Interviewing is about making a memorable impression on the hiring manager. The questions he asks you are important, but the questions you ask him can give him even more insight into your character and personality. Creating a list of questions before you walk into the interview helps you appear prepared, interested and thorough.
During an interview, you are feeling out the company to see if it's a good fit, just as the hiring manager is looking for clues about your work ethic and personality. Ask questions about the company as a whole, such as the high points of the company's five-year strategic plan -- or its most important goals for the next five years -- and how the department you would be working in fits into that long-term plan. Information on the company's values can help you decide whether it's the best place for you to work, so ask about what the company values most and how it helps employees further those values.
Specifics About the Job
When getting down to the nitty gritty about your job duties, get some details from the hiring manager about what's most important in the position. For example, say, "What is the most important task for the person in this position to accomplish in the first 30, 60 or 90 days?" Without inquiring about problems with the previous employee, ask what improvements the company is hoping the new employee can make in the available position. Also, get a feel for the department's work environment by asking what two traits the company feels are most important for the new employee to have. If "team player" is one of the traits, you know you'll be working closely with other people without much independent decision making, for example. "Self-motivated" might mean you will spend much of your time alone in your office.
Since it's likely you'll be working closely with a new manager as you train in the new position, ask about that person's management style and what kind of employees he works best with. Inquire about the aspects of leadership he thinks are the most important, such as facilitating employee education, mentoring, fostering creative thinking or inspiring productivity. The answers can help you get a better feel for whether you and the manager can work well together.
As you prepare for your interview, spend some time researching the company by reviewing its website or looking for relevant news articles. When crafting your questions, make sure they aren't answers that are easily found on the website. Your questions should be more of the big-picture type, rather than the basics about the products the company offers, for example. Also, phrase the questions so they can't be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." This makes your questions sound more intelligent, and it can give you more detailed answers. Instead of asking if your direct manager handles your performance evaluations, ask "How will my performance be measured, and who typically conducts the evaluation?"