In a job interview, there are few things worse than responding to an interviewer’s final question, “Do you have anything to ask me?” by saying “No, I’m all set.”
According to Sara Hutchison, CEO and executive career consultant at Get Your Best Resume, not coming prepared with questions will “kill the tone” — even if it was a great interview up to that point.
“The questions you asked show whether or not you did research,” Hutchison said. “It shows that you’re genuinely interested in this organization or in the technologies.”
To help you leave a positive impression in your next interview, we asked HR leaders and career advisers to provide the best types of questions to ask during a job interview. It might just be the difference between securing an offer and not.
Best Questions to Ask in an Interview
- What do you do to foster an inclusive team?
- Can you give me an example of what career growth for this role might look like?
- How does your company support its employees?
- Why is this position open now?
- What tools and platforms do your teams work with?
- If you left this company, what is the biggest thing you would miss?
- What is the biggest challenge facing this team right now?
- How is performance rewarded?
- How does your company nurture innovation?
Questions About Management and Leadership
WHAT Do You Do to Foster AN INCLUSIVE TEAM?
Being an inclusive manager means making sure all team members feel a sense of belonging, safety and support. If a team is geographically dispersed, managers will need to make an extra effort to foster an inclusive environment.
“Especially in the remote world, every manager needs to take it upon themselves to be really intentional about that because it’s much harder without the getting together,” said Emily Connery, senior director of people and talent at people analytics platform ChartHop.
A broader related question could be “What is your company doing to encourage workplace diversity?”
When Ji Park, a software developer at LaunchPad Lab, first applied to work there, it was important to her to work for a company that emphasized diversity. She asked her interviewer about diversity statistics at the company, and found out that the team was mostly made up of white men, but her interviewer also mentioned that they were making efforts to make their team more inclusive. “In a case like that, I think it’s important to keep asking, ‘What are those efforts? What plans do you have to hire more diverse candidates?’” she said.
Being intentional with your questions pushes companies to be accountable and can get them to better focus on issues like diversity and inclusion that often get overlooked.
WHAT ARE THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF YOUR CURRENT LEADERSHIP?
It’s important to have a good understanding of how the company’s leadership works because their actions ultimately affect employees at all levels of the organization. Dawid Wiacek, career and interview coach and founder of The Career Fixer, said related questions you can ask are “How long has the leadership been in place?” “What’s their leadership style?” “What are they really great at?” “What are their gaps?”
You can ask similar questions at the team leader level like “How does this team leader navigate change?”
“You’ll want to understand the management style of the person who can make your life great or a miserable living hell,” Wiacek said.
Questions About Employee Development and Job Growth
CAN YOU GIVE ME An EXAMPLE OF WHAT CAREER GROWTH FOR THIS ROLE MIGHT LOOK LIKE?
This question will help you determine if there are opportunities for you to grow at this company and help you envision how the role fits into your career path. Plus, it shows that you are excited about the potential of sticking with a company for years to come.
“When people ask those questions in interviews, it suggests that they want to stay at this company in the long term, that they’re not just looking at this as a waystation, and that’s really appealing to employers,” said Erin Brown, associate director of graduate student career services at UCLA.
HOW DOES THE COMPANY INVEST IN TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT?
This question will give you a sense of whether or not the company cares about nurturing its talent and growing existing employees’ skills. Similarly, you could ask “What are some examples of training, workshops or conferences that an employee in this position would enjoy?” said Wiacek.
Another related question is “What is manager coaching and training like?” This question is good to ask, even if you’re not pursuing a managerial role.
“If people are like, ‘I don’t know what happens there,’ then that makes it clear the company doesn’t invest in management, which is so critical to everyone’s experience,” Connery said.
HOW DOES YOUR COMPANY SUPPORT ITS EMPLOYEES?
At any job, you’re going to run into challenges or snags that you’ll need help overcoming. Before joining a new company, you want to be positive that they care about their employees and will support you when things get tough.
When applying to jobs in the middle of the pandemic, Park knew that jumping into a new role while remote would be tricky. She wanted to make sure that whatever company she joined would provide her with adequate support to make the transition.
“I like to be surrounded by people, and being physically distant from everyone was difficult,” she said. “In my interview I made sure to ask what resources the company provided to make people feel well adjusted. I wanted to know that they were aware of the common challenges teammates might face and were ready to help them out.”
Questions About the Job Role
WHY IS THIS POSITION OPEN NOW?
While there’s a risk that this question could put the interviewer on the defensive if the last person in the role left on bad terms, asking this question can help you understand important information about the team. You could ask “Is the role brand new, and if so, what prompted its creation?” If you’re pursuing an established role, you might want to know how many people have held the position lately. If there’s been a revolving door of people in the role and high turnover on the team, that might be a red flag.
