Looking for a Job? Here Are the Best Questions to Ask in an Interview
It’s the night before your big job interview. You’ve done your due diligence researching the company, the position and the people conducting the interview. You’re ready.
But how will you respond when the hiring manager asks, “Do you have any questions for me?”
This portion of the job interview is a fantastic way to make a lasting impression that sets you apart from the other candidates — or it can blow your chances of receiving an offer. We asked some hiring managers for the best and worst questions candidates have asked them during the interview process. Here’s what they told us.
The Best Questions to Ask a Hiring Manager
The cream of the crop: Our hiring managers say these are the insightful questions that stood out. They recommend any candidate use them during their next interview.
“What are the company’s most important goals for the next year?”
One thing hiring managers look for is whether a job candidate will be a good fit within the team. They want to determine if the candidate is thoroughly committed to helping the company accomplish its goals, says Jason Patel, founder of Transizion, a college assistance and mentorship company.
“What this question shows is that even though the person has not been hired, they will be invested in helping your company accomplish what it wants to get done,” he says.
“What have been your company’s biggest successes and failures this year, and what have you learned from them?”
There’s a significant caveat to this question, Patel warns. A company might not want to disclose its failures, especially if it’s in a highly competitive industry. So the interviewer might be more open to talking about the business’s successes.
“When you add that qualifier ‘What did you learn from them,’ it shows that the person wants to learn from past mistakes and help the company as it evolves,” Patel says.
“What are the top three skills that have made someone successful in this position before?”
Christopher K. Lee, founder and career consultant for PurposeRedeemed, advises candidates to ask this question if they know the job is an established position. He says interviewees can learn what skills or behaviors are the “non-negotiables” their future bosses expect them to have.
“What are your customers’ biggest pain points, and how will I be involved in solving them?”
Companies strive to solve problems for customers, Patel says. If the candidate is already interested in doing that, they’ll most likely be invested when times get tough.
“You want all of your employees to provide legitimate value for the customers,” he says.
“What’s the No. 1 concern you have of me as a candidate at this time?”
Ask this question at the end of the interview, recommends Michael Sunderland, the managing director of Full Stack Talent. “It lets the hiring manager open up about any perceived weaknesses they see in that person as a candidate, and it lets the candidate address those concerns right then and there,” he says.
It’s always easier to erase any doubts when the people deciding your fate are still in the room.
“Do you mind showing me around the office before we conclude the interview?”
Asking for an office tour is a great way to prolong the interview, says Peter Yang, founder of the resume-writing service ResumeGo. “It guarantees that extra face time” with the hiring manager outside the confines of the interview room, he says. Plus, it’s an opportunity to make an impression on the staff and potential coworkers.
Although the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way interviews are conducted — at least temporarily — finding out more about how the office operates is important. If the company is completely remote, either full time or just during the pandemic, ask what support is provided for remote employees. Getting answers to all these questions will also provide a glimpse into the company’s culture.
The Worst Questions to Ask a Hiring Manager
Asking a bone-headed question at the end of the interview is a quick way to crush your chances of getting the gig. So whatever you do, don’t ask these questions.
“What does this company do?”
“I think some of the worst stuff I’ve ever been asked is things they should already know,” Sunderland says. As a director of a tech staffing and recruiting company, most of his clients are not fond of candidates asking about basic information that can be found on the company’s website.
But for one particular client, it’s a major pet peeve. Sunderland recalls one interviewee asking a client, “What does this company do?” The client was “flabbergasted” and made sure the job seeker was not going to get the gig.
“What’s your company’s mission?”
Startups and businesses founded within the last 10 years proudly display their mission statement and company story on their websites, Patel says. You are setting yourself up for failure if you’re going into an interview without reading the company’s mission statement, their story or the job description.
“If you’re not doing your research beforehand, what makes [the company] think you’ll do your research once you have the job?” he says.
“How many vacation days do I get?”
Asking about benefits and job perks too early in the hiring process reflects poorly on a candidate, Patel says.
“The thing with that question is that it inadvertently — or intentionally — shows that you aren’t so much focused on helping the company; you’re only interested in the perks,” he says. Patel recommends not asking questions about benefits until the employment offer is in your hands. That’s when it’s time to negotiate.
“Do you have drug testing?”
Bill Fish was interviewing a candidate for a sales management position at an online marketing company about eight years ago. The candidate seemed to check all the boxes: He had a great resume and looked like a solid fit overall. When it came time for the candidate to ask Fish any questions, he only had one on his notepad.
When Fish replied “no,” the candidate exhaled in relief. But his job prospects had gone up in smoke.
“When my kids are old enough to do job interviews, I’ll be sure to pass along that story so they don’t do something that stupid,” Fish says.
Matt Reinstetle is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.