Interview Series: How to Ask Questions During an Interview

  • Have you ever been in a bad one-sided conversation? Where the other person is just going on and on about themselves with no end in sight? That’s kind of what a bad interview is like, which is why it’s important you get the opportunity to ask your own questions at the end!

    Every halfway decent company will give you the opportunity to ask your own questions, if they don’t then it’s probably a company you don’t want to work for. So what type of questions should you ask? What’s the best strategy to approach this? Is there a list of interview questions you should ask at every interview?

    Well… Not entirely. There are definitely quite a few questions that are extremely common, but I would recommend asking questions that you genuinely want to know the answer to.

    This isn’t going to be a typical “5 interview questions you HAVE to ask during an interview!” type of list, instead I’m going to break down some strategies and best practices for you to implement so that you can go in with clarity, preparation, and a way to figure out the true answers to your questions and concerns.

    A few things to keep in mind:

    Companies aren’t always honest

    1. Shocking, I know. But keep in mind that companies can and will lie about what they tell you during an interview, which is why it’s just as important to know how to ask a question as it is to know what to ask.
    2. You’re going to have to use a lot of context clues if the company isn’t going to be 100% honest, so ask questions that are skirting around the issue instead of directly addressing it.
    3. For instance, “what’s your turnover rate like at this company?” might cause them to lie and act like their turnover rate is better than it really is. In fact, they can just feign ignorance as well!

    Categorize the Questions and Make a List

    Before you go in for an interview, ask yourself:

    1. “what do I want to learn about this job?”
    2. Are you uncertain about the salary/benefits?
    3. Are you unsure about the work environment?
    4. Are you wary of a potentially high turnover rate?
    5. Do you want to work for an environment that encourage creativity and free thinking?
    6. Do you want to work for a boss that isn’t so heavy on micromanaging all of their employees?
    7. How happy are the people that work there?

    Take some time to put together a list of the most important bits of information to find out during the interview, but you’re not done quite yet!

    Personally, I like to categorize my questions like this:

    1. About The Company
      1. Turnover Rate
      2. Management
      3. Younger/Startup Vibe vs. Established/Older
    2. About The Job
      1. Day to Day Duties
    3. About The People
      1. Work Environment
      2. Morale
    4. About The Team
      1. Direct Manager Management Style
    5. About My Opportunity
      1. Advancement Opportunities
      2. Salary/Benefits
      3. My Direct Contribution to Team/Company

    Be Diplomatic

    Once you have your list, now is the time to learn how to ask these questions diplomatically.

    While interviewers and hiring managers want you to ask questions, asking them in the wrong way can doom your chances of getting hired. For instance, instead of asking something like:

    • “How much is the pay?”
    • “What’s the salary like?”

    Try something like:

    • “What is the expected compensation and benefits like for this position?”

    This also means that if you can’t figure out a way to ask some sensitive questions nicely, it’s better to just leave them off your list entirely.

    Of course, as long as you act politely and diplomatically enough, most questions should be good to go!

    Be Engaging

    Rather than asking boring “yes” or “no” questions, ask more open-ended questions that invite discussion. This is your opportunity to flip the interview around and put yourself in the position of power.

    Example Questions to Ask

    Remember that list I made about how I categorize my questions? Here are a couple example questions you can ask to help you get started:

    Turnover Rate

    • “How long has the average employee worked here?”
    • “What’s the experience level like for the average employee?”
    • “How long has my potential team been established?”
    • “Is the office younger or already established?”
    • “What’s the employee turnover rate like?”
      • While this is quite direct and they might not be as specific as you’d like, it’s still a fine question to ask.

    People don’t leave jobs they’re happy at. While there are obvious exceptions, a low turnover rate at a company can signal that the employees there are generally pretty happy and content with their professional lives. On the other hand, a high turnover rate can be damning evidence of a number of problems, starting with:

    • Leadership
    • Advancement/Development Opportunities
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Company Structure
    • Overall Job Satisfaction

    I personally believe that turnover rate is the most important bit of information you should extract during an interview. While a low turnover rate won’t necessarily mean that you’re interviewing at a good company, a high turnover rate indicates that there are issues at the company that you might not be interested in learning about first-hand.

    About the Role

    • “Can you walk me through the training process for this role?”
    • “What does the typical day-to-day look like for a successful employee in this role?”
      • While I’m personally not a fan of the day-to-day question because it implies that you didn’t read through the job posting/description thoroughly, it helps to word it differently and ask what a successful employee would do rather than a typical employee.

     

    Advancement Opportunities

    • “How do you see me growing into this role and beyond?”
    • “What are the long-term prospects/expectations for this role?”
    • “How long does it take the typical employee of this role to advance into the next role?”

     

    Closing Strong

    • “Do you have any hesitations about my candidacy for this role?”
    • “Are there any questions you may have about my fit that I can answer?”

     

    Keep in mind:

    • Ask at least 3 well thought out questions to show that you actually care and are engaged in the discussion.
    • It’s not only about what you ask, but how you ask it. Be diplomatic.
    • Ask open minded questions so that it’s not just a “yes” or “no” Q&A.

    At the end of the day, what you’re curious about and what you want to know is all up to you. As long as you ask something that shows your interest and preparation is good enough to satisfy the interviewer!

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