7 Questions to Ask a Future Employer
Let’s say you’ve applied to your dream job, and you’ve made it to the interview stage. You feel confident that you’ve answered all your potential employer’s questions as best you could. But before you go, they have one more thing they want to know: “Do you have anything to ask me?”
If this question has ever left you scrambling for a response, you’re not alone. Focusing on your answers and how you come off makes it easy to forget that the conversation is also a chance for you to learn about the company and decide if it’s where you want to be. Asking your future employer strong questions shouldn’t be an afterthought. In fact, it can even help you land the job.
Questions to Ask in an Interview
- What tools and platforms do you work with?
- What kind of backgrounds do people on the team have?
- What is your company doing to encourage workplace diversity?
- How does your company support its employees?
- Are there opportunities for training or advancement?
- What would my responsibilities be on a day-to-day basis?
- What ways do you think your company can improve?
As the chief digital officer at analytics company Acuity Knowledge Partners, David 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.”
The Tech Industry Is a Seller’s Market. You Can Afford to Be Choosy.
Tech skills are in high demand, and, for the most part, you can be picky about where to take yours. 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.
“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.”
“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,” said Ji Park, a software developer at LaunchPad Lab. “They’re the ones who make big decisions and set the direction for the company.”
Strong Questions Show That You’re a Serious Candidate
Coming prepared with solid questions can help you leave a good impression with your interviewer — it shows that you’re invested in the company and are curious about how it operates.
“The best people that we interview have a strong voice,” Fellows said. “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.”
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.
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 onto 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.”
Be Specific and Do Your Homework
You only get a limited amount of time in an interview and you don’t want to waste any time with filler questions. Do your homework and learn about the company ahead of time so you can get answers that are truly useful to you.
“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,” Park said. “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.”
“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.”
Don’t get distracted by a company’s star power without knowing how it operates, who is on the team, or what the environment is like on the inside. You have to have a concrete idea of what the company atmosphere is and whether it matches with your needs before making any lasting decisions. “Some people want to work for big brands because they have a preconception of what those companies are like, but sometimes that can be a mistake,” Fellows said. “You might find out your perception of them doesn’t match their reality.”
Ask About What Technologies and Projects You’ll Work On
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 actually thinking about providing solutions that people can use.”
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,” Fellows said. “You’re actually thinking about providing solutions that people can use.”
Find Out How the Company Supports 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.”
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.
“Don’t worry that you’re asking too many questions, and don’t wait ’til the very end of the interview to ask them — it’s in your best interest to know the answers.”
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 ’til 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.”