This article was updated on August 15, 2021.
When you are sitting in the hot seat, hopeful — and anxious — about a promising opportunity, it doesn’t feel like interviewing is a two-way street. Especially when you are attempting to impress your could-be boss or potential colleague and make it through all those behavioral interview questions. However, career expert Amanda Augustine says every candidate should treat the experience as the opportunity to get a new gig, sure, but also determine if you actually want to work for the company.
This means coming prepared for anything they will throw your way and follow-up questions to pose as the session comes to a close. “Asking thoughtful questions signals to the interviewer that you’re taking the interview seriously and are genuinely interested in the position,” she explains.
Though you probably a handful of go-to questions, there are a few zingers you’re missing. Here, the pros provide inspiration for the next time you’re going through the interview process:
Does your company have a leadership development plan?
As companies compete for fresh, vibrant and innovative talent, continuing education programs are becoming more and more common. Even if they aren’t able to cover a master’s degree, many develop various stipends that include classes in person or online, or professional certificates. When you ask this question, you make it clear that you are dedicated to becoming the very best you can possibly be.
Perhaps they have yet to consider this resource, or it is something they’ve only started to research. By asking this question, career expert Wendi Weiner says you come across as proactive and dedicated. And as a bonus, you will gain clarity on how much they invest in their employees via their response.
“This will help you to understand whether or not the company places an emphasis on mentoring, coaching, and specialized training to boost the skills of its employees,” she shares.
Is there any reason why you believe I would not be a good fit for this position?
Yep, that’s right, we went there. Though it’s definitely not a comfortable question to inquire about, Augustine says this bold approach could help you improve your interviewing skills. Perhaps you stumbled with an answer and they were confused, or there was a missing piece of your resume or cover letter that you need to update. When you open the stage for constructive criticism, you may be surprised by how open interviewers are to provide feedback.
“If your interviewer shares a concern about your candidacy, then you have a valuable opportunity to overcome any objections or clear up any misconceptions about your qualifications while you’re still speaking face-to-face,” she adds.
What do you like the most about the company culture?
A common question to ask at the end of an interview is ‘What is the culture like here?’ Though this is a fine way to inquire, what could be more compelling, according to Weiner is making it more personal. Many people will automatically go to keywords and phrases they’ve heard time and time again — like ‘we’re open-minded and collaborative’ or ‘we make everyone feel included and comfortable — but when you ask what they specifically like, they’re more likely to become storytellers, instead of robots.
Perhaps there was an offsite they particularly enjoyed or a group they’re part of that makes them feel hands-on and involved. Not only do people like talking about themselves, but you will also get a sense if the vibes are a fit for your speed, Weiner adds.
How do I compare with the other candidates you’re considering for the job?
It’s bold — but it gets straight to the point. Of course, not every potential boss or human resources person will expect this question and it may take them a minute to muster up a response. Sit still and smile through the awkward moment, and let them gather their thoughts, Augustine recommends.
“By flat-out asking how you are stacking up, you can get a gut-check on your candidacy and set realistic expectations as to whether you’ll remain in consideration for the job,” she shares. Not only does this protect you from getting your hopes up but it speaks volumes about your confidence and sense of self.
What made you decide to work here?
Same, same but different, this challenges the interviewer to tap back to when they were in your shoes and explain why they ultimately accepted an offer. Most likely, they will tell you more about their day-to-day function, as well as how they execute strategy and contribute to the company goals.
Weiner explains this gives you a thorough understanding of what your experience may be like if you’re offered the opportunity.
What’s the best way for me to follow-up with you about my candidacy?
Though it would be wonderful to get a seal of approval — or dismissal — after an interview, most of the time, it’s just the beginning. Even if a manager is convinced you’re the right person for the job, there are often approvals at every level that can delay the process. Instead of following-up every week via email, do yourself a favor and ask them how they’d prefer you reach out. As Augustine shares, you should never leave an interview without asking about the timeline.
“I prefer to ask how I can follow up regarding my candidacy, rather than if I should follow-up because it demonstrates my confidence in my qualifications without sounding arrogant,” she continues. “This type of question also sets expectations for the hiring manager. I am interested in this position and I will be following up with you regarding my application.”