Job Interview Tips

HR managers want every job candidate to ask these questions

Written by Kate Lopaze

You’re feeling prepared for your interview. You’ve practiced your handshake (firm, confident). You’ve got your talking points down cold and are ready to answer just about any question thrown your way. But are you ready to ask questions yourself? An interview isn’t just fielding questions and making eye contact with your interviewer—it’s a dialogue between the two of you (or more, if you’re facing a panel-type situation), so it’s crucial to remember that you should also be asking questions too. Let’s look at some of the questions that HR managers look to hear from good, engaged candidates for a job.

Questions About the Company

A great interviewee is going to come armed with both knowledge and questions about the hiring company. You don’t need to memorize every word of their corporate webpage, but a look at the mission statement and any relevant news articles is a good place to start. Once you have that baseline of info, you can ask informed questions about the company.

Here are some examples:

  • I know that this company prioritizes sustainability. How do you see this role fitting in with that mission?
  • I was interested by the differences between this company and X Co.’s approach to ____. Who do you consider your top competitor in the field, and why?
  • Where do you see the company evolving over the next five years in this industry?
  • Where does this role fit in the company’s overall strategy?
  • What defines “success” here at this company? What defines “failure”?

Questions about the company, as well as its goals and values, show that you’re interested in becoming a part of the team—not just scoring a job offer. Cultural questions indicate that you’re aware of trends in the larger industry as well as in this company.

Questions About the Job

Ideally, you’re going to be the person they hire for this job, so it’s important to show a) curiosity; and b) that you’ve put a lot of thought into this opportunity. These aren’t questions like, “so what is this job, anyway?” These should be more substantive questions about the parts of the job that may not be obvious from the description.

Here are some examples:

  • What are your expectations for this role?
  • What do you see as the long-term significance of this role in the company?
  • What’s the management style in this department?
  • What is the typical career path for someone hired into this position?
  • Is this a new role? If so, what need was it created to fill? If not, can you tell me what happened with the last person in this role?
  • What are the biggest obstacles facing this team right now?
  • What’s the primary goal of this role in the first 90 days? The first year?
  • What would you say is the biggest challenge/project on the horizon for this role?
  • What would you say is the most challenging part of this position?

These questions indicate that you’re envisioning yourself settling into the role and considering the day-to-day tasks as well as opportunities to grow.

Questions About Logistics

In the interview, it’s natural to wonder about things like what the next steps are. There are ways you can phrase this that make them intelligent questions. Here are some examples:

  • Thanks so much for meeting with me today! What can I expect, in terms of next steps?
  • Is there anything else I can do to provide more information, or otherwise follow up with your team?

What Not to Ask

  • Salary questions. These are almost always better saved for later in the process, once you’ve got an offer and can begin negotiating. Mentioning it during the interview can seem overeager.
  • Specific demands. The interview is also not the time to announce that you’re going to need X time off, or request that you get an answer within three business days.
  • Personal questions. Your interviewer may have family pictures on her desk or little tchotchkes that suggest a hobby. That can be a small talk facilitator at the beginning of the interview (“Hey, we root for the same World Cup team!”), but it’s really not an opening to ask a bunch of invasive questions. Remember, you’re being interviewed for a job—it’s not speed dating.

As long as your questions are thoughtful, professional, and require more than a yes or a no, they’re likely to be welcomed throughout the interview or saved for the end. Remember that the goal is to show how interested you are in this job and demonstrate that you’re engaged fully in this process. Good luck!

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.