When you’re interviewing for a job, you know you’ll be answering most of the questions. After all, the recruiter or hiring manager is trying to determine if you’re a good fit for the role. But interviewing is a two-way street and the end of the interview is often your chance to ask the hiring manager questions to help figure out if the company is a good fit for you.
However, knowing which interview questions to ask is only the beginning. Understanding what the answers mean will help you figure out if this is the right role for you — or if you should move on.
Questions to Ask in a Job Interview — and Why
You may already know exactly what questions to ask in an interview, but below are five common ones to include, in addition to any specific questions you want answered.
Because these are common questions candidates ask and your interviewer may have answered them many times before, you may feel like you’re getting a canned answer. But even a canned answer can give you some valuable insight into the company.
Here’s what to ask and listen for.
1. What are the day-to-day responsibilities of the role?
Reading the job description helps you determine if a position is the right fit for you. However, it often leaves out minor responsibilities or that the scope of the role may change frequently (something common in a startup, for example). So, clarify what day-to-day responsibilities you’ll actually have.
“The interviewer’s reaction can say a lot about the reality of things,” Yolaine Amaro, career adviser and resume expert at Resume Genius, says. “In this case, if they try to dodge the question, this is a sign that the work experience candidates will get may differ from what they were expecting from the job description.”
It’s also possible that the interviewer isn’t entirely clear on what the role entails. That might be OK in the case of a new position or if you’re speaking to a recruiter who doesn’t really know the details. But if this is an established position or you’re speaking with your boss-to-be, this could indicate that the job posting may not match the reality.
On the flip side, if the interviewer is forthcoming with details (you’ll do a lot of busy work in spreadsheets) or honest about some uncertainties (we wear a lot of hats around here), you should have a reasonable idea of what to expect should you accept the job.
2. What kind of professional development does the company offer?
The day-to-day responsibilities seem like a perfect fit, but is there room for your professional development? Being stuck in a job with no path forward is a quick way to start feeling stagnant in your career.
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While you may not have a detailed career plan for yourself, you likely have some idea of what you want your career to look like. And if you don’t, that’s OK. Companies with a clear growth and development program expose you to training and other opportunities so you can figure it out.
If the company doesn’t have a formal development program, that’s OK, too, but you should explore this a little more. Does the company have a mentorship program or reimburse you for outside courses? If the interviewer doesn’t clearly answer your question, try asking what their growth has been within the company. Have they attended trainings or classes or been promoted?
And if it seems like there isn’t any kind of professional development, consider what that means for your long-term career plans. If you aren’t learning new skills, being exposed to new projects, or taking on additional responsibilities, you’ll likely never grow professionally.
3. How will you measure the success of the person in this role?
Defining what success looks like will help you understand the employer’s expectations. “Knowing which kind of metrics your future company is using will help you plan,” notes Amanda Royle, cofounder and personnel supervisor at Imgkits Studio.
For example, if it’s a sales role and the interviewer says you need to close X sales in your first 30 days, you can decide if that’s an attainable goal or not. Likewise, if the interviewer can’t give you a clear answer, you may want to proceed with caution. Even if the role is new, there should be some idea of what you’re expected to accomplish.
Additionally, this question can help you gauge whether the expectations are reasonable and leave room for a good work-life balance. Even the most exciting opportunity can take a toll on your well-being if it feels like you have to work all the time.
4. What are some of the biggest challenges the company is facing right now?
Even in the best economy, every company faces some kind of challenge. It could be from competitors, clients, or even internally. The answer should give you a good idea of what challenges you’ll face and how the company is handling them.
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For example, if the interviewer says that the biggest challenge comes from companies that move faster, that may indicate the company has a lot of bureaucracy and it can take a long time to change course. Following up and asking what the company is doing to overcome that challenge can help you gauge if the company is trying to change or doesn’t think it has to.
And if the interviewer says there are no challenges, you are either talking to someone who isn’t informed or connected to the company or who is trying to paint a pretty picture to get you to accept the role.
5. What do you enjoy about your job?
Knowing other people’s experiences working at the company or on the same team is essential when making decisions about your next job. This question makes the interviewer sell their working experience to you.
“While the role candidates apply for is important, it’s also essential for candidates to know if they’d enjoy working at a specific company,” Amaro says. “Candidates can gain a better insight into what it’s like to work for a company by asking the interviewers for an internal and personal perspective.”
You’re looking to see how your interviewer feels about their job and what they think about the company. Opportunities for advancement are another critical detail to elicit. If the answer leaves you unconvinced, it may be a red flag you shouldn’t ignore.
Getting a Better Idea of Interview Questions to Ask
Ultimately, there’s no way to truly know what it’s like to work in the role until you’re working in the role! But knowing what questions to ask in a job interview can help you get a better sense of what the job is like, and whether or not you should accept it.
Do you have an interview coming up? Prepare for these common interview questions asked by hiring managers across careers.
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