It’s inevitable that in your next job interview, you will be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer.
Make sure you have some ready!
Saying “no”, or asking something you should already know could make you sound uninterested, unprepared and unengaged. The interviewer will be looking for someone passionate, curious and interested in the role and company. They’ll be assessing how interested you are in working for them. And it’s your opportunity to find out more about the organisation, or the role, to make sure it’s the right step for you. Remember, the interview is a two-way conversation, you want to know if the job is right for you too.
It’s easy to think of questions not to ask, such as “What does your company do?” or “What are the other interview candidates like?”.
And then there’s the questions that you may want to ask, but aren’t sure if you should, like “What hours will I work?” or “What’s the canteen like?”.
So what should you, and what shouldn’t you ask? Let’s start with the questions to steer clear of…
Questions to avoid
1. Anything you could look up on the organisation’s website
This will make it look like you haven’t done your research, which is a vital step of applying for a job. Think further afield than anything that’s easy to find out and think about what you really want to know about working there.
2. Questions about pay and benefits
You don’t want it to look like you’re only interested in money – this can come later when you’re offered the job, in a discussion about pay.
3. A question the interviewer can’t answer
You may not be interviewed by someone who will know the answer to detailed questions. For example, someone working in HR is unlikely to know much about the key challenges the team is facing. And a the role’s manager probably doesn’t understand how references are taken.
Or the the question might be too difficult to answer in an interview situation. For example, avoid asking questions like this: “I read with interest in the annual report that revenues in SE Asia are down 20% this quarter, what are you doing about that?”. There isn’t an easy way to answer this and it might annoy the interviewer.
So what about questions you could ask? We can’t tell you exactly what to ask because it all depends on the organisation, role and the interview. But here are some to think about.
Questions you could ask
1. Questions specific to the role
- “How many other people are in the team?”
- “What might I work on in the first few months?”
- “What kind of stretch projects are available?”
- “How would I be trained/developed/assessed?”
These show that you’ve really thought about what it will be like to do the role day to day, that you’ve looked beyond the advert.
2. Questions about the work
- “What targets will I be measured against?”
- “What’s expected of me in the first six months?”
3. Questions about what it’s like to work for the organisation
- What do you enjoy about working for this company?
- What parts of your job do you look forward to doing?
By asking these types of questions, it shows you are interested in what it’s like to work in the organisation or team on a daily basis, and you’ll find out if it suits you. It’s much more likely to get a useful answer than asking about the organisation culture.
5. Questions that show you know about the sector or organisation
This will probably be something in the news, and will demonstrate your commercial awareness, and therefore interest in the role.
For example, if you’ve meeting a senior manager in an audit firm, you could ask something like:
“I read with interest that the government is still thinking of forcing auditors to separate their auditing and consulting businesses. What’s your firm’s take on that?”
This will show you understand the issues facing auditors and that you are really passionate about this career path. Employers often tell us students do not demonstrate enough commercial awareness in interviews.
6. Questions about future of the team, department or organisation
Make sure you refer to the research you’ve already done on the organisation and sector so you aren’t asking something you would be expected to know. For example, you might ask how advancements in AI, machine learning and data analytics might impact on the work you’ll be doing.
7. The next steps in the process
If your interviewer hasn’t told you when they will make a decision, you can ask them what’s next. It means you won’t have that question hanging over you, and will show that you’re proactive and think ahead! For example,
- When can I expect to hear from you?
- How will you be notifying candidates of your decision?
It’s probably best not to lead with this question, because it doesn’t show your passion for the job, or tell you what it’s like working for the organisation.
How many questions should I ask?
Okay, there’s a lot to take in there! We recommend that you pick two or three questions to ask. That should be enough to show your interest and to let you know more about the role, without annoying the interviewer with too many questions.
Remember, these are just ideas for questions. You may find when you are doing your research for the interview that you find other questions to ask.
If you’d like further help, you can practice for an interview with a Careers Consultant. They can also give you some guidance on the types of questions you could ask and how else to prepare for an interview. Book an appointment on My Jobs Online.
Good luck with your interview!