The right questions to ask during an interview
29 Aug 2023
When you go to a job interview, it's common for your prospective employer to ask if you have any questions.
It isn’t unusual to overthink your response - you may even find your mind goes blank! But this is perhaps the most valuable part of the conversation for you as the interviewee.
This is a golden opportunity to probe the employer for useful insider information. It is also another way to continue proving yourself to be the ideal candidate for the job.
To help you prepare for this stage in the interview, we’re sharing top tips and example questions. Have a think what you’d like to know about a potential employer? Write them down and practice asking them aloud with friends or family before your interview so you can go to your interview feeling confident and ready to ask your questions when the moment comes!
If you want to ace your interview, getting in some rehearsal time before is the safest way to avoid being caught off guard.
It’s useful to remember the interview offers a new opportunity to get some clarification for yourself, all while continuing to demonstrate those important skills and key characteristics.
Here you can make up for any missed opportunities throughout the interview and ensure you’ve said everything that will help your case. To do this simply and clearly, you can even preface these questions with “before I ask my questions, I would like to say..” and highlight any of the key skills or strengths that may not have been covered. John Lees writes about this technique in his book, How To Get A Job You Love
. He reveals how this allows you to plan which message you want to leave the interviewer thinking about.
Phrasing your questions
Wording your questions as though you have already secured the role is a savvy way to get the employer to subconsciously imagine you in the job. For example, rather than asking the blanket question ‘what does a typical day look like?’, try rephrasing this to centre yourself. Instead, ask ‘what would my typical day here look like?’. It expresses self-confidence and aspiration, which encourages them to believe in your conviction that you are going to get the job.
Questions about the team
You might be interested in asking about the team you’ll be working with.
First and foremost, this shows to the employer that you’re a sociable character interested in people. By having the courtesy to ask about the other staff members you’ll be spending your working days with, it’s a promising sign that you’ll be a considerate member of the team who works well with others.
- What kind of person tends to do well within this team?
- What are the team’s biggest strengths and biggest challenges?
Questions about the workplace culture
In Arthur B Markman’s book on using cognitive science to get a job, Bring Your Brain To Work, inquiring about the company culture is a way of impressing employers. It insists that you're serious and interested in a long-term career with the company. Markman explains that you’re also signalling eagerness to share “cultural references” with your colleagues. Again, this proves you to be collectively minded and happy to contribute to a harmonious team.
- Is there anything that I could read prior to starting my job that gives me an insight into the shared culture at this company?
Equally it is always worthwhile doing some research on the company to find out more about their vision, mission and company values. Visit their website and follow them on social media to learn about them and what they do. From here you could include:
- I know your company values [example] and [example], but which would you personally say is most commonly demonstrated within this role?
Questions about future career opportunities
Choosing to question possible career progression is another great strategy to inspire confidence in you. It emphasises admirable qualities like ambition and willingness to work hard to get to a prominent position. Here you’re proving yourself to be forward-thinking and enthusiastic about a lasting career within an organisation you’re clearly passionate about.
- What are the common career paths available to me in this department?
- How might my role evolve over time?
If you have the time spare at the end of the interview, you might try proposing a selection of questions from each of these categories. This will demonstrate that you have a broad interest in all the different aspects of business and are ultimately a well-rounded person who considers multiple aspects of the role.
Questions not to ask during an interview
Good practice is to avoid questions that google could answer. For example, don’t ask about the history of the company or who founded it.
This could reveal that you haven’t done your research and have little interest in the organisation. Instead, this final part of the interview could be an opportunity to boast of your knowledge of the business, perhaps asking something like “I was fascinated to learn that the company founder was interested in *blank*, could you tell me more about how their vision is realised in the company today?”
Remember, as Benjamin Franklin said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”, so practice those questions and you’ll be well on your way to success!