Job interviews are stressful but they have certain guarantees. It should be expected that an interviewer will wrap up with: “Do you have any questions for me?”
At this moment, it’s important to remember that every interview is a two-way street. You should be assessing the employer just as much as they’re assessing you because you both need to walk away convinced that the job would be a great fit.
Interviews are a great way for an employer to get to know more about you and determine whether or not you are right for an open position. However, all too often, young professionals overlook the fact that interviews are also a time to gauge whether they will fit in and find success at the organization. It’s not only a time for the interviewer to ask you questions, it’s also a time for you to ask the interviewer questions. Asking thoughtful questions not only sets you apart as a candidate but helps you determine if you’d be happy working for the company.
To help you prepare to stand out at your next interview, here are some questions that’ll make hiring managers’ ears perk up. Try them at your next interview and see how the conversation changes.
Here are 25 smart questions to choose from — if they weren’t already answered — to help you get a better sense of the role and the company and to leave the interview with a positive, lasting impression.
1. How does this role contribute to larger company goals?
It’s not terribly difficult to find a candidate that can execute a role. It is terribly difficult to find a candidate that can not only execute on their role but also understand how it fits into larger goals. This includes being able to self-manage, prioritize high-value activities, and grow their role in a direction that aligns with the company’s growth. This type of question will help you to specify your role and what the company is expecting from you.
2. What is something the company is still working on getting right?
While other candidates might be skittish around a business’s weaknesses, this question shows HR you’re willing to accept the current negatives and join them in righting the ship.
Note the phrasing of this question, too. By asking HR this question precisely this way, you put focus on the positive and show the company that you have natural optimism (a desired trait in future leaders, just so you know).
3. What is the biggest challenge the team has faced in the past year?
While the interviewer might be trying to paint a pretty perfect picture of what working on the team might look like, asking this question will help you uncover some of the realities the team has been facing recently. If you end up joining, you’ll inevitably hear about these challenges — and you may have to help solve them, too.
4. What are you most excited about in this company’s future?
Want to inject a little positivity into your phone call with HR? Ask them what has them pumped up right now. What motivates them to get up in the morning? Put yourself in HR’s shoes: Wouldn’t you love to answer this question, especially if you love the company you work for?
Asking the HR representative what they’re most excited about shows them that you, too, thrive on enthusiasm. It also brings the best out in your interviewer — a good headspace for HR to be in as they hand you off to the hiring manager.
5. Has the company ever made a decision that prioritized its values over revenue?
Most companies have a list of values — but whether those values actually leap off the webpage and are reflected in the day-to-day work can be a whole different story.
To get a better signal, you can ask about the history of the core values, how the core values have been misinterpreted, whether they’ve had to be revisited over time, and if there have been situations where they’ve been weaponized.”
6. What specific initiatives has the company launched to improve diversity and inclusion?
While virtually every company speaks to DEI in the form of public statements or formal plans, it’s critical to probe and see if there’s actual weight behind it, or simply talking points. Whether you identify as someone from an underrepresented background in tech or not, opening up the conversation to talk tangibles can unearth critical insights into how the company takes care of its employees.
7. What is your company’s customer or client service philosophy?
This is an impressive question because it shows that you can make the connection between how the company thinks about its customers and the end result. In other words, how the customer is treated on a day-to-day basis, and in turn, how that shows up in the product.
8. Why did you decide to work at this company?
This question gives an interviewer a chance to do two self-serving things: talk about themselves and perform a no-holds-barred sales pitch on the company. For promising candidates, the sales opportunity is welcomed. And most people love any excuse to talk about themselves.
If your interviewer has been at the company for several years, understanding why could give you some really interesting insight into the company, how it treats its employees and a taste of what motivates the people who work there. Plus, it shows you’ve done your research on the interviewer, which is always an impressive sign.
9. What do you like most about working here?
This question can be a breath of fresh air to HR reps who primarily answer questions about benefits (which are valuable questions, don’t misunderstand). Asking an HR employee what they like about the company tells them you care about the company’s culture and that you care about the opinion of someone whom you might not work with directly.
10. Do you feel that your opinions count?
Having an opportunity to contribute is one of the key indicators of job satisfaction and team performance. If your hiring manager feels heard, appreciated, and valued for his or her input, chances are the same will translate into your position.
11. How did you get to your role?
Asking deeply personal or intrusive questions won’t get you high marks on the interview. However, most professionals enjoy sharing their career journey. Ask what first attracted the hiring manager to this company and what the career path has been like.
12. What is the most challenging part of your job? What is your favorite part of your job?
Your hiring manager’s job is different from the one you are interviewing for. However, insight into his or her challenges and favorites can offer a glance into the support and assistance you can offer.
13. How do you deliver negative feedback?
If you would be working with the person interviewing you, this is another tough question that can give you some insight into how the team works. It pushes the hiring manager to think about how he or she would handle an uneasy situation, while at the same time showing your level of maturity in that that you (realistically) expect to receive tough feedback sometimes.
14. How has this position changed over time?
It’s easy to forget that someone might have once held the position you’re applying for — or, more importantly, that the role might have evolved since it came on your radar. Don’t be afraid to ask HR what this job looked like before you were interested in it. This can include what the responsibilities looked like, how many other people currently hold this position at the company, and even where HR thinks it’s going in the future.
