Powerful Questions to Ask in an Interview to Get Results

Questions You Should Ask
During a Job Interview

Eric Ciechanowski
By Eric Ciechanowski
Last Updated: August 17, 2020
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A job interview is mainly a matter of you answering questions. But the interview is a two-way street–after all, you also need to decide if this is a job that you want. It is entirely appropriate for you to ask a few questions of your own. Asking the good interview questions can help you get a better sense of whether a particular job is the right fit for you. You can learn about the specific responsibilities and requirements, as well as about the company’s culture, and other key details. By asking smart, strategic and insightful questions, you can actually improve your chances of getting hired. We’ve compiled a curated list of the 16 most important questions, as well as when and why to ask them. Read on, and get ready for your best interview ever!

The 16 Most Important Questions to Ask During a Job Interview

Before you dive into learning about the most commonly asked questions, remember the goal of studying these isn’t to rehearse a scripted answer to every question. Instead, as you read these, the point is to think through how you might answer each one, so when you find yourself sitting across the desk from the person who will decide whether or not to give you the job of your dreams, you can be confident and relaxed that you did your homework.

The goal isn’t to memorize specific phrases. Your purpose is to develop a mindset that’s focused, relaxed and confident. Remember that a job interview is a two-way street: it’s not only about whether they like you, but also whether you want this job. It’s a relationship. So don’t try too hard to sell yourself. As long as you’ve prepared ahead of time, you can trust that during the interview, all you have to do is be yourself.

Question 1
In a perfect world, what skills would the ideal candidate for this job possess?
Why you should ask:

This question is a smart way to demonstrate that you really care about being an exact fit for a job, and it invites the hiring manager to say some keywords associated with the position. Later in the interview, you can use some of the same language to describe yourself and your skill set. This is called “mirroring,” and can be a subtle way to let the person you’re talking to know they are being heard and understood, as well as a skillful way of presenting yourself as perfectly qualified. It’s also a quick way to find out whether you are really qualified for the job.

When to ask this question:

This question is good to ask towards the beginning of an interview, because it gives you time to sprinkle some of the keywords into your answers throughout the rest of your conversation.

Question 2
What are the most pressing tasks I would need to accomplish in the first 60 days?
Why you should ask:

If you do get the job, it will help you to succeed to have a sense of exactly what your first project will be. This may enable you to prepare ahead of time so you can hit the ground running.

When to ask this question:

This question should be asked only after you have discussed all of the basic job requirements and have a sense of what your regular daily routine will be like. It is an appropriate follow-up question to ask if the hiring manager has listed several different projects you will be expected to handle.

Question 3
Can you describe some specific projects I will be expected to work on?
Why you should ask:

It’s one thing to read a job description that calls for a CPA in accounting. It’s entirely different to learn that a position requires you to wake up at 3AM to execute international wire transfers with clients who are in a different time zone. For this reason, it’s smart to move from broad generalities to some specific examples, to avoid misunderstandings.

When to ask this question:

After discussing a job’s requirements in general terms, if you aren’t 100% clear about the details of what’s involved, follow up with this question.

Question 4
What will my average work day be like in this job?
Why you should ask:

It’s one thing to read a job description and understand your basic responsibilities. But this question can help you get a clear, concrete understanding of exactly how much pressure you will be under each day, how long the work day will be, and whether workflow is consistent or has seasonal or other variations. If you are going to be successful at a job, you need to have a realistic expectation of what the experience will really be like.

When to ask this question:

Don’t ask this question at the start of an interview, as it is possible some of this information will already have been supplied during the course of your discussion with the hiring manager. Towards the end of the interview, after you have gotten clarity about the specific responsibilities and expectations the job requires, you can follow up with this question.

Question 5
What personality traits would the ideal candidate have for this job?
Why you should ask:

By the time you’re sitting face to face for a job interview, the hiring manager is probably already convinced you have the hard skills (such as technical expertise with specific software programs) required for a position. But by asking about personality traits or soft skills (such as creativity or leadership) you are showing that you are thinking more broadly about what might make you the best fit for a role. Again, you can “mirror” a few of the keywords your interviewer uses, which gives you the ability to say that you are exactly what the company is looking for, by repeating the precise terms and language the hiring manager uses.

When to ask this question:

You should ask this question towards the end of the interview, after having discussed the specific skills that make you well-qualified for the job. Asking this question gives you an opportunity to convince the hiring manager that you not only have all the required knowledge and skills needed, but also have the perfect temperament and personality to make you a good long-term fit.

