Ask an Expert: What Type of Questions Should You Ask in an Interview?

An AOL reader recently asked what type of questions they should ask during the interview. This is a multi-faceted question with several answers. There are several different times throughout the interview to ask questions and several types of questions to ask. Asking the right questions also can signal how interested you are in the opportunity.

The Introductory Question

Toward the very beginning of the interview, it is a good idea to pose one question before getting started: "As the hiring manager for the position, I'd love to hear your perspective on what you're looking for in a candidate and what you expect the candidate to accomplish soon after being hired." By asking this up front, the interviewee gets the chance to understand directly from the hiring manager what they consider to be key attributes for the hired applicant. This allows you focus on the specific strengths in your answers to interview questions.

You may have to take initiative to get this question on the table first. You will have to find a convenient time to ask. When getting ready to sit down at the table, you might say you would like to ask one question before the interview begins.

The Obligatory Question

In almost all interviews, the interviewer will ask the candidate if they have any questions for them. If it does not appear as if they are going to offer this, be sure to ask them if you can take a little more of their time to learn more about the team and company by asking a few questions.

When given the floor to ask questions, candidates should realize this is another time to provide insights on why you're the best candidate. It is imperative that a candidate ask questions that do three things:

  1. Show you did a little research about the company.
  2. Mention something else (related, but interesting) about you.
  3. Will have an interesting answer or prompt a good discussion.

Just asking, "when will you make a decision?" is not a good question. Ask about the company, the technology, the vision for the future, or something insightful. Questions about the hiring process can be asked through a recruiter or in a follow-up after the interview.

Candidates can also opt to ask some of the more generic questions, but these should still have useful and interesting responses. Examples include:

  • What are the most attractive aspects of this job? What are the worst parts?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing this department/company in the next six months?
  • What makes this company a great place to work? Are there entities outside the company who would concur with rankings or awards?
  • What would I see if I stood outside the front door at 5 o'clock? Would everyone be smiling? Staying late or leaving early?
  • What are some examples of the decisions I could make in this job? What is the degree of autonomy and control I would have in this position?

Be sure to put your questions in writing so you do not forget them after a long interview. It is also a good idea to put the questions in priority order. This ensures that, if you run out of time, you have gotten to the more important ones. While asking questions, candidates should watch for cues that the interviewer is running out of time or wants to move on. If interviewing with different levels and roles in the organization, present different questions to each of the interviewers based on their responsibility

The Validation Question

After you have had a chance to ask your questions, you will want to validate that you are an ideal candidate for the job. To do this, you should probe into the minds of the interviewers and see if there are any concerns they have about you. The key question to do this can be along the lines of:

"After discussing this job, I feel as if I would be a perfect fit for it. I'm curious to know if there is anything I said or DID NOT say that would make you believe otherwise."

The answer you get to this question may open the door to mentioning something you did not get to talk about during the interview or clarify any potential misconception over something that was covered. You may not get a chance to address shortcomings in a follow-up interview; therefore, it is imperative to understand what was missing from the discussion while still in the interview.

The Closing Question

As you sense the interview is over and all the questions have been asked, you will want to leave on a high note with great enthusiasm. You will want the interviewer to know that you are excited about the potential of working there and would like to know the next steps toward this. A simple way to convey this is with the comment and question:

"I must say that I am even more excited about the prospect of working here than I was when I walked in the door. It seems like this would be a good fit for both of us. I am excited to know what the next steps are in the process."

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