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Kim Freier | Jul 08, 2022

Imagine you’ve secured an interview for your dream job. Congrats! In the days before, you’re likely preparing to make a good impression by researching the company, perfecting your career narrative and picking your outfit (maybe that’s exactly why you’ve found this article right now). But there’s one other preparation you cannot forget — coming up with questions to ask your interviewers.

There are few things worse than responding to an interviewer’s final question, “Do you have anything to ask me?” and saying “No. I’m all set.”

“To say you have no questions, it will kill the tone. Even if it was a great interview up to that point, every interviewer expects you to come in with some questions,” said Sara Hutchison, CEO and executive career consultant at Get Your Best Resume. “The questions you asked show whether or not you did research. It shows that you’re genuinely interested in this organization or in the technologies.” 

HR leaders, career advisers and job coaches have helped Built In compile 15 of the best types of questions to ask during a job interview to leave a positive impression on your interviewers. It might just be the difference between securing an offer or not.

Best Questions to Ask in an Interview

  • What tools and platforms do your teams work with?
  • What steps does the manager take to make an inclusive team? 
  • How does the company invest in training and development? 
  • Can you give me a concrete example of what career growth for this role might look like?
  • How does your company support its employees?
  • If you left this company, what is the biggest thing you would miss?
  • What is the biggest challenge facing this team right now?
  • How does this company handle failure on the individual, team and organization level?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your current leadership?
  • 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?
  • How do you think this company stacks up against your direct competition — both the good and the bad?
  • How is performance rewarded?
  • Why is this position open now? 
  • What are the ways in which communication happens? 
  • How does your company nurture innovation and prevent workers from getting stuck in a rut?

 

How Do I Come Up With Good Questions? 

It comes down to research and preparation. Your questions need to be well-thought out and specific to the company and role you’re pursuing.

“Don’t simply ask throwaway questions like ‘what is the work culture?’ or ‘how do people strike work-life balance here?’” said Dawid Wiacek, career and interview coach and founder of The Career Fixer. “Ask thoughtful, nuanced and specific questions to showcase your interest and deep knowledge.”

You only get a limited amount of time in an interview, and you don’t want to waste any time with your 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.

“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.”

“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 Ji Park, a software developer at LaunchPad Lab. “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.”

Don’t ask questions you already know the answers to or could easily find from a Google search.

“When people ask me questions like ‘how long have you been at Zoox?’ Well, we have LinkedIn,” said Georgina Salamy, director of talent acquisition and insight at Zoox, a subsidiary of Amazon developing autonomous vehicles. “You could have used that time to ask me something a lot more interesting. Do your research. Know who you’re meeting, know your audience and look at them as an individual interviewer and think about what questions you want to ask them.”

 

8 Smart Questions To Ask Hiring Managers In A Job Interview. | Video: Work It Daily

15 Good Questions to Ask in an Interview

We’ve come up with 15 substantive, open-ended questions to consider asking in your next interview. These questions will help you stand out, according to experts we talked to, and these questions will get you meaningful answers too.

 

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.

Park was already familiar with Javascript, but her team also uses Ruby on Rails, a stack that she previously had no experience with. She knew it would be a challenge to learn a new platform, but she also wanted to know what learning opportunities would be available to her. “I was curious — would I only be stuck with JavaScript?” she said. “I never want to just stop where I’m at. I like to learn as much as possible.”

Don’t stop there — ask about how those technologies will be applied, what end results you’re aiming for and the impact your products will have.

“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,” Salamy said. “It’s all about timing.”

 

What steps does the manager take to make 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.

“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.”

A broader related question could be “What is your company doing to encourage workplace diversity?” When Park applied to work at LaunchPad Lab, it was important to her to work for a company that emphasized diversity. When she asked her interviewer about diversity statistics at the company, she did find 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. “We still have a gender diversity problem in the tech industry,” Fellows said. “But it’s more a part of the conversation now. We get a lot of good questions about diversity because people want to know that they’ve got opportunities.”

 

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?” Wiacek said.

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. 

More on Interview PrepAsk These Questions to Find Out If a Company Values Women in Leadership

 

Can you give me a concrete 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 staying with the company long-term.

These days, employees are looking for a job that they can grow with. If there’s going to be limited growth, they’re not as interested,” said Kimberly Terrill, associate director for career education and development at UCLA.

With so many employers losing talent as a part of the Great Resignation, asking about future opportunities shows that you aren’t just looking for a quick stop on your career path.

“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 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.”

 

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.

More on Interview QuestionsHow to Answer ‘Tell Me About Yourself’ In a Job Interview

 

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. 

“It has really made me think, and it makes it clear to me that that person wants to hear what we’re working on and acknowledges that every company has things they’re working on.”

Connery said she has liked it when candidates have asked her “What are you trying to work on for your team this year?”

“I think that’s a more bold question to ask,” Connery said. “It has really made me think, and it makes it clear to me that that person wants to hear what we’re working on and acknowledges that every company has things they’re working on.” 

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.”

 

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. Wiacek 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?” 

“That stuff trickles down,” he said.

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.

More on Interview QuestionsHow to Use the STAR Interview Method to Land a Job

 

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. 

 

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.”

 

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.

