|  January 22, 2013

The best questions to ask at the end of an interview

The toughest part of any interview is answering the questions versus asking them. However, at the end of almost any job interview you will be asked “What questions do you have for me?” or “What kind of questions about the company or role can I answer for you?”.  In a previous post, we touched on this subject and wrote about the number of questions to ask at the end of an interviewbut what are the best questions to ask at the end of an interview?  How do you come up with them?

That’s what I want to cover today.  Unfortunately, I can’t give you a list of canned questions to ask and tell you they are going to be impactful. The best questions don’t come from a list and they are not universal across industries, companies, and jobs.

The best questions to ask your interviewer are thoughtful, customized, grounded in research, and prove you’ve been listening to your interviewer.  The best questions are also the ones where the answer can’t be easily found.

As you are thinking about what questions to ask at the end of your interview, consider asking questions in the below categories.

questions to ask your interviewer

Ask about things that are genuinely important to you:

If you are considering joining a new company and spending the majority of your waking hours there, you must have a few things you want to know about the “day to day”.  These types of questions often revolve around “company culture”.  Company culture tends to be more abstract and is not something you can easily look up online.  That makes it a good thing to ask your interviewer.  Some example questions in this category are:

  • What is unique about this company’s culture?
  • How would you describe the day to day working environment here?
  • What do you like best about working here?

Another thing that might matter to you is how you can best succeed and grow within the company (also not something that can be easily looked up).  Keep in mind you never want to come across like a “what’s in it for me” candidate when asking about this.  It’s all about the team!  Some examples of questions in this category are:

  • What types of characteristics make employees successful here?
  • What does growth and mobility look like within the company/in this role/on this team?

Ask your interviewer their opinion or view on something:

Different people at the same company will still have different views on things so it can be interesting to ask your interviewer’s view on a certain industry or company related topic.  Examples of this can be “what are your thoughts on x thing happening in the industry?” or “how did you land in your role today?” or “what made you choose to work at company x versus others?”

Take what you’ve learned about the company, and probe further:

The “ask your interviewer questions” portion of the interview is actually another opportunity for you to prove that you’ve done your research.  How?  Many great questions actually start by you saying, “During my research I read about the fact that [insert what you’ve learned here].  I was wondering [insert insightful question here].”  Showing that you’ve done your research on the company and you are really curious about it can be very impressive.  Here are a few examples of these types of questions:

  • I’ve read online that the company is planning on opening 3 new office locations this year.  How does that affect this office and the way the organization will communicate? (this is just a random example but your question will definitely need to be customized based on your research)
  • I noticed that X is a big priority for the company when reading the website.  How does the Y team contribute to that company mission?

Take a topic discussed during the interview and probe further:

Most interviews will feel a lot more like a conversation.  In that conversation you’re likely going to learn about what your interviewer is most passionate about.  If there is anything that you really connect on and there is more to discuss, consider asking more about it.  Being able to gauge what your interviewer likes talking about the most, will help create another engaging conversation in this part of the interview.

Of course, there are probably a million great questions you can ask at the end of an interview and this is just the tip of the iceberg.  As long as you are able to show that you are really thoughtful about the opportunity and care about what your future might be like with the company, your questions will be good ones.

Here are some things to avoid:

  • Avoid asking “what’s in it for me” questions.  That means nothing about compensation, vacation, or benefits. You should ask those questions eventually, but they are more appropriate to ask when an offer is on the table.
  • Avoid getting too personal with your interviewer.  It can be seen as unprofessional since you probably just met 30 minutes before!
  • Avoid asking very generic or canned questions.  Interviewers can tell if you are asking an insightful question or if you just looked at a list of common things to ask.
  • Avoid asking if you are going to get the job.  This puts interviewers on the spot and is so uncomfortable!
  • Avoid asking questions about anything sensitive in the press like lawsuits, layoffs, and similar issues.  It is likely that your interviewer would rather talk about the positive aspects of the company and you don’t want to accidentally put them in an uncomfortable position.

What are some of your favorite questions to ask at the end of an interview?  Leave us a comment!

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