“Do you have any questions for me?”
The job interview has gone smoothly up to this point when that closing remark from your interviewer throws you for a loop. Do you have any questions for them? Should you? Which questions are appropriate to ask right now, and which ones would be expected further along in the process?
Many job seekers are unsure how they can prepare questions that won’t scuttle all the hard work in the interview that they did answering questions instead of asking them. As stressful as it can be to have the tables turned at the end of the interview, asking smart, informed questions can help underline that you are excited about this job opportunity. It also gives you an opportunity to clarify anything that you were unsure about up to this point in the process, or to return to particular points made in the interview with a bit more time to focus on them. Finally, the opportunity to ask your interviewers a couple of questions can give you some logistical information that will help you in your job search.
The key is to prepare for the chance to ask questions and to ensure you ask good ones that further illustrate how solid a candidate you are. Here are some sample questions that will work for many job interviews, and for a variety of situations, along with advice on how to ask them — and what to avoid.
This is a great time to find out more about the company you’re interviewing with. Don’t ask basic questions like “What does Company X do?” It’s easy to find those answers, and you will look ill-prepared or uninterested if you don’t have this kind of information.
Instead, ask questions that look for more specific information about the company’s operations, or get at the company culture. Here are a few examples:
What is the culture like at Company X? What kind of people tend to succeed here? — Cultural fit is an important thing to ascertain during a job interview, both for the interviewer and the interviewee. Some people do well in an environment where they get to work on many different aspects of a project, while others prefer a more specific focus. You may be okay with an intense work environment or be looking for something more relaxed.
What is your favorite part of working for Company X? — Ideally, the interviewers will have multiple answers to this question that involve more than just the paycheck. Look for them to mention the things that are important to you, whether that’s a supportive environment, exciting work, or generous opportunities to advance your skills. If the interviewer struggles to answer, that’s worth paying attention to.
How do you picture the next year for this organization? What is upcoming that you are most excited about during that time? — The job advertisement might list specific tasks, but this question gives you a chance to see how your job responsibilities will fit into the company’s overall work. It also lets you know what kind of work you’ll be doing and consider how that matches up with your goals and interests.
How is project management handled at Company X? — All companies have differences in their structures and in how they manage projects. Consider what you are hoping to hear here. Are you looking for more direct management at this stage in your career? Do you like to have a clear path to follow? If the interviewers struggle to articulate how project management works they may not have a great idea themselves, which is also something to pay attention to.
Questions can also help you find out more about the specific role for which you are interviewing. Don’t focus too much on where you might end up at the company by asking when you can expect a promotion. Employers want to hire people with ambition, yes, but they also want to hire someone who is excited about the role they need to fill.
What do you expect will be the most significant challenge for the successful candidate in this position? — This is a good way to get some information that would normally not appear in a job ad. For example, you might hear that there is a tight budget for a key project or that certain responsibilities are shared between departments. If the challenges mentioned present an opportunity to give an example of how you’ve overcome a similar issue, mention that now!
Are there opportunities offered for professional development? — Don’t focus on the roles ahead of the one you are interviewing for, because it might make your interviewers wonder how dedicated you’ll be the job they need filled. That said, it’s good to ask about professional development opportunities. These can be a valuable benefit for you as an employee, and it’s a chance to show your employer that you’re interested in growing and developing with the company.
How will you measure the success of the person in this position? — This question allows you to find out more about the expectations for the role, including how well they match with the job description. It also provides information about which of the roles mentioned in the job advertisement are the highest priorities.
What is a typical day or week on the job like? — If a job description lists a variety of responsibilities or indicates that your tasks will be split between roles, use this question to get more information about how those responsibilities break down. The answers given here can also give you an indication of the work environment. Will you have to change your focus on a dime, or are you primarily working on one kind of task no matter what?
For some roles, there are specific questions that you can expect to be asked. Consult specific resources for web dev, UX/UI designer, data scientist, and iOS dev roles to prepare for those particular positions, or if you’re a Lambda student, refer back to your Careers notes – and stay tuned, we’ll be publishing more content on common interview questions soon.
In any job interview, ask about the timeline for a decision on the role or on additional interviews. Knowing when you can reasonably expect a decision or further information helps with your own planning — and with managing your job-hunt anxiety! Keep in mind, however, that things often change and you may not hear back as soon as you expected to.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how many questions are too many to ask. It depends on how much time your interviewer has, of course, but three solid questions that show your insight and interest are better than six that you could have easily answered yourself. By the same token, an interviewer isn’t going to mind answering six great questions if time allows. Focus less on the number of questions and more on their quality — and have more questions that you expect to need prepared, because some of them may be answered during the course of the interview itself.
Finally, remember that the interview isn’t your final chance to ask questions. If you didn’t get to a particular question because of time constraints, or if you thought of it after the interview, you can ask when you send a thank-you note to follow up with your interviewers. Other questions, such as those related to compensation, may be appropriate to ask if you receive a job offer.
Keep in mind that the job interview process isn’t just a chance for a company to decide if you are a good fit for them; it’s also a chance for you to decide if the company is a good fit for you. Asking smart questions is an important part of getting those answers.