What to Ask in an Interview
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Use Q&A to Establish Yourself as a Knowledgeable Candidate
Asking questions in an interview demonstrates your interest in the company, and it allows you to engage in a dialogue with those evaluating you. It will also help you better understand the fundamentals of the position to ensure it’s a good fit.
Interviewing as a Job Candidate
When you’re interviewing for a position with a company, ask questions that show you’ve researched the organization and are making a genuine effort to learn more about what the position entails.
- Who would I report to?
- What is the corporate culture like?
- Can you tell me what a typical workday in this position involves?
- Are there opportunities for professional development that would help me better serve the company?
- Does the company have any long-term expansion plans?
Ask questions about any issues you’ve learned from your pre-interview research.
- I read in the business section of the local paper that the company is introducing a new product line in the spring. Can you tell me more about it?
- I saw on the local news that the CEO just won an award from the chamber of commerce. Can you tell me more about the ways the company gets involved with local business networking organizations?
- I understand it can be a challenge for a small, family-owned business to compete with some of the larger chain operations. Can you tell me more about how you focus on customer service and on building personal relationships with customers?
Interviewing With Human Resources
If you’re talking with human resources instead of a hiring manager, it’s wise to ask questions related to compensation, benefits and work environment. You can also ask about flextime, job-sharing, commuting options or other topics that relate to the specifics of an employment contract.
Interviewing for a Management Position
When you’re interviewing for an upper-level position in which you’ll be supervising others, ask questions about how the chain of command works, the resources you’ll have at your disposal, and about issues such as supervisory policies, performance evaluations and disciplinary matters.
- How often will I be expected to conduct performance reviews?
- Are all positions in this department currently filled?
- What is the turnover rate?
- What type of staffing budget will I have to work with in the event our workload increases substantially?
- Are there any issues with morale or discipline that I should be aware of?
As the interview is winding down, ask if you can provide any additional details about yourself.
- Have I answered all of your questions fully?
- Is there anything else about my background you’d like to know more about it?
- Based on this conversation, do you consider me to be qualified for this role?
Planning Your Interview Wardrobe
Always dress in a professional manner when prepping for an interview. Even if the position will require a uniform or offer casual dress options, the interview is the place to present yourself as a pro. Wear a dress or pantsuit, slacks and a button-down blouse or a tailored dress. Neutral colors such as black, navy and cream can be moderately accessorized―shy away from loud prints, clothing that is short, tight or revealing. Your hair, cologne and makeup should be subtle and non-distracting. If you are interviewing in a conservative environment, consider whether you want to display body art or excessive piercings.
Other Interview Tips
Arrive at your interview a few minutes ahead of schedule and be courteous to the receptionist when you arrive. At the conclusion of the interview, it’s appropriate to ask when the position is going to be filled. Send follow-up thank-you messages to the people you spoke to, indicating your appreciation and your desire for the job.
When You’re the Interviewer
If you’re interviewing candidates for a position, invite them to tell you a little bit about themselves, their background, work history, previous employment and long-term professional goals. Other questions that will help you learn more about potential candidates:
- Tell me about a time you felt great success in your profession.
- Describe a time you made a mistake at work and how you fixed it.
- What is the most important thing for you to accomplish professionally?
- How do you handle conflict with co-workers? With managers?
- What was your favorite thing about your last position? Your least favorite?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What skills do you feel you need to improve?
- If you could undo any career move to date, what would it be, and why?
Build in time at the end of the interview for the candidate to ask you questions about the company and the position.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.