What To Ask In An Interview

"So, do you have any other questions for me?"

You know it's coming at the end of every interview. But when there's only one or two minutes left in your half hour call, what should you ask?

There are two main aspects of your candidacy you want to convey with your questions:

  • That you're interested and passionate about the position
  • That you're an analytical, deep thinker who wants to know the answers

But that's not actually the main reason you should ask a question at this point in the interview process. That doesn't mean you can cop-out—having no questions is a red flag at any stage for a hiring manager or recruiter—but it does mean you should evaluate the information you actually want and need to know, not just what makes you sound smart.

What You Want To Know: What's it gonna take to get this gig?

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What You Should Ask: "Can you walk me through the next stages of this process, and what I can do to show you that I'm the right person for this position?"

This is best asked to the recruiter or HR person at the beginning stages of the process. Have them walk you through what to expect and what the timeline will be if you're chosen for the position. This is a great opportunity for you to close your call with why the position/company attracted you to them in the first place, and how you can ultimately help the business grow.

What You Want to Know: What is it like to work for this person?

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What You Should Ask: "How would you summarize your management style?" or "Can you tell me how you like to work with your reports on projects?"

This is important to ask not just of the hiring manager, but of other people on the team you'll be joining, if you get the opportunity to ask them. Everyone has different work preferences, and you'll need to know if you're going to mesh with the rest of the team. Are they collaborative? Or do they tend to go into their own corners, put their heads down, and emerge once they're finished? Do people go into the office every day, or work remotely? How often does your manager like to check in on your progress? You'll need to know going in what works best for you, but listen carefully for any clues for things that don't—like signs of a micromanager.

What You Need to Know: Is this company worth joining?

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What You Should Ask: "What are the organization's goals for this quarter? For this year?" or "Can you walk me through some of your key revenue milestones in the last few years?" 

Some of this you can research ahead of time, depending on the company. Depending on the organization, you should ask this to the hiring manager, but also to the most senior person you're interviewing with, especially if you get a chance to interview with someone in the C-Suite. But no matter what type of organization you're joining, you need to know the bigger picture. What are the company's goals? How much are they trying to grow?

And if you're looking at a start-up, it's important to understand what kind of funding they have (if any) and whether or not the company is profitable. The amount of risk you're willing to take is up to you, but what matters is that you're asking the big questions—it means you're invested in what you're signing up for, and also gives you the opportunity to explicitly state what you're going to do to help achieve those goals.

Those are the big three pieces of information I'm always looking for when I interview, but you may also want to know:

  • What's in it for me? --> "Can you tell me about some of your employee benefits?" 
  • What am I going to actually do once I show up? --> "Can you describe a typical day in the life of this role? Is there a typical day in the life?"
  • How much power and responsibility will I have? --> "Where does this role sit in the organization, and what other groups will I be working with?"

You may not have much time in any given interview to ask the questions you really want the answers to. Make sure you follow up with a thank-you note, and if you still have questions or concerns, voice them there.

Remember, when you take a job, you're taking an important step—no matter how much you think you want a position, make sure you ask all the right questions so you know what you're getting yourself into.

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