When preparing for an interview, many job seekers focus solely on preparing answers to questions. Inevitably, toward the end of the interview, you will be given the chance to ask questions. It is paramount that you prepare something to say. You are there because an employer has already seen your qualifications, and they want to meet the real you. Now is the chance for you find out more about the real job. Asking effective, poignant questions is an opportunity to shows that your time has value and a chance to demonstrate your interest in the position.
When preparing your questions for the interview, think about what kind of statement you are trying to make. There are three basic things you are trying to accomplish. You want to find out if the position is a good fit for you, show you would be a good employee and hammer home your interest in working there. Employers will judge what questions you pose as much as the answers you’ve previously given. Show that you already know the basics but are interested in probing deeper. Avoid hypotheticals and “yes” or “no” situations.
What’s a typical day or week on the job like? The title and job description will often tell you very little about the daily grind at the workplace. This will also give you an idea of workplace culture and how you might fit into it.
What’s your favorite thing about working here? The interviewer just spent a long while listening to you talk about yourself. This is a great opportunity to let them speak and show your listening skills. It’s also a chance to judge whether the interviewer is happy with their position and whether or not you would be too.
Who previously held this position? This is a great probing question to judge the health of the workplace. A fired employee might mean a lot of stress awaits you while a retired employee can tell you the age bracket of your co-workers.
What skills make up your ideal candidate for this position? This is a bold question that should come near the end of your interview. Besides gaining a feel for your chances, it’s your opportunity to help fill any holes the interviewer sees in your qualifications. Listen carefully and make use of any feedback you receive for future interviews.
What’s the largest problem facing the department right now and how would I help reach those goals? This question will give you an idea of what your immediate tasks will look like after hire. More importantly, you’re asking the interviewer to imagine you as part of the team, and it shows you’re ready to take on the task.
What can you tell me about the team I will be working with? Much like the previous question, this gets the interviewer thinking about you as a member of the company. This is your chance to get a feel for your co-workers and the workplace structure. You also demonstrate your confidence in getting the position.
What are the goals of the company over the next 5 to 10 years? Customize this question. If you know about a product or service that is coming out, ask about how it will affect the company. Let the interviewer know that you set long term goals for yourself and plan to be with the company for the long run.
Is there room for advancement in this position? Show your ambitions and goals. This will give you a glimpse at what kind of worker they’re looking for in the long term. If there is not a chance for advancement, you may want to reconsider the job.
What’s the next step in the process? This is your final question. Show a willingness to move forward with the process and pass the conversation back to the interviewer. Here you find out anything you need to do while they make their final decision.
There is no set number of questions you should ask at an interview. Start by picking one from each section and allow yourself to react to the interview. Be prepared and try your best to ask questions on topics that didn’t already come up. If this is your second or third interview, show that you know all the basics and are ready to have a deeper understanding of the workplace.
Amy Klimek is an experienced HR recruiter and VP of Human Resources for ZipRecruiter, a company that simplifies the hiring process for small to medium size businesses. Prior to that Amy has held similar roles at Rent.com, eBay and US Interactive.For Amy, corporate culture isn’t about dogs and free lunches, it’s about empowering employees and creating an enriching environment for people to excel.