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Best questions to ask during an interview

career tips interview tips job hunting Jul 07, 2022
Two women sitting across from each other at a table.

When you finally receive the call from the company you’re trying to work for, it’s time to flip the switch in your brain from “applicant” to “interviewer”. 

People often ask what common interview questions are, but what about the questions you need to ask about the company?

The company is trying to figure out if you are the best candidate for the job – and you should be figuring out if the job at the company is the best option for you too.

 

When the recruiter or hiring manager asks you, “do you have any questions for us?”, you have two different opportunities:

  1. Showing the company you have legitimate interest in them 
  2. Giving the company an opportunity to tell you how will be treated if you are selected for the job

 

For the first opportunity, you are letting the company know that you are invested in them. You’re asking about what motivates the company and how to advance the mission. 

For the second opportunity, you are making sure you want to work for the company you have just spent the last twenty minutes trying to impress.

Seeing if a company is right for you is not just about the position. It’s not just about the team you will be working with. It’s not just about the company. 

All of these have to be taken into consideration to find the best match for your personality, lifestyle, and professional goals.

Don’t let the company’s reputation overshadow how well you will be treated, how much you will get paid, or how they will develop you for the next role you are ready to move onto. 

Here is a list of some questions to ask companies and what their answers could mean.

 

Questions to show the company you’re interested

Where do you see this company heading in the next 5-10 years?

 

What you’re telling the company: This tells the interviewer that you are interested in working for this company long-term. It says you are invested in the company’s future and you want to help advance their goals.

What their answer tells you: Their answer will mean different things for different candidates, but it is important to look for numbers, labels, categories – things that are quantifiable and specific. Hearing that they want to be the best company in the industry is vague and subjective. Hearing how much they want to increase their reach, how they want their products and services to expand, or which markets they want to tap into shows an expansive future.

 

What are this company’s core values? How does the company uphold them?

What you’re telling the company: This tells them you are interested in staying with the company for the long haul. You want the company’s values to align with your values.

What their answer tells you: Only you can decide if their answer satisfies you. 

 

What sets this company apart from other companies in the industry?

What you’re telling the company: This tells them that you seek innovation and you strive for excellence, so you want to know that this company does too.

What their answer tells you: Only you can decide if their answer satisfies you.

 

I have done some reading about [insert example here] on your website, but can you please tell me more about [any new developments, plans for the future, anything that is unclear from public records]?

What you’re telling the company: This says that you have done your research, you’re detail-oriented, and you are invested in how the company can improve.

What their answer tells you: Only you can decide if their answer satisfies you.

 

What do you like most about this company?

What you’re telling the company: This is more of a fun and open-ended question that tells the interviewer you are curious about the company and you value their input.

What their answer tells you: Only you can decide if their answer satisfies you.



Questions to see if the company is the right fit for you

These can be divided into questions about the company, the team, and your professional development.

 

Company

For these questions, only you can decide if their answer satisfies you because they will  either be linked to your ideal work environment or red flags sending you in the opposite direction. 

A few things to look out for is how the company responds to employees as people first. Understanding family commitments and physical and mental health is important. 

  1. How would employees describe this company’s ability to provide a work-life balance?
  2. Is it common for employees to work overtime, on weekends, or during holidays?
  3. What is this company’s approach to employee satisfaction?
  4. How would you describe an ideal employee in this company?
  5. How could you describe the company culture? 

 

Team

These questions also bring subjective answers, depending on your collaboration and evaluation style.

Describing the company as a “fast-paced” environment needs clarification. It is fast-paced because of the nature of the job – and are you ready for a constant flow of work? 

Or do managers and the team need to change the way work is distributed, when and how last-minute changes are requested, and who is responsible for taking projects to the finish line? Make sure you know this so you are not in a constant state of stress due to disorganization.

  1. How does the team work together or independently to complete a project? 
  2. Are members of the team held individually responsible for the successes or failures of its projects? 
  3. How are success and failure measured in this team?
  4. What does a typical week look like on this team?
  5. What are the team’s strengths and weaknesses?

 

The team is only as strong as its weakest link – and that doesn’t necessarily mean a person. It could be a negative team culture, micromanaging, poor communication skills, or a number of different work habits the team has. 

Your team can make or break your work experience, so choose carefully. 

 

Position & Professional Development

What does the training process look like for this role?

What their answer tells you: This answer will let you know if you will be thrown to the wolves when you first start or if you will have a guide or mentor helping you settle into your role. Whatever answer they give you depends on your working style, but keep in mind what you need to be successful when starting a new role. 

If you are beginning during a busy quarter or the middle of the project, having the necessary support to make sure you build healthy working habits and understand how your team operates is important. 

Their answer may also tell you about the probation period, which is typically three months. Your quality of training could be the answer between you passing or failing those first few months. 

 

Is there a budget for professional development training?

What their answer tells you: Some companies just don’t have the budget for professional development training, and it’s up to you if that is a deal-breaker or not. However, if you need to significantly upskill to do your job or improve in your role for an eventual promotion, having a company that can provide you with the resources to do this is a good sign.

 

Is there room for professional growth and promotion in this role? 

What their answer tells you: This answer will tell you if this company rewards their employees for excellent work and it should tell you if you want a future with the company. If you are told that with good work comes more responsibility and more compensation, this is a good sign. You may also want to follow-up by asking how long employees typically get promoted within the company. 

 

How will my performance be assessed in this role?

What their answer tells you: This answer will inform the way you work, from your probation period to when you should be officially settled into work and contributing to your team. It will also share how employees receive feedback, so you understand your quality of work and where you stand within the company.  

 

How do you see this position contributing to the company’s overall goal?

What their answer tells you: This answer should explain the impact of your role, their expectations of you, and hopefully indicate if there is a future at the company. Only you can decide if their answer satisfies you.

 

Is this role a new addition to the team or will I be taking over for a former employee?

What their answer tells you: If it is a new role, the standards for development and success are also new, so you need to be intentional about measuring your performance. If it is a replacement role, consider asking how the former employee was successful in their role and where they could improve. 

 

It’s understandable for you to be nervous about job interviews, but remember that the pressure is not all on you. 

If you’re in the position to choose between different jobs, use your leverage to find the company that won’t have you running back to the job boards for a new position in the next couple of months.

For more interview practice and how to transition into a new career, check out our Project Pivot program. 

Since we started in 2021, 89% of Project Pivot graduates have transitioned into new careers after completing the program. 

The next cohort begins September 12. The applications’ deadline is September 1 – apply today.



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