5 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview
These questions reveal a lot about your (potential) new employer.
When I first started working as an intern, my advisor encouraged me and all of my cohorts to come prepared with questions for every interview.
But I couldn’t, for the life of me, think of any questions.
If I liked the job and the interview went well, why would I have any questions?
As I got older, I realized the questions weren’t to impress the interviewer with how much I care.
Rather, the questions were mostly to help me find out if the job will actually work for me.
To help you evaluate if a job/employer will be the right fit for you, I’ve compiled these 5 helpful questions:
- What are the next steps in the interview process?
To me, this question is a no-brainer. It doesn’t tell you too much about the employer, but it does help you understand what’s next.
Unless you’re explicitly told the structure of your interview beforehand, this is a good question to find out what’s ahead.
Am I meeting with anyone else?
Are there any additional components of this interview?
When do I hear back?
This one question encompasses all of that and it’s usually my go-to first question when I’m interviewing.
And as a nice bonus, asking this question demonstrates that you care enough about the job to want to know more.
Unless you don’t care about the job and you weren’t planning on taking it anyways if offered a position, why wouldn’t you want to know what’s next so you can prepare to put your best foot forward?
- What’s your favorite thing about working here?
If the people you ask this question to can’t think of a single good thing to say, run.
If the person you ask this question to has to think for a long time and, while they’re thinking, they don’t say something like, ‘Well, so many things are really awesome, so it’s hard to pick one,’ run!
At the first post-college job I interviewed for, all of the answers I got to this question were super vague or questionable.
You get to work on so many different things.
Our clients are really big companies.
We have alcohol in the office.
I did, however, get one encouraging answer. That one encouraging answer came from one of three employees who were actually enjoying themselves. He was the only person doing what he was hired to do. And his manager was incredibly knowledgeable and supportive.
Since I knew he wasn’t on my team when he was interviewing me, I should have taken that as a sign.
The only people who were having a good time weren’t on my team. Everyone else was miserable.
Fast forward to my current job, everyone said pretty much all the same things when I asked this question.
Not because they’re all robots who don’t have a mind of their own and can’t think for themselves, but because while this company has a lot of good points, there are two or three that everyone is really excited about.
- What are this team’s biggest challenges?
I appreciate it when interviewers are honest with their answers.
When I interviewed for the job I’m currently at, I was also interviewing with a different company that was more well-known and just seemed, overall, more interesting on paper.
If it’s not obvious, I was leaning towards the more well-known company at first.
But in my interview with this well-known company, I asked everyone I met what the team’s biggest challenges were.
Everyone very quickly and honestly said that their team doesn’t communicate and people end up doing all the same work and duplicating efforts.
No, thank you!
As someone who always strives to make my communication more clear and as someone who encourages others to do the same so that we can all avoid unnecessary conflict and awkward misunderstandings, this is my worst nightmare.
I’m so glad they got that out of the way because it made it so much easier for me to reject that company no matter how interesting they sounded on paper.
I wasn’t about to compromise my values and ignore deal-breakers. Plus, with that particular challenge comes blaming and finger-pointing.
If when you ask this question, you hear deal-breaker answers, run.
Likewise, if you ask this question and you get BS, politically-correct answers, run.
By the way, this well-known company has since fired half of its staff in the office location I would’ve been working out of. This is unrelated to this story, but I’m thankful I dodged that bullet!
- What is the company culture like?
Some people don’t think company culture matters. But those people have either not worked in a toxic work environment or worked in a toxic environment but aren’t that affected by the drama.
In either case, in some ways, I envy you for not having to deal with that stuff.
But I also don’t envy you because for me, one of the high points of working with so many difficult characters is that I feel I can work with almost anyone and know how to navigate less-than-ideal situations.
I don’t seek out less-than-ideal situations, but I know how to navigate them when necessary.
When I ask this question, I’m not necessarily worried about the answer, itself.
I’m checking for cohesion.
If everyone works for the same company, they should have the same, if not very similar, answers when describing the company culture.
If that’s not the case and everyone has a different story, I don’t necessarily know if the workplace is toxic or not, but I know that the experience is different enough for everyone else that it makes me a little less likely to consider this place of employment.
If I work at a place where everyone describes the company culture differently, how do I know what experience I’m going to get?
At the company I’m currently working at, everyone said the same thing about the company culture. The same thing to the point where you’d think they rehearsed. And very unsurprisingly, when I got here, the company culture was exactly what everyone described.
As I get older, I love knowing what I’m getting myself into before I get into it. This question is a great way to make that happen.
- What qualities are you looking for in a candidate?
This is one of those questions you ask when you’re trying to impress your interviewer. Or, so I thought.
My understanding was that asking this question would make me look more eager to fulfill the role to the best of my abilities. And to some extent, it does.
I know that when I’m interviewing interns and I get this question asked to me, I’m impressed every time. For one because not that many people ask me this. But second, it shows me you do actually care what I’m looking for in a candidate.
But I also think this is important for interviewees to ask because it’ll help you understand if the qualities the job requires are qualities that you have and/or are willing to exhibit for the role.
For example, if the interviewer, when asked this questions, says they’re looking for a candidate with good attention-to-detail and that’s something that you either have or are working towards, then this would be confirmation that this role is a decent fit for you.
However, if the interviewer says they’re looking for someone who’s willing to be a team player and put in extra hours to help the team meet deadlines, you now get to decide whether you’re willing to, potentially, give up all of your free time for the good of the team or not.
For some people, it’s a no-brainer that they will give up all of their free time if they’re passionate about the work. For other people, a job is a job and when they’re off the clock, they like to be off the clock.
So, pay attention to the qualities that are asked for and decide if those are deal-breakers for you.
Read More: How To Succeed At Anything