“There’s a lot of really good intel that you can glean from that question,” Wiacek said.
You could even ask “Where did the previous person in the role go? Did they stay at the company and climb up?” Wiacek added.
WHAT IS AN EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING THAT WE HAVEN’T DISCUSSED ON MY RESUME OR IN THIS JOB DESCRIPTION, BUT YOU WOULD BE REALLY EXCITED TO LEARN THAT I ACTUALLY HAVE AS A SKILL?
This is a question that can help you stand out in a later stage interview.
“I always get great responses from hiring managers when they hear that,” Hutchison said. “I love that question for two reasons. One, it’s kind of a creative question, but two, it gives you an opportunity to follow up on that skill in your thank you letter, or just a follow up question.”
You’re ultimately asking the interviewer what would be the skills that your dream candidate would have. Maybe you actually have this skill, and this presents an opportunity to talk about it. Or, if you don’t have that skill and are interested in learning, you could talk about ways you would be willing to acquire it.
WHAT TOOLS AND PLATFORMS DO YOUR TEAMS WORK WITH?
If you’re applying for a software development or data science role, you’ll likely be expected to work with a variety of technology stacks, and some might be unfamiliar. Ask about what platforms or tools you’ll need to use as a part of your role and find out what kind of training resources they offer to help you learn new technologies.
“Asking what value the customers will get from what we build shows that you’re not just myopically thinking about how to write a line of Python or build a machine learning model,” said David Fellows, chief digital officer at analytics company Acuity Knowledge Partners. “You’re actually thinking about providing solutions that people can use.”
Typically, don’t save this question until the end of the interview process, and don’t pose the question to the recruiter or someone not on the technical side.
“In a technical interview, that’s where you should ask the very technical questions,” said Georgina Salamy, director of talent acquisition and insight at Zoox, a subsidiary of Amazon developing autonomous vehicles. “It’s all about timing.”
Questions About the Company and Company Culture
IF YOU LEFT THIS COMPANY, WHAT IS THE BIGGEST THING YOU WOULD MISS?
This is a way to flip around the question that candidates often hear, “Why do you want to work at this company?” You want to understand the best parts of the company and why employees stay. A similar question you could ask is “What is your finest memory of this place?”
“This gets the person talking and loosens them up and engages them on a different level, rather than just talking about the sometimes dull job description,” Wiacek said. “It humanizes the interview experience.”
Another related question is “what surprised you about working at this company?” This can elicit a positive or negative answer, but either way, it will give you important insight about the workplace culture and company dynamics.
“It’s a surprising question and can help you be more memorable as a candidate and can help you stand out against those who ask boring questions or don’t engage the interviewer.” Wiacek said.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING THIS TEAM RIGHT NOW?
Every company has areas for improvement, and this helps you start to understand what challenges you might encounter should you be offered the role.
“A lot of clients think that an interview is just about them and their weaknesses and their strengths, but every company has a weakness and a strength, so it’s important to kind of flesh that out,” Wiacek said.
Stacy Ulery, assistant director for career education and engagement agrees that asking about a challenge at the company allows you an opportunity to showcase your problem solving skills or talk about another similar project you worked on.
“It’s another opportunity for you first to demonstrate that you’ve done your research, that you understand the industry, you understand the company’s place in the marketplace but also what can you bring to the table to help them,” she said.
If you’ve really done advanced research or learned about a challenge in a previous interview, Lily Valentin, head of operations for North America at job search engine Adzuna, suggests presenting a potential solution to the company’s problem. You could say something like “I identified or learned about X challenge. Is solution Y something that you’ve considered in the past or that you would consider in the future?”
“For me, it’s most important to hear questions from a job seeker that really embeds themselves in the business and the business framework,” she said.
HOW DOES THIS COMPANY HANDLE FAILURE ON THE INDIVIDUAL, TEAM AND ORGANIZATION LEVEL?
The answer to this question will tell you a lot about a company’s resiliency and how it supports people when mistakes and shortcomings inevitably happen. It’ll be helpful to learn what systems and tools of support the company offers employees to ensure success. Do you get mentorship and coaching in these instances?
Another way you could pose this question is “I plan on giving my all in every job, but what happens if my best effort isn’t good enough?” Wiacek said.
“Use this question wisely. It may not be appropriate for Type A companies or interviewers. But if you have succeeded in previous roles and have every reason to believe you’ll give 100 percent effort in the new role, then it’s a fair question to ask of the employer,” he said. “This may or may not be a deal breaker, but for some of my clients, they only want to work for companies that invest in their people, and actually put their money where their mouth is.”