Getting HR’s perspective on the history of your potential role can give you unbiased insight into your department, and let HR know that you’re interested in your future at the company — not just your present.
15. What does this team’s role hierarchy look like? How does this position fit into it?
This is another big-picture question that HR should be equipped and eager to answer for you. You might not want to bluntly ask “who would I report to?” It can show resistance or insecurity before you ever set foot in the role. But, it’s still something you might want to know.
Phrasing your question the way it’s phrased above is a professional gesture that can reveal who your boss would be and indicate to the company that you’re mature enough to put your role in the context of your department (an admirable move).
16. What are some of the challenges or roadblocks one might come up against in this role?
A question like this indicates that you’re already envisioning yourself in the role and thinking through a plan of attack, should you land the gig. It’s also a sign that you’re well aware that no job comes free of roadblocks. It shows that not only are you not afraid to deal with those challenges, but you’re also prepared for them.
17. What do the most successful new hires do in their first month here?
This question shows that you’re the type of person who likes to hit the ground running, instead of spending a week filling out HR forms. It also shows that you recognize patterns of success and want to replicate only the most effective performers.
Asking a question like this shows you’re interested in getting a practical example of what success looks like to the manager of the team you’d be joining. Plus, when you phrase the question in this way, “you leave no room for a hypothetical answer,” says Dave Fernandez, a former recruiting team lead at HubSpot. Instead, you’re pushing the hiring manager to think about their top performer.
18. What are the top reasons that people have left the company of their own volition?
While questions around employees departing can quickly be brushed aside that they “weren’t a great fit” or “not well-equipped for the job,” this deft phrasing from Gokul Rajaram, product leader at DoorDash, can stir up striking conversations around clarity of role expectations and retention.
19. What type of accomplishments would you expect in the first six months?
All too often, job descriptions present routine tasks and responsibilities. Asking about specific expectations and accomplishments can allow you to tailor the conversation to demonstrate your fit for the position. It also shows your commitment to adding value.
20. Which part of the position has the steepest learning curve? What can I do in order to get up to speed quickly?
For some jobs, learning the technology or the internal company procedures is the most challenging aspect of coming on board. For others, it is about understanding the human network. Any guidance on how to speed up the learning process and make you effective and productive quicker can give you a significant advantage.
21. What are the expectations for managing workflow?
Virtually every company has enough work to keep everyone busy 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In practice, everyone gets to go home at the end of the day. How do you know when you are done for the day? What are the expectations around working on weekends and responding to emails outside the normal working hours? It will help you to find out your job responsibilities, your work time.
22. What are the main things HR does to assist the department I would be working for?
This question shows you know HR is more than just the company’s first line of defense during the recruitment process.
Take your phone screening as an opportunity to become acquainted with the human resources department and find out how you’d interact with them on a regular basis from your department. It’s a friendly question and one that shows your interest in how the whole company operates — not just your own team.
23. How would you measure my success, and what could I do to exceed your expectations?
Asking a question like this shows that you’re goal-oriented and aren’t afraid to be held accountable for those goals. You don’t shirk accountability. You welcome it — and will work hard to hit the goals you’re responsible for.
HR managers like this question because it addresses expectations in concrete terms. Beyond stock descriptions of good communication and analytical skills, what does excellence look like for that position?
24. What opportunities will I have to learn and grow?
Does the company offer formal or informal mentoring and coaching? Does it invest in continued education or professional training? Great companies want to hire people who are dedicated to personal and professional growth. Show your hiring manager that continued development is important to you.
25. Is there anything I have said that makes you doubt I would be a great fit for this position?
Asking this question at the close of the interview can feel terrifying. After all, you are asking whether there is any reason why the hiring manager wouldn’t want to extend you an offer. However, if you have the courage to ask this, you stand to gain a better sense of the next steps in the process and an opportunity to address any reservations that the hiring manager might have about your candidacy while you still have his or her attention.
Why ask strategic-thinking interview questions
Strategic-thinking in the workplace is the ability to make business decisions by analyzing current and future scenarios. Strategic thinkers translate a company’s vision into doable actions.
Companies hire employees with a strategic mindset to help achieve long-term business goals. Strategic thinkers:
- Set long-term objectives
- Proactively identify and address potential risks
- Use resources efficiently
- Develop action plans in the face of obstacles
- Successfully deal with competition
List of Interview Questions Not to Ask The Interviewer
Having considered some of the questions that can put you in the best light and close the interview on a high note, here is a shortlist of questions that you should never ask in an interview.
1. How many vacation days do I get?
2. How long is the lunch break?
3. What type of health insurance do you offer?
4. How often can I work from home?
5. Are the working hours flexible?
6. How much overtime will I be expected to work?
7. Will I have to work on weekends?
8. What is the salary package for this position?
9. What background checks do you perform on candidates?
10. What exactly does your company do?
In an interview, it’s important to be able to ask good questions in addition to providing good answers. Typically, at the end of an interview, the interviewer will ask the candidate if they have any questions for them. It’s important to capitalize on this opportunity and demonstrate that you’re well prepared, curious and can engage in a good dialogue.
We want you to end the interview in a powerful and impactful way. We hope these questions inspire your own brainstorming session.