We admit it: The job search is rough. It feels like everybody has advice about the best way to do it, from whether thank-you letters are outdated to how to dress to how to act. But most agree that asking questions is not just the job of the interviewer; it’s also critical for the interviewee.
So what should you ask? We reached out to various managers, CEOs and founders about the questions they most recommend candidates ask during the interview process. Here’s what they said.
“Often, in the long shopping list of experience and qualities employers are looking for in a role, there'll be one deal breaker or core part of your work — something you need to be able to do to land the role,” Hannah Martin, founder of Talented Ladies Club, tells SheKnows. “By asking this question, you get an insight into what your interviewer is really looking for, giving you the opportunity to share an example of how you perfectly fit the position.”
Stephen Hart, CEO at Cardswitcher, says this was the best question a candidate had ever asked him. “It showed that they wanted to get to the heart of the business and really understand what we were about,” he tells SheKnows. “They didn’t want to dig into the nitty-gritty of benefits or discuss the minute details of their role. They wanted to know what made the company tick and whether they could buy into that vision.”
“I like these types of questions, as it shows that the interviewee is not only interested in the opportunity but is generally interested in getting to know you and learning about your experience,” Elena Tinios, manager at Anderson Frank, tells SheKnows. “It can also help break down the barrier between the two parties and take some of the pressure off of yourself.”
“This is a good opportunity to find out details that can’t be researched otherwise, like messy interdepartmental politics,” Ladan Nikravan Hayes, a career advisor at CareerBuilder tells SheKnows. “It can also create an opening for you to talk about how you’ve approached similar challenges in the past.”
This question has one goal, Hayes says, which is to help you answer for yourself: “Are you a good fit for this particular organization?” You need to be comfortable with the dynamic of the team and the company before you agree to be part of it.
“If the interviewer struggled to answer this, it could be a clue that they don't see any progression from the role,” Martin adds. Plus, she said, it helps to communicate that you’re ambitious and ready to work hard.
If you’re thinking of this job as something you’ll stay at for a while, it’s important to know what your opportunities are, Hayes says. “Make sure the company is growing so you can grow with the company,” she continues.
You’ll want to have a feel for the conversation before you ask this question, but it’s a worthy topic to broach. “I'd want to know whether someone was promoted or left, and if the latter, why,” Martin says. “Could it be for some reason that would also lead to me wanting to leave the role at some point?”
This question is a little tricky, Martin admits. “I would also only ask it if I was sure I wanted the job and would possibly need to ask for flexible working later,” she says. She suggests waiting until you’re past HR and speaking directly with a decision maker.
Additionally, if you’re concerned about being left behind for promotional opportunities or bigger responsibilities, ask how they work with flexible workers now. “If the interviewer wasn't positive on this topic and didn't have a clear idea of how to keep flexible workers visible in the company, I'd seriously consider whether I wanted to invest my time working for that company,” Martin says.
Of course, these are just example questions, and the best questions to ask are the ones that are most pertinent to your situation and the job you’re interviewing for. Tinios suggests asking yourself a series of questions about what you’d like to ask at the interview, like:
Avoid questions about vacation policy and other benefits until you’re working on offer details. “It can come across as rude if not asked at the appropriate time,” she says.
But more important, do ask questions, Tinios emphasizes. “At the end of the day, any question is better than no question at all! Just make sure to be thoughtful.”
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