“How many questions should I ask at the end of an interview?”
“What questions do I ask?”
As a career coach, I’ve worked with hundreds of recent college graduates to prepare for interviews and these two questions always come up.
I’m a big believer that the questions you ask should be your questions — and not a cut and paste job of ones you find on the internet.
While researching and preparing for an interview, you should be curious about the role, company, and the people you’ll be working with. Instead of leaving it to the last minute, keep track of the questions you can’t find an answer to when beginning your prep. This simple habit will help reduce your stress while increasing the chances you’ll bring more energy to this portion of the interview.
I personally recommend having 7 to 10 good questions written down as the odds are high half will be addressed during the meeting leaving you with 3 to 5 of your original questions to ask in addition to any clarification you need from what you previously discussed.
Each interview is different and should be treated as such. That being said, below are 7 solid questions that hopefully spark some ideas so you have something to build off of.
Question #1: Get curious about the person in front of you
“With all the things going on in the company (name the specific things you’ve learned about — growth, the feedback you’ve learned from people who work there, recent campaings, etc.), what are you the most excited about?”
“What’s the best thing for you about working here?”
“What’s the one project you’ve been the proudest to be a part of while working here?”
One of the things a lot of young people struggle with during interviews is asking questions about not only the role and the company, but also the person they’re speaking with.
Companies want people who are engaged and will be proactive in getting to know their team members, so kick things off by showing interest in the person in front of you. Ask about what lights them up and why they enjoy working there. You can even ask what they struggled with when they first started at the company.
Maybe it turns out you have a few common interests or you’re excited about similar trends. These “basic” questions have the potential to turn a lot of formal Q&A-type interviews into a more informal conversation as it shows you see the person in front of you as a human being.
Question #2: Traits of successful past hires
“How will you know a year from now whether or not the candidate you hired was the right choice?”
“Thinking back to past hires, what factors differentiated those who were good at the job from those who were great at it?”
This is a solid question for numerous reasons. Firstly, it gets to the heart of the position and what it takes to succeed. Secondly, the answer will give you an idea of what the organization truly values and potentially the “soft skills” of stand-out hires. Lastly, the question shows you want to get things right and it’s hard to not have a favorable impression of someone who does that.
Put these positives together and it’s hard to see a negative reason why you shouldn’t be asking a variation of this question in all your interviews.
Question #3: Show you did your homework
“I was thinking about an NYT article about the “X” challenge this industry is facing. Do you feel like “Y” is the right approach to address those issues? How does your company think about this?”
Hiring managers are keeping an eye out for your thought process and to see if you’re lazy or not. Questions like the one above or any variation like — “I read in X publication that the company just secured funding, what are the plans for these funds (marketing, hiring, etc.)?” — show you’ve got some life in you.
Do you have any friends who work at the company? Do you have friends at related companies? Reach out to these people and talk about the state of the sector. The more engaged you come off regarding the company and work you’ll be doing, the better.
Question #4: Managerial style / Culture
“This (describe situation) happened a lot in a previous job and it damaged morale. When that happens here, how’s it handled?”
This question is one of my favorites. It will allow you to learn about both the management style and company culture. Maybe they brought in outside people for promotions in your past job or they promised regular trainings to learn new skills but failed in the execution. Or maybe they didn’t deal very well with conflict amongst employees.
Some people may see this question as risky. But if something didn’t make you happy in a former job, get clear on how they handle similar circumstances as we all need and value different things.
Question #5: Remote work
“What are you doing to ensure new hires feel like they’re part of the team while working from home?
Your day-to-day interactions with management and your fellow co-workers play a massive part in your happiness at work. Over the past year, this has obviously become a challenge for both new hires and companies.
Does the company have quick morning meetings to say hi and go over the day’s agenda? Are there free-thinking brainstorming sessions and/or virtual happy hours so people can kick back and get to know each other? Do you receive trainings from outside your department to get to know other team members?
Some people I know have been thrilled to start a new job in this environment as they get room to feel things out on their own. Others, however, have struggled to feel like they belong and if this is a concern for you, asking about the systems they have in place to help people is a no-brainer.
Question #6: Growth potential
“What do the career paths of people who have held this position in the past look like today?”
“How has this position evolved?”
The odds are high you want to take a position in order to grow personally and professionally. Asking directly which avenues will open up isn’t a horrible option, but it can come off as overly ambitious to certain ears, and asking the questions above nets the same result but positioned in a more thoughtful way.
Every position that opens up in a company is created to solve a problem they are facing right now. It’s okay to get excited about the future, but never forget that promotions are given to those who do the best job and bring the most energy to the role directly in front of them.
Question #7: Feedback loop
“What does the feedback loop look like here?”
“How are employeed evaluated?”
When interviewing, it’s important to get crystal clear regarding what will be expected of you. But don’t forget it’s a two-way street and ask about what you can expect in terms of the day-to-day work, support, and feedback from the organization.
A high percentage of insecurity at work stems from a lack of communication. If you’re someone who values regular feedback, lean into the details of the system they have in place to better understand the frequency, depth, and overall style of your evaluations.
When I started my career, I was one of those people who didn’t ask any questions. Once I learned this was a massive mistake, I leaned too hard in the opposite direction and got too clever with them instead of thinking deeply about what I truly wanted to know.
Personalities of team members.
Now, remote work.
When the dust settles, these are the main concerns of most people when interviewing, so write down a few questions that really matter to you when preparing under each section.
If you’re confused about something or want additional information about a topic that was discussed, ask for clarification or circle-back to points that really interested you to learn more.
You need to ask questions and you need to show you’re engaged. Hopefully, the questions above sparked some ideas that allow you to walk into interviews with more confidence in the future.
If you’re on Linkedin, feel free to say hi here.