Question 6
What skill set does your current team lack that you are hoping to fill with this hire?
Why you should ask:

It helps to know whether the employer is expecting you to bring something unique to a staff--which would make you essential to the company’s success. This question will also let you find out whether you will be one of several people on a team with the same set of skills (which could make you more expendable).

When to ask this question:

This question should be asked towards the end of the interview, or as a follow-up to a discussion about how the job requires collaboration and interaction with other staff members.

Question 7
What’s the most challenging part of this job?
Why you should ask:

A job interview is like a first date in the sense that both you and the hiring manager will be on your best behavior and want to focus exclusively on the positive side of everything you discuss. But it’s important to be realistic and get a sense of whatever drawbacks may be inherent to a role (for example, if the position regularly requires late nights, or working from home over the weekend). If the hiring manager responds with some version of “there are no downsides,” that’s a red flag.

When to ask this question:

Save this question for later in your interview. You don’t want to lead with something that sounds like you have a negative outlook, but this is a good question to ask as a follow-up after the hiring manager lists the benefits of the job.

Question 8
What kind of on-the-job training can I expect?
Why you should ask:

It goes without saying that every hiring manager wants to find an applicant who is perfectly qualified from day one. But with many jobs there may be a period of time when new hires need to learn proprietary information, processes, or software programs that are unique to a specific company. Asking this question is a good way to manage expectations for both yourself and the hiring manager, and make sure you’re clear about what any on-the-job training may involve.

When to ask this question:

This is a good question to ask as a follow up after discussing the requirements for a job, especially if you are uncertain that you have all the necessary skills.

Question 9
What kind of growth potential does this position offer?
Why you should ask:

This question is a way of finding out where you might expect a job to lead a few years down the line. By asking about the potential career trajectory you are demonstrating that you are ambitious and interested in long-term growth within a company. It’s also important for you to know where your job may lead, or it’s basically a dead-end.

When to ask this question:

This question should be asked near the end of your interview as it doesn’t directly relate to the job you are currently applying for, and is focused on long-term plans.

Question 10
How is performance on this job judged?
Why you should ask:

This is an extremely important question: if you aren’t clear about the metrics that determine success or failure, you are setting yourself up for the latter. Asking this question also shows that you want to understand the company’s internal logic and that you care about what matters most to your employer. You need to know how the company measures success.

When to ask this question:

You should ask this question after you and your hiring manager are done discussing the basic outlines of what is required for the job.

Question 11
How long have you worked here?
Why you should ask:

The purpose of this question is twofold: one, and most importantly, this is a good way to make a genuine human connection with your interviewer. It’s a simple straightforward question that can lead to a relaxed exchange. It’s also a good way to learn about the company’s turnover rate and culture. If your interviewer has been with the company for several years, that’s a good sign.

When to ask this question:

This question can be asked early on during the interview.

Question 12
What is the best thing about working here?
Why you should ask:

This is another great way to bond with your interviewer. It allows the hiring manager to talk about him or herself, and can provide you with revealing insights into what it’s really like to work for the company.

When to ask this question:

Ask this question towards the end of an interview.

Question 13
What can you tell me about any major new business initiatives the company has planned for the next few years?
Why you should ask:

This is an important question for several reasons. It shows that you’re thinking long-term and planning to commit to a job for years to come. It can also help you learn valuable information that may help you be more successful during your interview. For example, if you find out that the company plans to expand into South America next year, and you are fluent in Spanish, this creates the perfect opportunity to share that information.

When to ask this question:

Ask this question towards the end of your interview because it concerns long-term planning more than the immediate demands of the job.

Question 14
Can you tell me about the structure of the team I would be joining?
Why you should ask:

This question is essential: you should know who you are reporting to, whether that is one or more people, and what the hierarchical structure of the staff is. The answer to this question will reveal a lot about the company’s culture and your place in it.

When to ask this question:

If this information hasn’t already been clearly explained to you, make sure to ask this question before the interview ends.

Question 15
What are the most important things I should know about this company’s culture?
Why you should ask:

This question demonstrates that you are thinking big picture, and smart enough to realize that your success or failure will depend not only on your qualifications but also on whether you are a good fit with the company’s overall corporate philosophy.

When to ask this question:

You can ask this question in the middle of the interview, after having discussed the hard skills required to successfully perform this job.

Question 16
Is there anything else you’d like to ask me?
Why you should ask:

This question is not only a thoughtful way to wrap up an interview, it also shows you are confident and proactive in trying to provide information to help the hiring manager make a decision. It’s a polite way of demonstrating your enthusiasm for a job.

When to ask this question:

This should be the last question you ask.