More on Interview QuestionsThe Best Way to Answer ‘Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?’

 

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 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 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 being innovative. 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. Terrill 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. 

  

A Note About Logistical Questions

Hutchison said she’s heard of more and more people getting “ghosted” in interview processes recently, even after going through several rounds of interviews. That’s why it’s important to get all of the details about the role and interview process right away. These can be a part of the questions you ask during the interview, too. 

“I feel like there is a lot of time being wasted and drain sucks because we’re just not putting the details out on the table in either the job description or in that first-round interview,” she said.

While it might have seemed 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 as soon as possible to save everyone time if the expectations for compensation and benefits don’t align.

“There’s nothing taboo about quickly determining whether or not a role is suitable for you,” Valentin said. “If there are certain benefits or salary brackets that are completely non negotiable, please don’t waste people’s time.”

Make sure you have answers to the following questions 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?

 

So How Many Questions Should I Have?

Hutchison has a magic range. “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. 

That applies for every round of interviews. Whether it’s your very first interview or a final round, be sure to have prepared questions each time.

“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, whether it’s with an internal in-house recruiter, and this is the first engagement you’re having, or if it’s the very last round interview that could be happening with the CEO or your future line manager.”

“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.”

If you have specific questions for each interviewer you’re speaking with, that’s great. But you don’t have to have original questions for every single person.

“Even if you’re asking the same question of everybody, it’s okay because you get different perspectives, and you get all the different opinions of what it’s like to work here,” Salamy said. 

For example, Connery suggests asking each person that you interview with about the mission and vision of the organization to see if they give similar answers.

“If they don’t, then that tells you a lot about communication,” she said.

More on Interview Prep35 Behavioral Interview Questions — and Strategies for Answering Them

 

Strong Questions Show That You’re a Serious Candidate

In his role as chief digital officer at Acuity Knowledge Partners, Fellows spends much of his time interviewing candidates for the company’s software roles. He says that the questions a candidate asks him often leave the biggest impression.

“If someone only has one question, or their questions aren’t specific, that doesn’t look great to me,” he said. To him, it’s better when a candidate engages with him and asks thought-provoking questions throughout the interview. Thoughtful questions give you a clearer picture of the job you want, but they also tell your interviewer that you care about the work you do.

“That is tough to do. People want to be polite, and maybe they’re not experienced enough to assert themselves like that,” he said. “But you have to have the self confidence to push for the answers.”

It shows that you’re invested and that you have a strong voice, said Fellows. “We like candidates who turn an interview more into a conversation, rather than just sit and answer our questions.”

When you ask a lot of questions in an interview, it not only helps you gather information about the company, but also demonstrates your seriousness about fitting into their culture. “Our engineering teams don’t just sit in little cubicles — there’s a lot of collaboration and energy,” Fellows said. “When somebody speaks up in an interview, that gives you the sense that they’re going to be engaged and proactive on the team.”

 

The Tech Industry Is a Seller’s Market Right Now

Tech skills are in high demand. While a job interview is mainly a chance to impress your future employer, it’s also an opportunity to investigate and discover your ideal work environment. You should only sign on with a company if it’s a true fit.

“If somebody comes along and dangles a big check in front of you, it can be very difficult to say no,” Fellows said. “But you have to take your time and make the right choice. Make sure you see at least two or three companies before you pick one.”

Speak to as many people as possible to develop an accurate picture of the company and avoid getting stuck somewhere that doesn’t align with your values. “If you can get a chance to meet the higher-ups, you should,” Park said. “They’re the ones who make big decisions and set the direction for the company.”

 

Interviews Are Learning Experiences

A job interview shouldn’t be a one-way street. It’s more effective when the experience is more conversational. Beyond assessing the qualifications of applicants, interviews can also be teaching moments for company leaders. Based on the questions they’re asked, interviewers can get a sense for what’s important to candidates, and what areas the company might need to improve upon to attract talent.

More on Job Interviews10 Interviewing Skills Employers Look For

 

Find a Job That Aligns With Your Values

It’s paramount that you figure out whether you’ll be compatible with the team you’ll join. You may have all the technical qualifications to succeed at a job, but if the company culture isn’t a match, you’ll get stuck feeling out of place. Spend some time in self-reflection before your interview to discover your values and decide what would be a dealbreaker.

When Park entered the software development field as a bootcamp graduate, it was important to her that she work for a company that supported developers with her background and encouraged the growth of their careers. “It’s nice to be surrounded by people who have been through the same journey as you,” she said. Hearing that LaunchPad Lab hired bootcamp graduates showed her that they had a tolerant culture and cared about having a diverse team.

Fellows has been lucky to land roles that were the right fit culturally, but he admits that he could have been more clear in past interviews about his needs and requirements. He said that, above all else, you need to be assertive about what you’re looking for. Don’t worry that you’re asking too many questions, and don’t wait until the very end of the interview to ask them — it’s in your best interest to know the answers. 

“Right from the start, I would encourage people to say, ‘I’m really looking forward to this interview. I hope you don’t mind, I’ve got a whole bunch of questions about your company and how you work, and I’m going to ask those as we go through. I’m trying to form a solid opinion.”

Sunny Betz published an earlier version of this story in 2021.

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