Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova
Looking to make a good impression in an interview? Preparing smart interview questions to ask the hiring manager is a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Add these interview questions to your checklist!
You have researched the company, read the job description 20 times, and successfully pitched your skills and experience to position yourself as the ideal person for the role. As you move toward the end of the interview, you feel confident that a potential job offer is on the table.
But have you prepared some great interview questions to ask the hiring manager?
How do you respond when an interviewer asks, ‘Do you have any questions for us?’ It can be easy to go blank, stumble over your words, ask a random question or quickly say, ‘No, I have no questions, I think you covered everything.’
You may think that the recruiter is just being polite, but more likely hiring managers are asking you this question to measure your skills and experience against the strength of your potential commitment and passion for their company.
Remember too, that you aren’t the only one in the interview room being evaluated. Asking questions enables you to learn more about the company and role, so you can make an informed decision if you decide to accept the job offer.
In this article we are going to explore:
Good interview questions to ask a hiring manager
How many questions you should ask
Questions to avoid during an interview
What is the history of this role?
Can you explain a typical day in the life in this role?
What are the biggest challenges someone in this role will be faced with?
What professional development opportunities are available?
Why did you join the company and why did you stay?
What are the company’s core values?
Can you explain the company culture and how you uphold it?
What would you want me to accomplish in the first six months?
Has anything come up in terms of my suitability for the role?
What are the most important short- and long-term business goals?
Can you describe the team I would be working with if I am appointed?
What are the next steps in the interview process?
According to John Kador, author of 301 Best Questions to Ask on Your Interview, the best way to secure a job is to differentiate yourself from the competition by asking high-quality and intelligent questions. ‘Good questions demonstrate that you are curious, coachable, alert, and engaged – in other words, you are the ideal solution to the employer’s problem.’
Learning the background of the role offers an amazing insight into what the job will be like if you get hired, whether this is a newly created role you can put your stamp on, or if there were any reasons why your predecessor left the role. You can ask follow-up questions to uncover what led to the position becoming vacant.
Have follow-up questions ready
If they’re open to discussing what led to the role becoming vacant, follow up with:
Did someone leave, get promoted, or be transferred internally
Was the role created due to company growth?
How were the responsibilities covered before?
This is a smart question to ask at an interview as it has a dual-purpose approach. Many job postings simply have a list of duties and responsibilities but don’t provide a breakdown of how much time is allocated to each task.
Apart from showing a strong interest in the role itself, you can use this information to uncover which job functions are viewed as the most important by the employer. You can then tailor the remainder of the interview and any follow-up emails/interviews to these specific job functions.
The other great benefit is that you can find out if the job is actually a good fit for you too. If your typical workday involves a large percentage of time doing something you dislike, then maybe it’s not the job for you.
You may be speaking to your potential direct manager or the HR Manager, either way, expressing an interest in their career journey is a good way to show your strong interest in joining the company.
This is worded in such a way that it is not intrusive and often management professionals enjoy sharing their experiences. This will also give you a great insight into company culture and values in respect of why they stayed with the company and whether that fits with your expectations too.
Showing a strong interest in professional development will impress an employer and also be a major benefit to the company in terms of developing a top-performing team. Learning about their continued education or professional training also gives you an insight into whether they are an employer of choice.
Prepare Follow-up Questions!
If the interviewer has a good response to your questions about growth opportunities, it opens the door for follow-ups, such as
Are there opportunities for mentoring?
Does the company offer job rotation?
Are there training opportunities available?
Company culture is a major factor for both you and the employer in terms of finding the right cultural fit for the company.
The wording of this question is important. If you ask what the company culture is like for example, you will probably get a response that it is amazing. Specific examples that show company culture as a priority is the proof that everyone probably does love it here!
This is a great way to address any concerns a potential employer has before they make a decision. Not only can you quickly resolve any hesitations the employer may have about you, but this question also demonstrates that you can handle constructive criticism and are eager to improve. Employers highly value these attributes in a new employee.
Even if you don’t get the job, this question provides you with the information you need to be prepared for the next interview.
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So, this question needs a bit of in-depth research, but if you do this it really shows your interest in working for the company and this will make you stand out from the crowd. Research the company and any significant efforts they are making across innovative areas.
Sustainability is a key focus area currently, something we are all conscious of and likely passionate about. Maybe the company has had a recent merger or acquisition, so you can ask how that has impacted company culture.
Showing that you are invested in the company is the key takeaway here. The interviewer will probably go into more detail in terms of what specific skills and qualities the company is looking for. This is a great opportunity to reinforce the value you can add in a follow-up email.
Practice active listening when the recruiter asks you a question so it’s clear that you are interested in what they are saying. Then try to ask some follow-up questions to demonstrate your understanding and broaden the conversation.
The number of questions you will be able to ask the hiring manager will very much depend on how long the interview lasts. Typically, you would aim to ask between three to five questions, but this could be more or less depending on the time the interviewer has available.
It’s a good idea to prepare two or three extra questions, so you have them ready if needed. If you plan to ask three questions, prepare five or six so you have some backup questions. Prioritize your questions. That way you’ll make sure you don’t run out of time and miss out on asking a killer question.
Avoid any questions that make you sound as though you already have the position unless, of course, the interviewer mentions this first. Salary, benefits, and compensation are all discussion points when an offer is on the table. Asking about them too early will make you look to be only motivated by money and potentially a bit full of yourself.
While these sorts of questions do show an interest in the company, they are very basic and will make you look like you have done zero research into the company. If it’s something you can find in a quick Google search, then it is probably something you should already know.
Unless outlined in the job advertisement, an interview isn’t the best time to ask for special perks such as flexible schedules and working from home. Work-life balance and remote working are very valid and popular concerns currently, particularly following the impact of the pandemic and the change in the working landscape.
However, interviewers will probably get the impression you are prioritizing your needs over those of the company if you ask this question too early. Focus on selling yourself first and then look to explore these options further once you have shown what a productive employee you are.
Asking questions about the interviewer that are personal or invasive is not a good idea. This will just make you look unprofessional and create an awkward situation. Focus on building rapport with the interviewer and ask about their career journey with the company and why they stayed.
Assume the answer to this question is yes. Asking this type of question makes it look like you have something to hide. Avoid posting anything negative about your company, colleagues, or employers on social media or the internet as it’s not often difficult to find and it creates a bad impression.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but surprisingly this is one of the most common responses given when an employer asks ‘Do you have any questions for us?’ While this may applaud the skills of your interviewer, it won’t be viewed that positively by a hiring manager.
You may be viewed as unprepared, too shy to ask for advice, not that interested in the role, arrogant in terms of thinking you know everything already, or not that inquisitive. Even asking one or two questions will eliminate any of these concerns.
Be prepared! Create questions to ask in an interview to demonstrate that you have done your research, are enthusiastic to join the company, and are keen to get started
Practice asking the questions as part of your interview preparation, a convincing finish to the interview is just as important as a strong start.
Avoid asking questions that are money-oriented, show a lack of interest in the company, and/or are too personal to the interviewer – focus on building rapport and showing you are the right person for the role.
Helen is an experienced freelance writer with a strong background in job search and career advice, in particular resume best practices, interviewing, and personal and professional development. Before Career.io, Helen worked for high-profile recruitment firms and in the field of HR management, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in a potential employee as well as experience in supporting career growth and development.