It’s easy to forget in the moment, but a job interview goes both ways. You’re both judging whether you’re a good fit for the position and the company. Too many job seekers act like they’re on the witness stand in court, but a good job interview is actually a two-way conversation.
Ask some of these commonly glazed over questions at your next interview. You’ll look interested and curious to your interviewer while gaining a better understanding of how you’d fit into the position.
1. What does a typical day look like in this role?
A job description doesn’t necessarily tell you how you’ll be spending most of your days, hour by hour. When you’re considering a job, it’s important to be able to visualize yourself in this role on an average day to see if this is a good fit. Is this a 9 to 5? A 9 to 6? A whenever to whenever? A job you’re expected to check in with during off-hours? How often will you be in meetings? How much of your day will be scheduled for you and how much of it will be independent?
2. Who would I be working directly for/with?
This is always great information to have, but anyone who has had a terrible (or great!) manager knows that who you report to can make or break any job. Your interviewer won’t tell you if someone has been labeled difficult before, but you’ll probably be able to get a sense based on how this question is answered. Plus, you can always look this person up later and get a sense of his/her career trajectory to see how it aligns with your own career goals.
3. What are the next steps in the interview process?
We’ve all been there: you think the job interview went well, you leave the building, and then…. existential dread. What’s next? Did it go well? Will they be in touch either way? If so, when? Every company has a hiring plan – that job seekers usually aren’t aware of. Make sure you ask towards the end of your interview so you know what to expect.
4. What is your hiring timeline?
You might be at the beginning of the interview pool, or at the end, or it could be an ongoing process with no set deadline. Every company is different. It pays to ask what their hiring timeline is so you aren’t left assuming you didn’t get a job when they haven’t even made a decision or waiting around to hear long after they’ve already made a choice.
5. What values are important to this company?
This goes deeper than a company’s mission statement. When a company’s values align with its employees’ values, retention and loyalty increase. However, this looks different to everyone – so decide what’s important to you, personally. Is there a company culture that fosters growth? Do they have a mentoring program? Do they have a day of service? Do they do anything with local communities?
6. Do you expect any changes in this department in the next six months?
It takes several months to get a handle on things at a new job. Having to restart six months could throw you off balance and ultimately affect your ability to do your job as promised. If there are going to be planned changes (more hiring, a change of leadership, restructuring, for example), you should know this ahead of time and judge for yourself.
7. How would you describe the work environment and culture here?
You might think you know the answer to this going into an interview, but it’s worth asking just to see how the interviewer answers. It may be a corporate office with a lot of close, personal bonds and after-hours events. It could be a “cool” start-up where people are constantly on edge and prefer not to socialize. The possibilities are endless, and not always what they seem.
8. How long do people typically stay within the company?
At first glance, a question about employee retention seems to be a veiled way of asking whether people are happy working there. It is, but it’s also important to know how this job would fit into your five-year plan. Are you looking for something to grow into and make a name for yourself for the foreseeable future? Or is this supposed to be a stepping-stone to somewhere else?
9. What are some company goals I would be working towards?
This is an important question at face value – but it’s also a great way to determine what kinds of metrics will be used to judge your success at work. Are you expected to achieve a very specific, tangible goal, or are they looking for someone who will be a general asset to the team for hitting moving targets? Companies hire for a combination of performance and personality, so this way you’ll get an idea of which is more important to them upfront.
10. What qualities do your most successful team members tend to have?
Sure, you’ll hear the standard responses to this question (hard-working, team player, dedicated, etc.), but how an interviewer answers will give you some added insight into who you’ll be working with and how others at the company view them.