What Should I Ask At An Interview?


Some interviews are fluid conversations actually; a true exchange of information where the interviewer and the applicant equally ask questions and provide answers throughout. This discussion style of interview is used to evaluate an applicant when the organization feels they can best draw out information and determine the fit of a person to their needs in this way.

It interests me a great deal when someone I’m working with experiences one of these interviews. They typically tell me how suspicious they were of the interviewer because they knew they were being evaluated, but had a hard time figuring out exactly what the interviewer was evaluating them on during the chat. Some applicants leave with a belief that the interviewer wasn’t very professional; simply because they’d expected a traditional interview and the conversation style threw them completely off guard.

Now, while the actually format of the job interview can vary, there are some things that remain consistent; you’ll have questions to answer, and you should be prepared to ask a few of your own. The questions you choose to ask are not just going to provide you with the answers you seek, they too are going to be evaluated by the interviewer, helping them discover what’s really important to you. So it’s vitally important that you come prepared with a few questions in advance of the interview and equally important that you pay attention to everything you learn while at the employer’s, because something may come up that peaks your curiosity or you wish to have clarified.

So I ask you, what information would you like to know from the person interviewing you that will best help you evaluate if this opportunity will be the right fit? If you’ve had outstanding or devastating relationships with your former bosses, you would probably appreciate some insight into the style of your potential supervisor. Knowing what they are like before you make a decision to accept a job or not may be of paramount importance to you. While this could be a strong determining factor, you have to realize that the company might move people around at any time, and so the person you get introduced to at the interview as your new boss might be reassigned, promoted, transferred etc. at any time; maybe on your 3rd week on the job. So perhaps in retrospect, you’d like to have inquired about organizational stability?

The thing about asking questions really comes down to this; while asking questions is great advice; there are no ‘best’ generic questions to ask. Why? Well, the reason is simply that what’s important for one person to know isn’t necessarily of the same significance to another person. You have to determine for yourself the thing or things that are of the greatest significance for you to know so you can proceed or withdraw from the competition; accept or decline a job offer.

For many people it’s the money and benefits issue, and you’ll get varying advice on when to ask or whether to bring it up at all. Me? I feel you should avoid asking if you can easily find this information such as in the job posting, their website or online. However, if you can’t track down the salary, I believe it’s not only understandable that you’d want to know, it’s one of the key pieces of information you have to have to make an educated decision on whether to accept, decline or negotiate. What a waste of your time and theirs if you accepted a job you’d really enjoy but end up crippling yourself financially to the point where in a short time you have to quit and go back to job searching.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed asking is if I could arrange a brief tour of the workplace at the conclusion of the interview. You see for me, I like to visualize myself working there, and even if the area I’d work in is on another floor or at a completely different address, I can pick up some clues as to the culture of the business and observe the faces of the employees. Are they generally happy or stressed? Are they friendly and welcoming or aloof? Is it loud or could you hear a pin drop? Are there windows bringing in natural light or is it fluorescent fixtures only? Hey, if I’m considering investing years of my life, I’d like some indication of what I’m contemplating becoming part of.

Good advice is to ensure the questions you pose are also attractive to the interviewer; recall I said they’ll be evaluating you on the questions you pose. Ask questions only about salary and benefits and they’ll be left with the impression your only concerned with yourself. Ask questions to get at the job itself, how what you do affects end users in ways which they’ll find most beneficial and you come across more favourably. Questions posed about how to maximize the businesses bottom line profits may be ideal in some cases and off the mark entirely in others.

If you were expecting a list of the top questions to ask, you won’t get it here today. Those, ‘Top 10’ lists aren’t the answer for every applicant. You’re best advised to focus on your own needs. Maybe work location, teamwork, opportunities to lead and be cross-trained are important and maybe their not.

What do you need/want to know?