There are many books and countless articles on the subject of questions you should ask, and not ask, during the interview. Most agree that asking questions is a good thing. Having said that, no interviewer wants to be asked twenty questions about the company and role, or worse, be interrogated in the first interview. So what are the questions we should ask? Again, there are countless books and articles and “experts” providing advice but which ones are best? Of course every situation is different and I do not claim to know the perfect question for every situation. However, there are some professional rules to follow.
1. Be prepared. Through in-depth research, you are able to find a lot about the company and the position you are applying to; moreover, the job description should provide a strong overview of what is expected. Frame your question by first showing you understand and you are prepared. For example, if you are applying to a Project Manager position for a Pharmaceutical Company, you could start with a statement of fact, then ask the question. “I see that your company recently acquired ABC Pharmaceutical. First, congratulations, as I have read this will strengthen your presence in providing core therapeutic care within cardiology. Based on the job description, you are looking for a Project Manager to assist with inter-company related infrastructure projects. Would this include projects covering ABC Pharmaceuticals as well?”
Stating facts about the company and role then asking questions related to the core role will demonstrate you are prepared and take the opportunity to meet and interview seriously.
2. Check for fit. Salary and job responsibilities are important, but so is knowing if the company would be a good fit for you. I feel it is important to ask about company culture to ensure you feel comfortable in the style and structure of the company. Questions such as “would I work independently or within a team?” is a key question. If you excel in a team environment and expect a lot of interaction with others in your role, you will not be happy working independently. Another good question to ask is “what type of person would do well in this role and in this company?” This question will provide insight on not only the type of person they are looking for, but what type of person would most likely be successful. Does their description match your strengths, desires or personality?
3. Reach out to your network. This can be tricky, so please use caution. Are you applying to a company where a business acquaintance is currently working? Of course it depends on the relationship you have with that person, but simple questions to someone you are connected to can provide more insight about the company. For example, you may be connected with someone on LinkedIn that is working for the company you are applying. Again, depending on your relationship, it could be good to ask questions (general ones please) about the environment, department, etc. Please make sure you are not asking questions to people that are in the same role (you don’t know what is happening within their company organization, so best be safe). Also, I strongly recommend that you do not send invitations to connect via social media to the interviewers prior to meeting them (and I would also recommend not to after the interview as well… unless you get the job of course). Social media can be helpful, but use caution. If in doubt, stay clear.
4. Repetition. If you are interviewing with several team members one-by-one or many different company representatives, I encourage you to ask the same questions that are important to you to each. For example, when I am interviewing candidates and I ask them if they have any questions, most say that they don’t because they were all answered by previous staff. Why? I strongly encourage candidates to ask the same exact questions they feel are important to all because you are looking for consistency. If many of the people you meet give you different answers, this is a red flag. Especially if it is related to job duties and expectations. Actually, that is a very big red flag. You are looking for a consistent message from all.
In summary, there are so many questions a candidate can ask the interviewer that make you look good and to find out more about the company and role. I hope that a few of the suggestions given will help you find the best opportunity.
Also, please remember the purpose of the interview. It is to give both the interviewer and the interviewee the opportunity to confirm if it is a good professional fit… again, for both! Asking questions will give you information to confirm if you are equally interested in them.