promotion outright!

8. What characteristics do you typically look for in an employee?

Finding the right person for the role is often about more than just skills, experience, and qualifications: hiring managers will also be looking for candidates with the right attitude and personality type. After they’ve answered, you’ll naturally want to talk up any aspects of yourself that you think fit the bill.

9. How would you describe the culture of your company in three words?

What’s the ethos and outlook of the company? By finding out more about their workplace culture, you’ll be in a better position to explain exactly why you would fit in so well.

10. Do you have any reservations about considering me for this role? 

This is a slightly risky question, as there’s always a chance that the interviewer won’t want to share this information with you. But, as long as you’ve built a good rapport with them, and you ask the question in a polite and professional way, this can be a very effective way to address any doubts they might have about your suitability for the role. For instance, if the interviewer questions whether you’ve got enough experience in a particular area, you can point to other relevant transferrable skills you’ve picked up at previous jobs.

Word your questions carefully

While the examples we’ve shared above are all great questions to ask in an interview, you’re certainly not limited to these alone. So, if you’re curious about a topic that we haven’t mentioned, feel free to ask away! However, to ensure you’re remaining professional and showing yourself in the best possible light, you’ll want to bear the following tips in mind when thinking up your own questions:

  • Avoid asking lots of questions about salaries, pay rises, bonuses, and other perks. Although it’s fine to want to learn more about renumeration, focusing too much on the financial side of things will make the interviewer think you’re only interested in the money, which can be quite off-putting.
  • Try to avoid asking yes or no questions (like “is this a good place to work?”, for instance). Asking open-ended questions will ensure you’re getting the most informative responses.
  • Conversely, you should also avoid asking questions that are too broad for the interviewer to possibly answer in the context of an interview — like “what’s the five-year financial plan for the entire department?”. You certainly don’t want the interviewer to feel flustered!  
  • Steer clear of any negative questions. While it’s fine to ask the interviewers their opinions and experiences in a positive way, always avoid asking questions with a negative connotation, like “is anyone here difficult to work with?”. This will make the interviewers uncomfortable, and you won’t come across as very professional.

Following up: tips for closing an interview

First impressions are undoubtedly important during an interview — but so are last impressions. The final few minutes of your meeting present a valuable opportunity to drive home the fact that you really are the best candidate for the role. So, be sure to use them wisely by doing the following: 

  • Re-confirm your interest: Mention that meeting the team and learning more about the role haveincreased your interest in the job and re-affirmed your belief that you’d be the ideal match for the position.
  • Re-iterate your qualifications: Briefly re-cap the skills, qualifications, and other qualities that set you apart from the competition, placing them within the context of the interview (e.g. “Now I’ve learned more about the company’s focus on digital expansion, I can see that my experience with X software would make me an especially good fit”). This will help to make sure the panel are left with a strong idea of why you’re right for the role. 
  • Ask if there’s anything else they need from you: Ask if the hiring team need any further action from you, and ask if they’d like you to pass on any documents, samples, or portfolios. Hiring managers might not ask for these initially, but it could make all the difference further down the line if they’re struggling to choose between you and another candidate.
  • Ask for information on moving forward: Be sure to ask the interviewer what the next steps will be moving forward, and if they can give you a timeframe for their response. This will emphasise your interest.
  • Thank them for their time: Finally, thank the panel for their time and let them know how much you’ve enjoyed meeting them and learning more about the company.This will show that you’re a true professional with great interpersonal skills, and will encourage them to think that you’re the sort of person who they could imagine working with. Don’t forget to thank any other staff you encounter, such as receptionists or secretaries, on your way out.

The process doesn’t stop after you’ve left the building, either. So, after the interview has ended, you should always make sure to do the following:

  • Send a thank you: It’s both professional and polite to send a quick follow-up email within 24 hours of the interview.Thank them for their time, re-state that you’re very interested in the role, and let them know that you look forward to hearing from them.This doesn’t need to be very long — just a few lines will be plenty.
  • Follow up: If you don’t hear from the hiring manager about their decision within the timeframe, you can follow up with a polite email asking for a response. If you don’t hear anything after this, it’s best to assume you haven’t gotten the position and to step back. You don’t want to hassle them too much or seem rude.
  • Keep job-hunting: While you’re waiting to hear back, it’s fine to continue your job search. This will ensure your time is used effectively. If you’re currently seeking your next career move, be sure to view our executive jobs listings to see if any might be a good match for you.

The final part of any interview might seem challenging but, as long as you’re prepared, you should be on track to impress the panel and show them you’re the right person for the job. All of the examples we’ve shared above are good questions to ask in an interview, so it’s well worth making a note of them for your next big professional opportunity.

Here at Edward Reed Recruitment, we specialise in matching the best candidates to executive and managerial roles across a range of industries. So, if you’re looking to take the next step in your career, consider registering your CV with us today. You can also find lots more invaluable advice that will help you excel at your next interview on our blog.