Top 10 Best Questions to Ask in an Interview

Two businessmen shaking hands out of focus

 
So you got a job interview? First things first, take a moment to pat yourself on the back—after all, scoring an interview is a huge step toward landing the job. Immediately after that, it’s time to start preparing. A big part of that preparation, of course, will be thinking about how you’ll answer all the questions your interviewer is sure to ask (by the way, what is your greatest weakness?). But, just as importantly, also be sure to spend some time coming up with some smart questions to ask in an interview.

“It’s crucially important to ask intelligent, relevant questions during a job interview so the interviewer can understand how your mind works and get a solid feel for you as a person who would benefit their team,” career coach Carlota Zimmerman tells us, adding, “The best interview becomes a dialogue, wherein the interviewer ‘gets’ you.”

And on the flip side, a lack of questions will make you appear uninterested or unprepared, experts say.

Amanda Haddaway, HR Director at Answerbox, provides this scenario: “You’ve aced all the questions during the interview and now your conversation is coming to a conclusion. Then, the interviewer asks you if you have any additional questions. Avoid the deer-in-the-headlights look by being prepared for this part of the interview, too.”

So, what are good interview questions?

“One of the most important questions to ask an interviewer is: What does success look like in this role?” says Michelle Merritt of Merrfeld Resumes and Coaching.

If you have the opportunity, she adds, ask this early on.

“It’s like getting the answers to the test from the instructor in advance,” she says.

Other good interview question topics include culture, work style, leadership type and job specifics that haven’t been covered.

When crafting your questions, keep in mind that they should be positive and demonstrate that you are familiar with the company at which you’re interviewing and its industry, as well as show that you are interested in finding a company that is a good fit. If your questions were answered during the course of the interview, be sure to tell your interviewer. And even in that case, you might recap your key takeaways and ask for clarification, when appropriate.

 

What Not to Ask at a Job Interview

Knowing the wrong questions to ask during a job interview is just as important as knowing the right ones.

Merritt cautions jobseekers from asking basic questions that could be easily answered by a bit of online research, such as when was the company founded? or, worse yet, what do you do here? Also, she says, keep your questions professional and on topic. During a job interview early in her career, Merritt asked what could be considered an unprofessional question.

“The interviewer was clearly offended,” she recalls, “and the interview ended quickly after that.”

Also best unasked (at this point in the process, at least), are questions that are less about the job and more about what’s in it for you. It’s way too early, for instance, for you to initiate a discussion of salary and benefits, says talent coach Don Maruska.

“You need to sell yourself first,” he says.

Consultant Barry Maher agrees, providing some real-world examples from an interview in which he was recently involved:

  • How much vacation time do I get?
  • How long do I have to be here before I’m eligible for a vacation?
  • How long before I start to accrue additional weeks of vacation?

“What had looked like a great applicant now looked like someone who couldn’t wait to get out of work,” Maher says of the experience. “The questions applicants ask during the interview often reveal their priorities in a way that nothing else during the interview does.”

 

Top 10 Interview Questions

The experts we talked to provided these top 10 interview questions. Consider adding them to your repertoire for your next job interview. And it is OK to write them down and bring them to the interview – just don’t stare at the list the whole time or let it become a distraction.

Here are the questions (in no particular order):

1) In the best of all possible worlds, what would you like me to accomplish for you? In three months? In a year? In five years?

2) How would you describe the corporate culture?

“We spend a lot of time at work,” Haddaway notes, “so most people want to make sure they are working in an environment that is comfortable and meshes with their personalities.”

3) What are the opportunities to grow and develop in this organization?

4) Given what we have discussed so far, are there any potential reasons that I’m not aware of that would cause me not to excel in this position?

Chavaz Kingman, a corporate trainer, says this is a great question to ask because it gives the interviewer the chance to share any misgivings they might have about you, in turn giving you the opportunity to address them.

“If the interviewer has no issues in hiring you then you will have gotten them to vocalize it,” he adds, ” strengthening their belief that you are likely the best candidate for the job.

5) Can you describe a typical workday for someone in this position?

6) What are the working relationships like in this role? To whom will I report? What are the other people like on the team?

7) What can I do to help your company?

8) Why is this position vacant and what happened to the former incumbent?

9) What have the most effective employees in this role done in the past to succeed?

This question, says Sam McIntire, founder of Deskbright, “indicates your interest in success at the company, as well as your willingness to transparently discuss your performance.”

10) How long have you been with the company, and why have you stayed?

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