Along these lines, Wiacek said you could also ask “What happens if I fail in the first few months on this job?” Another way you could approach this is to ask “What is the 90 day plan for this role?” Connery said.
“It should be clear. They should really understand what the first 90 days should look like, and if it’s not, I think that tells you a lot about the level of organization,” Connery said.
Ultimately, you could ask the more common but important questions “How will the success of this candidate be measured?”
“It helps you to kind of have goals for yourself for those first three to six months,” Hutchison said. “It gives them an idea of what their expectations are and how much guidance you’re going to have before they let you on your own.”
HOW DO YOU THINK THIS COMPANY STACKS UP AGAINST YOUR DIRECT COMPETITION — BOTH THE GOOD AND THE BAD?
This question will give you a sense of how the company perceives itself and how it is thinking about maintaining a competitive advantage against other players in the industry.
“A weak answer might give you pause. A good answer will give you confidence that the company is proactive, transparent, honest, prepared,” Wiacek said. “You need to grill the company as much as they want to grill you.”
WHAT ARE THE WAYS IN WHICH COMMUNICATION HAPPENS?
Does the company host all-hands meetings? How often should you expect one-on-one meetings with your supervisor? Are there team meetings? You should get answers to these questions by asking about communication.
Another communication question you could ask is “How does the company interact with the executive team?”
“That could be very telling in terms of how the executive team shows up. Are they like Oz behind the curtains, or are they really a part of the teams? Do they feel accessible?” Connery said.
It is also helpful to learn how different teams communicate with each other, especially if you’re in a highly collaborative role. Wiacek said many of his clients in the tech industry cite challenges in communication between tech teams and nontechnical departments, so it’s a good idea to learn how the company works through communication challenges like that.
“I think having a really good relationship with other divisions or other job functions in the company is really important,” he said.
HOW IS PERFORMANCE REWARDED?
Some companies might reward excellent performance with bonuses, while others focus more on awards or recognition. If a company doesn’t place a high value on feedback and acknowledging exceptional work at all, you could end up frustrated in your role.
“People might ask questions more about compensation or promotions but not necessarily how is performance rewarded? I think if people stumble in answering that question, it might not be an environment where people feel recognized,” Connery said.
Should you be offered the role and be looking at a promotion with the company down the road, it would be helpful to have information at the start of your tenure about how leveling is determined for roles and how promotion decisions are made, so feel free to ask about that during the interview process as well.
HOW DOES YOUR COMPANY NURTURE INNOVATION AND PREVENT WORKERS FROM GETTING STUCK IN A RUT?
Your interviewer might be excited to answer a question about how the company is innovating. This question will help you understand how the company feels about new ideas, new technologies and adapting in the ever-changing tech world.
It’s also important to understand what the vision for the company is and how the company plans to innovate for the future. Kimberly Terrill, associate director for career education and development at UCLA, suggests asking questions about how the company’s mission and focus might change in the future. What are the hopes and aspirations for the company?
“Tech changes so quickly. Even five years is a long time in tech,” she said.
If you do your research on the company’s technologies, you can ask questions like “I understand you’re developing a new technology that will work on X. How do you see this being packaged as a product in the future?” Brown said.
“It demonstrates that you know what you’re talking about, and it really says I’m interested in where you go next, not what you’ve already accomplished,” she said.
Ask All the Logistical Questions Early
While it might seem poor form to ask about salary range in an early interview, experts are now saying it’s best to gather all of the important basic information right away. This saves everyone time if plans suddenly change or the expectations for compensation and benefits don’t align. These can be a part of the questions you ask during the interview, too.
Make sure you have answers to the following questions from interviewers before proceeding with future interviews:
- How many interviews are there going to be?
- When are you expecting to have this role filled by?
- What is the salary range?
- What are the benefits offered?
- How is the title for this role determined?
- What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this role?
- How many hours a week would be spent working on certain tasks?
How Do I Come Up With Good Questions?
Do your homework and learn about the company ahead of time, so you can get answers that are truly useful to you should you be faced with deciding whether or not to accept the job offer. Don’t ask questions you already know the answers to or could easily find from a Google search — your questions need to be well-thought out and specific to the company and role you’re pursuing.
“I always do a ton of research into companies that I’m interviewing with, gathering as much as I can from their website and blog posts,” said Park. “I read everyone’s bio, like a creep. I want to get a sense of the kind of people they hire. That usually gives me an idea of questions I want to ask.”
How Many Questions Should I Ask?
Two at a minimum and five at a maximum for every round of interviews, according to Hutchison.
“I would come with three to five amazing questions knowing that at minimum you should have two and that you probably won’t have time for all five,” she said.
“It is a huge red flag whenever a job seeker comes into an interview and has no questions,” Valentin said. “It really doesn’t matter at what stage in the interview process you are.”