That application you submitted resulted in an interview, and now you’re ready to land the job. You’ve researched the company, you’ve practiced your interview answers and set out your suit and tie. But is there anything else you can do to get an edge, to further impress your interviewer? As it happens, there is: Nearly every interview ends with an opportunity to ask questions, and asking the right ones will put you ahead of the pack.
Because the purpose of a job interview is to figure out whether you’re a good fit for the job, the interviewer will probably ask you scenario-based and some personal questions to confirm your qualifications and assess your attitude. However, there’s a subconscious element too: If your interviewer likes you and responds well to you, he or she is likely to give you a much better score or recommendation than otherwise.
Interviewers tend to follow a script – asking the same questions helps make the process fair to all applicants – so there are limited opportunities for you to shine. But when the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?” then you have an opportunity to shine. Use it to show yourself as engaged, eager and a good (potential) co-worker. Failing to ask any questions makes you look uninterested and uninteresting (not to mention even lazy and/or entitled)
Also, asking thoughtful, interesting questions will lead the interviewer to invest in you by providing answers, and maybe even confide in you a little bit, which helps the relationship between you and your interviewer feel like, well, a relationship. The interviewer will subconsciously remember that positive connection with you when crafting his/her recommendations to the higher-ups. Here are 10 impressive questions to ask in an interview:
1. “How long have you worked here? What do you like most about it?” Obviously, if the interviewer has introduced him/herself and already told you how long they’ve worked with the company, skip that part. But the second part of the question lets the interviewer talk about him or herself (and who doesn’t enjoy that?) and lets you know whether employees enjoy working there.
2. “Where else have you worked in the company?” The word “else” is in this question because most interviewers will tell you their current job as a way to introduce themselves. Obviously, if they haven’t told you where they work, just ask them. The answer can provide some insight into the broader culture of the company and provoke good follow-up questions like, “Which job was your favorite?” Ultimately, this question will give you a good sense of the company while letting the interviewer connect with you by talking about him or herself, building more rapport between you and maybe a more positive impression.
3. “How do you respond when an employee comes up with a good idea?” It’s important to ask this question innocently, because if you’re not careful it will come off like a challenge. But it’s an invitation to the interviewer to explain a bit of the company culture, namely how it values and responds to employees, and makes you seem like you’re ready to start improving things right off the bat.
4. “Is there much opportunity for overtime?” or “Do you keep things running during weekends?” Tailor this question to the type of job in question. “Overtime” applies to workers who earn an hourly wage, weekend work to salaried employees. It will make a big difference in your quality of life, so it falls in the category of things important to you. But this is the question of someone interested in the job.
5. “What are my advancement opportunities in the long-term?” You probably want to add the “in the long-term” part because otherwise this question could be taken to mean you’re not satisfied with the job at stake in the interview (you may not be, of course, but don’t tell the interviewer that!). But this is another question that shows you’re thinking of committing to the job, because you’re thinking about an extended future with the company.
6. “Is there a chance I’ll be relocated?” This is another question that shows interest in the company as a long-term career, and it’s good to know if you just completed your final PCS.
7. “Am I replacing someone? What happened to them? What did you like best about their work?” These questions will provide some free mentoring upfront, along with an idea of the actual expectations of the job (as contrasted with the on-paper expectations of the job posting). Of course, you might get, “I’m not comfortable talking about that,” which usually means the former job occupant was fired, or they were promoted, which allows you to follow up with a question about advancement. Either way, good information to have, and good searching questions from someone serious about succeeding in the job.
8. “What are common mistakes people have made in this position?” If you’re serious about the job, make sure you note the answers by writing them down. This is another way to get some upfront mentoring, and will impress the interviewer by showing you take your performance seriously.
9. “What do you find most exciting about this company?” A fun, feel-good question that gives the interviewer an opportunity to talk, and which will give you a practical look at daily life working there and/or an idea of the practical goals of the company.
Bonus: Questions to avoid in an interview. Just as the right questions create a favorable impression of your eagerness and investment in the job, so also the wrong questions can sour an interviewer on you. If that happens, they can find any pretext to push other candidates ahead.
Avoid asking questions (or using a tone) that imply you aren’t impressed with the company, like “Do you have any community service initiatives?” or “Do you use [insert specialized software or system] at this company?”
Don’t ask about benefits, because it makes you seem entitled. Don’t mention your minimum required salary. When they offer you the job, then is the time to talk compensation and benefits.
Don’t ask if they’ve employed a lot of veterans – you don’t want to create the impression that you’re looking for a former-military environment, because they want someone to integrate into their culture, not impose another.
Just remember that you need this interview to result in a job offer, and that largely depends on the impression of the interviewer. What will distinguish you in his or her mind from other seemingly qualified candidates is whether you seem like a good fit. The game here is to make them like and respect you while feeling comfortable that you’d be a good addition. You have a lot more leverage for negotiation when they finally offer you the job.