My first professional job interview was when I was 18 years old. As a first-year business student, I wanted to gain experience working in an office environment, so I tried to get an admin job in an insurance firm.
Heading into the interview, I was worried about my lack of relevant experience. Still, as the interview wore on, I built a convincing case for how the skills I had gained through school and working in a customer service role made me a fit for the position.
After about 30 minutes we reached the end of their question line. The interviewers shuffled their papers in front of them, and one of them said, “Is there anything you’d like to ask us?”
- Have I answered all your questions, or is there something you’d like me to clarify?
- Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?
- What do you like most about working here?
- What new skills can I hope to learn here?
- What is the next step in the process?
- Who would I be working closest with, or reporting to, on a daily basis?
- Beyond some of the hard skills we’ve discussed, which soft skills would be most helpful in this position?
- Can you tell me if I would get the chance to be involved with this (project/initiative/etc.)?
I knew enough not to ask what salary they were offering. It didn’t even matter to me since my primary goal was to gain some relevant business experience.
But I hadn’t given much thought to what I wanted to learn from the meeting. Wasn’t the purpose for them to interview me?
So I responded with something like “Uhhh…not really.”
I didn’t get the job.
Now, I can’t say for sure that it was my lack of intelligent questions that prevented me from getting the job. But I’m sure it didn’t help.
Many years later, I’ve had the chance to interview for several positions, and I have been on the opposite side of the table by interviewing candidates. Through both perspectives, I’ve learned that the job interview is not, and should not, be one-sided. It’s really like going on a first date.
Conversation Not Interview
The purpose of an interview isn’t only to put the candidate on the hot-seat. Yes, the pressure to perform falls unequally on the person seeking a job, but, ultimately, it’s an opportunity for both sides to learn from one another. As a candidate, this means you should be ready to both answer questions and ask them.
This may seem obvious to you. Unlike the 18-year-old version of myself, you have probably already interviewed for a job and know that towards the end of the interview you are given a chance to ask questions.
Less obvious are the types of questions you should ask. Here it’s important to remember the three goals you should have for the interview:
- Demonstrate your interest in the role and the company
- Persuade the potential employer that you have the skills and experience they seek
- Identify if the job and the organization is the right fit for you.
The questions you ask can serve all three goals. However, I want to stress that it’s not just what you ask, but how and when you ask it. Be strategic. In line with goal #1 above, you want the interviewer to perceive you as genuinely curious. If you simply ask out of formality, it will show.
For this reason, go into the interview with questions that you should ask and that you could ask. The difference being certain questions are context-dependent based on what you’ve discussed throughout the interview. Here’s what I mean.
Job Interview Questions You SHOULD Ask the Interviewer
Why: This should be the first thing you ask after the interviewer has completed his or her question line. It shows the interviewer that you are engaged in the conversation and that you care that you are understood, a sign of a good communicator. Chances are the interviewer will respond with ‘no,' but in case they do want to revisit something, you now have the chance to fill in any gaps in your previous answers.
Why: No, it isn’t crazy to draw attention to why you might not get the position. This question is very poignant, forcing the interviewer to tell you where you stand. If he or she feels you lack in a certain area, you can provide some reassurance of your capabilities, or your ability to pick up new skills. The question also shows maturity and that you aren’t afraid to talk about your weaknesses.
Why: This is an opportunity to connect with the people sitting across from you on a human level. You will show them that you are personable, not a robot. Further, it can help you identify if the organization is the right fit for you. Pay close attention to the person’s answer and body language.
Why: Employers appreciate candidates who can see themselves growing with their company. This question shows that you are serious about personal development and want a work environment where you can learn from others around you.
Why: Timing is everything with this one. It should be your final question since it sends the signal that you don’t’ have anything further that you want to share about yourself or learn about the position/organization. It’s also a very practical question since you’ll find out when you might hear next from them.
Job Interview Questions You COULD Ask the Interviewer
Why: Job satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, has a lot to do with the people you interact with each day. So why not get a sense of the level of collaboration and team dynamic you can expect from a new job? Some people work best when they are given a high degree of independence; others want their manager to be nurturing. This question will help you determine whether the role matches your needs.
Why: Chances are that the job description that attracted you to the position listed all the hard skills the employer is seeking. And the bulk of most interviews is spent on discussing these elements. If by the end of the interview little attention has been paid to soft skills (adaptability, teamwork, initiative, etc.), be sure to raise this question. Again, it will help you determine the type of personality that fits best in the role.
Why: The best way to show that you are genuinely interested in the position is to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the company. If you’ve done your research ahead of time, you will have uncovered parts of the organization’s business that interest you. Don’t be afraid to ask whether your work will touch these areas.
By no means is this an exhaustive list. There are plenty of other strategic questions you can ask during the interview. But the ones listed above will provide you with a solid base for impressing interviewers and determining whether the role you are pursuing is right for you.
- What are your expectations for this role during the first 30 days, 90 days, year?
- Could you describe for me the culture of the company?
- Where do you think the company will be in 5 years?
- Who do you consider your top competitor? And why?
- What are the main opportunities (or challenges) that the company/department has at the moment?
- What is the typical career path for this role in this company?
Now that you have learned some tips for the job interview, it is time to start applying for your dream job. Make sure to update your resume template for each job application you are creating. You can use our free resume builder to create a new job application or update your existing one.