job interview

12 Questions to Ask During Your Interview

12 Questions to Ask During Your Interview
the questions to ask hiring managers and why

"Do you have any questions?" It's a famous question - one that some job candidates dread. But make no mistake - if you're going for a job you WILL get asked this question, and your answer can mean the difference between landing, and not landing, your dream job. 

This is the most-important part of the job interview for potential candidates and if leveraged correctly could make the difference between a job that's beloved and stayed at, and a polite declining of an offer. Today we're diving into not only the essential questions hiring managers should be asked during an interview, but the reason why and how to measure responses.

1. What Would a Typical Day/Week/Quarter Look Like?

A job description is a bird's eye view of a job, but asking what specific time period holds will provide better insight. Why? Hiring managers should know what the actual work looks like.

A hiring manager who simply reads from or repeats the job description is a red flag. Instead, a potential employer should give a sense of what the job looks like on a micro and macro level. They should be able to say at what points in the quarter there are more meetings or late nights. They should be able to point out when reporting is due.

Most jobs have times that are very busy, and times that are slower. In a company where management style is positive, there are clear expectations for when things happen. If this is missing from the answer, it might not be the ideal work environment.

Something else to consider is whether the working style matches the team and company culture. If a candidate is one to roll with the punches and fly by the seat of their pants, a start-up where things are in flux is fine.

Someone with a more measured approach to their work who is methodical and wants clear expectations and guidelines might not love the team culture at a startup and seek the stability that comes with being established.

2. Is This a New or Established Position?

One of the biggest challenges new hires face is being recruited into a new position. New positions can be exciting, but not every candidate is the ideal candidate to fill a new role.

Can the hiring manager speak to the intricacies of the job? If so, there has been thought put to what the job looks like, the workflows and how it fits into the larger picture. If they cannot, there may be friction between departments and managers over what it should look like.

For many a new hire, filling a position that hasn't been figured out is a cause to exit quickly.

3. Why is This an Open Role?

One way applicants should assess the position based on why it's open. There are great reasons for positions to open, including:

  • the company is growing. Adding a position because of growth is an example of a great reason for the vacancy. The job is necessary and there's more than enough work to go around.
  • a promotion, lateral move or retirement has left the position vacant. A company that retains employees by allowing them to move, and that retains employees until retirement is a reason to put them on your short list. Chances are staff feel valued and see beneits of staying.
  • there's more work than the current staff can manage. This is a great sign and a reason to decide to accept an offer. Management is clearly listening and wants to make sure the work gets done well by adding staff to help existing workers.

Most hiring managers are not going to say, "Company culture is terrible," as a reason for a vacant position, but vague answers or avoiding the question can be a warning sign.

4. What do Your Most Successful Employees Have in Common?

Asking this question will give candidates a better sense of what management values.

Responses that signify green flags include that they are collaborative, listen to each other, and value each others experience and expertise.

If a hiring manager cannot answer this question, that's a red flag. Other red flags include answers like, "They come early and stay late," "they do what they're told," or "they follow our procedures." Nothing is inherently wrong with being an eager beaver and following process, but this answer does not show employees as valued parts of the company and say more about company culture than anything else.

use the end of an interview to ask questions to help you decide if the job is right for you

5. What do you Expect the Person in This Role to Accomplish in Their First 90 days?

Hiring managers and other managers should be able to describe specific milestones and goals they expect to see within this timeframe. Similar to asking what a typical quarter looks like, this shows an understanding of the position.

In addition to being able to respond the question, the conversation around the first 90 days should make sense. Candidates should assess whether the goals are reasonable.

6. What Opportunities are There for Career Development in This Role?

This question communicates a lot to hiring managers.

First, it shows that the candidate isn't looking for just a job. Instead, they want to develop their skills and experience. It shows an interest in learning, growing and bringing more to the table.

Second, it doesn't simply focus on compensation and benefits as a perk of a job: this candidate wants to hear from the hiring manager about opportunities for professional development like workshops, classes and even cross training.

7. Describe the Company Culture.

Strong candidates are the ones remembered when it's time for the final hiring decision and question like this remain with hiring managers. After all, it shows an interest in more than the job itself.

This question also tells the candidate what the company values beyond a mission and vision statement. What is the first thing they say? What is the last thing? What do they leave out that aligns with the candidates values?

A hiring manager who cannot answer this question is a red flag. They either don't know or don't care or, worse, the company culture isn't good.

8. What are the Expectations About Managing Workflow?

Candidates should always know the expectations around workflow and also how to bring them up. Especially with a new position, it's possible the workflow is unreasonable.

Asking this question should lead a hiring manager to share internal communication processes, discuss any check-ins that are built into the evaluation process and, preferably, give examples of when workflow management has been brought up and fixed.

A hiring manager who is surprised by this question or mentions that the work has to get done may be an indication that this isn't a great place to work.

9. Ask About the Company's Past, Present and Future.

Candidates can learn valuable information by questioning the hiring manager about the story of the company. Is it well-established and agile? Is it new and taking the world by storm? Does the hiring manager mention challenges that have arisen and been overcome?

Listening closely to how a hiring manager tells this story is one of the. most valuable parts of the interview process.

10. What Would the Last Person in This Position say was the Most Challenging Part of the Position?

This is a great question for gaining insight. It may give clues about company culture by sharing a particularly taxing part of the job that people step in to assist with. All jobs have hard parts, and a good candidate expects this.

Good companies, though, have people who will help by picking up other tasks or explaining how expectations change around certain times or tasks.

11. What's Unique About Working Here?

Candidates who want good answers, ask good questions. This is a prime example of that. So often hiring managers and others fall into the habit of saying the same things: competitive pay and benefits, flexible hours, health club memberships, generous family leave.

Those things are great, but what sets them apart from other places?

12. What is the Leadership Structure? How Many People do I Report to? How Many Direct Reports do I Have?

The structure of a position is important. If a position requires reporting to many people, is there a system for this? Does each require a meeting or different report? Or, is communication funneled so that more time can be spent on the work itself?

If a position comes with direct reports, what is the role of the position? Is it getting information only or is there training, supervision and evaluation involved?

Knowing how supervision, training and evaluation is handled, along with reporting, gives candidates a sense of whether the company is in touch with what actually matters (the work!).

Ask questions of the hiring manager during the end of a job interview

Final Tips for Navigating the Hiring Process

The hiring process can be long and, frankly, mysterious. Being armed with solid questions like these and understanding how to use the responds to inform your decision on a job offer is helpful. Here are some other tips.

Manners Matter

Always say please and thank you, even in the most informal interview and not just to the hiring manager. People are watching to see how you treat others, especially at companies that are good to work for!

Respond Confidently

Being prepared to talk about yourself, your experience and why you're a good fit will illustrate confidence and competence.

Don't only have our suggested questions ready but also practice answering common interview questions to avoid stumbling.

Don't Ask About Other Applicants

Traditionally, candidates have asked how many applicants there are. We're here to tell you this doesn't matter. At the end of the day, the right candidate is the one who gets hired. 

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