A successful job interview should never feel like an interrogation. A good interview flow has you answering questions and then asking some of your own. There should be an element of back and forth, with both sides asking questions and both sides giving detailed answers.
And that means you have a responsibility to come into a job interview with a prepared list of questions. In fact, not being prepared to ask your own questions can sink an interview.
But don’t worry; we’ve got your back. We’re going to talk over six questions you can ask a potential employer during an interview. Note that you don’t need to ask every one of these, and that you should also come up with some of your own that are specific to that employer. But these six questions are good examples that should get your intellectual gears turning.
A second thing to note is that we’re not going to talk about salary in this article. Salary negotiation is a complex matter, and it’s one we’ve already dedicated an entire article to. You can read that if you want to know more.
With all that said, let’s carry on!
What does the future of this position look like?
This little question does a lot of talking. It shows that you are interested in a relatively long-term commitment, and that you’re a person who thinks ahead. Of course, you can undermine that by seeming unprepared in the rest of the interview, but asking this question does display some forward-thinking initiative.
Secondly, this also lets you feel out the position a little bit. Is the employer hiring to fill an immediate need or a long-term one? You might accidentally stumble on the fact that, while the employer listed this as a full-time position, they have no plans for it beyond six months or so. That should be a red flag for any job seeker. (If you want to read more about red flags, we’ve got a whole article about that!)
Why is this position open?
We mentioned this the last time we gave a list of interview questions, and we still stand by it. This question is a negotiation tactic more than anything. It’s a professional way of expressing doubt in the position or the company, but it also doesn’t come off as combative. It’s a safe way to ask a very loaded question.
Like the previous question, this one might help you uncover some red flags. Perhaps this position has a high turnover rate, or maybe this position is only open because of an ongoing problem that the company is having.
By asking this question, you can learn more about the position, and you might get a peek into the company’s culture as well.
In this position, are there opportunities for me to further my education?
This is a fantastic question because it allows you to possibly uncover one of the hidden benefits of the job, and it also shows that you are committed to learning and growing. The best jobs offer several avenues for growth, and the best employees are willing to learn new things. This question brings together those two worlds.
How do you measure success, and how is success rewarded?
This is a two-prong question that shows you are driven by success, while also suggesting that you’re not willing to be taken advantage of. You want to know what you can do to be successful in the position, but you also expect to be compensated for that success. Successful employees deserve to be rewarded, and it’s important to remind your employer of this simple rule. This question is a polite, professional way to do exactly that.
This is another hardball question that you might want to table if you don’t have a lot of negotiating power, but it does let your potential employer know exactly where you stand.
Can you describe some of the goals of this position?
This is a softer way to ask the previous question, and it drops the expectation of being rewarded for success. However, it also shows your interviewer that you are goals-oriented, and that you are already planning for success long before you step into the role. It can also give you some insight into what exactly this position would entail.
What is it about the company culture that excites you?
This is a good question to ask if the interview is going really well. Obviously, if your interviewer seems like they might be in a bad mood, this isn’t a great question to ask. But most of the time, the person interviewing you will be cheery and bubbly. If that’s the case, you can ask them this question.
The answer might surprise you, and it gives the interviewer an opportunity to energize you about the position. It’s also a little bit of a sneaky psychological trick, as it gets that person thinking about the positive aspects of the company. When they think back on the interview, they’ll remember that they had a lot of positive feelings, and they will associate those feelings with you as a potential employee.
If it feels dirty to think of interview questions in terms of their potential psychological impact, just remember that your interviewer is likely doing the same thing to you. A job interview is both an introduction and a negotiation, and to be successful, you should apply a broad and diverse skillset. Thinking about the interview in psychological terms is just one tool in your kit. Don’t be afraid to use it.
And there you have it. If you’ve been reading carefully, you’ve probably noticed that we chose questions that have multiple purposes. It helps to think about this concept in general, as packing layers of meaning into a simple question is a great tactic for getting more information while projecting confidence and competency.
Good luck on your next interview!