The best questions to ask at an interview
You spot an ad for your dream job, craft the perfect CV, and get an interview. It goes smoothly — you even make your would-be employers laugh — but as the interview comes to an end, the dreaded question: “Do you have anything you’d like to ask us?”
What’s the best way to answer? Of course, it depends on the interviewers, the job in question, and the industry, but for some inspiration we spoke to experts across recruitment, job boards, and interview coaching.
To start, how many questions should you have prepared? There’s no hard answer to that, but be ready to ask at least five, so you don’t appear uninterested, says Sinead Bunting, VP Marketing Europe at Monster. And remember, it’s not all about you. “How well your interviewer reacts and answers your questions gives you a great insight into the company,” Bunting says. “The interview isn’t just for them to see if you’re the right fit for the organisation – if you’re confident about your skills and ability to do the job, you should also be making sure they’re the right fit for you.”
With that in mind, here are eight tips for coming up with the best questions to ask at the end of a job interview.
The best questions to ask at interview
Reveal your research
First, you’ll need to do some homework. Before walking into an interview, make sure you’ve looked up the company and understand the sector’s challenges, looming changes, and what’s new in the industry — and use that information to inform your whole interview, including those key final questions.
“If [your] questions are too banal or general it can appear as though you haven’t done your homework,” says Victoria McLean, CEO and managing director of career consultancy City CV. “Don’t ask anything that you could have seen or should have seen on the website.”
What do you want to know?
“Don’t ask anything that you could have seen or should have seen on the website”
Before you arrive, make a list of what you want to know about the company and the role, says Bunting. She suggests asking why has the role become available, what are the main objectives for someone in that position, and by what measures will the new hire be judged, as well as for details about the structure of the team. If your research hasn’t turned up the answer to something you’d genuinely like to know, it’d be silly not to ask.
The people sat across the table to interview you have insight into the company — they work for it, after all. Take advantage of that to find out what it’s actually like to work there, asking about corporate culture, management style, and other details about the company itself.
“Good interview preparation should have given you an insight into what it’s like to work for a company, but it’s good to get answers straight from the horse’s mouth in case you’ve misinterpreted anything,” says Bunting. That can include asking about staff turnover, plans for expansion, and team building, she adds.
Ask their opinion
A bit of flattery never hurts, notes McLean. “Asking the hiring manager for their opinion flatters them and helps improve the likeability,” she notes. That can include asking what they think are the “best things about working here,” she suggests, or: “What do you feel are the biggest challenges for the team and the new person in this role?”
Don’t ask general questions, advises McLean. Instead, pose specific questions about the company, sector, and competitive environment, she suggests. As above, do your research, and ask about new regulations or other recent changes; if you’re stuck for a question, just ask how Brexit will impact the industry and the role.
Bunting agreed, saying it’s worth reading recent news from the industry before your interview. “To show your interest and knowledge of the industry the company operates in, it’s also a good idea to have a question ready regarding a current event or issue in the market,” she says. “For example, ‘How do you think the recent merger between your two main competitors will affect the future of the industry?'”
Get them to sell you
Ask them what they think would be your strongest asset to the team. “Get them to sell you back — [it’s a] classic sales technique I always suggest to our clients,” says Evelyn Cotter, founder of SEVEN Career Coaching. For example, she suggests: “Based on what you know about me now, how do you see me adding the most value to the team or team objectives?”
Ask how you did
Steel yourself, and take the plunge: ask your interviewers if they have any concerns or objections to putting you forward to the next stage or recommending you for the role. “If you have spent an hour selling yourself, you want to know if the employer has any objections about you during the interview so that you can do something about it if they have,” says Matt Craven, founder of The CV & Interview Advisors.
“There’s no point finding out from the recruitment agency a week later that they ‘didn’t think you had enough management experience’ or ‘your technical skills didn’t seem strong enough’ – you want the opportunity to quash those objections during the interview while you can still do something about it.”
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How should you phrase that? “When asked the question ‘do you have any questions for us?’, simply reply with the following: ‘Yes I do! I’ve really enjoyed the interview today and for that reason, I would like to ask if you have any reservations about me and my suitability for the role’,” says Craven. “If they have any reservations, hopefully they will tell you and you can swat them away to secure a job offer.”
That may feel awkward, but it’s a wise move, says Cotter. “Handling objections there and then is your only way to put things straight if there has been something miscommunicated or not communicated well enough and puts you in a power position — it’s also a strong question to ask, so it shows confidence and control — attributes any hiring manager will like to see,” she says.
If that’s too strong for your nerves, Cotter suggests a slightly different angle, asking: “Is there anything you feel you haven’t seen or heard from me, that would help me win your vote of confidence to be put forward for this role?” Again, that gives you a chance to fill in any missing details.
What about benefits?
“It’s not a good idea to ask about pay or benefits”
Should you ask about the financial or other benefits on offer? Perhaps save such questions for later, suggests McLean. “Avoid asking about benefits to you – this is a big no-no! Don’t ask about travel, health insurance, childcare or bonuses,” she says. “Any questions like this you should save for the recruiter who is putting your forward for the role (if you have one) or wait until you have the job offer in your hands.”
Bunting agrees. “Generally, it’s not a good idea to ask about pay or benefits, as this can make you seem more interested in what the organisation can do for you, rather than what you can do for them,” she says. Of course, we all work to get paid, so hopefully interviewers fill in such details at the time without you having to ask.