Asking questions during an interview is imperative. You want to be engaging and let the interviewer get to know you, so they’re more likely to remember you after multiple rounds of applicants and endless resumes.
By asking questions, you let them know you’re very interested in the position and company, and you can also get critical information that you might feel uncomfortable asking for bluntly. Some employers don’t like it when you ask if you’ll be expected to work overtime frequently, but that’s something you should be prepared for before you start.
What is the work-life balance like?
Having a healthy work-life balance is key to living a less stressful life and allows employees to maintain a healthy social life while still prioritizing work as needed. The most professional way to ask what sort of expectations employees face outside of normal work is to ask about work-life balance.
No one wants to start a new job expecting a 9-to-5 then surprise, you’re supposed to put in extra hours without notice on the regular. Then if you say anything to management, they may accuse you of not being committed to the company (worst case scenario). So, it’s just good to be able to know that beforehand.
Having balance also means you’re less likely to face burnout, and you’re given enough time for the things you want to do outside of work. Even if that just means going home to relax, unplug, and unwind. Not only does this balance benefit you, but it also benefits employers. Happy employees are productive employees, after all.
Can you tell me about the company culture?
This is another kind of sneaky way to gauge what it’s like to work for the company. Understanding how employees are treated and what morale is like will make or break just about any position. Depending on who you’re talking to, you may or may not get a straight answer.
Management and HR probably won’t say anything negative about the company, which makes sense. It’s also possible they may not be aware of certain drawbacks or a tense atmosphere. If you can ask other employees closer to the position you’re applying for, you’ll most likely get a more realistic answer.
I don’t mean to imply management is ignorant or would purposefully lie, of course. Asking them about company culture can also help you understand what they want that culture to be, ideally if not realistically, which is good to know. Do they want to foster a positive culture, or does their ideal clash with yours?
Asking about culture can also lead to you talking about the environment too. Is it “fast-paced?” That can sometimes be code for constant deadlines making employees feel stressed. Not always, though, and sometimes having a lot of deadlines is impossible to avoid. It doesn’t even mean people are necessarily stressed either.
Take everything the interviewer says with a grain of salt and really think about whether you’ll be a good fit for the image of the company they’re showing you. If an offer is made and you take it, I know you’ll do your best and learn a lot. Every job can be a learning opportunity, even if you don’t feel like it’s the best position for you.
Are there opportunities for growth?
If this is a career path for you, you likely want to be able to learn and grow. Growth opportunities are important. You’ll want to know going in how likely it is that you’ll be able to move up the hierarchy and take on more responsibility. Unless you land an amazing job, you probably won’t want to be stuck in the same position with the same pay for the rest of your life.
You can also expand on this topic by asking what kind of mentorship or training is available. Is there a natural progression from where you’re starting to where you want to go? Does the company offer specific programs? Will you be paired with management or a supervisor to learn under them directly?
Most hiring managers, managers in general, and HR reps like hearing that you’re interested in growing with the company. Knowing you’re in it for the long haul is good for them because it means they’re less likely to be doing this all over again for your replacement in six months.
Can you tell me more about the projects I’d be working on?
Getting down to the details about what you’d actually be doing in your position will probably be the best part of the interview. You get to hear about what they expect from you, show off your knowledge, and you’ll get a more concrete idea of what kind of work you’ll be doing.
Depending on the job you’re applying for, maybe you already know what you’d be doing. If you aren’t quite sure, though, or it’s a really big company, it doesn’t hurt to hear some details. Maybe they’re working on something new that they want you to help out with, or there’s some event they’re gearing up for that you didn’t know about before.
Asking such a job-oriented question also shows you’re interested in the position, and you aren’t just applying because you need the money (even if that’s totally what you’re doing).
What do you like most about working here?
I’ve asked this question multiple times, and it’s usually good for keeping the conversation going, if nothing else. You get to talk about the positives of the company you’re applying for with someone who works there and get an idea of how they feel about their job.
Of course, there’s always the chance your interviewer won’t be entirely honest. If they don’t like their job, they aren’t likely to open up about that to a potential new hire. You’ll want to observe them closely as they answer this question. You may be able to pick up on some red flags if they don’t really want to talk about themselves or their job.
If they do like their job, though, they should be more than happy to talk about it, and you may even score some brownie points too. It never hurts to butter them up a little by getting them to talk about the good stuff.
What is the next step?
You definitely want to ask about what comes next at the end of your interview if they haven’t already told you. Asking explicitly usually means they will tell you when you can expect to hear an answer from them or how long their decision will take to make.
If you’ve made it to the interview stage, you’ll probably get a response from HR or your interviewer via phone/ email whether they decide to make an offer or not. Asking them about the next step is another indicator that you’re eager to get started and very interested in working for the company.
If you’re still nervous, check out everything you need to know about nailing a virtual interview! Lockdown restrictions may be loosening, but it never hurts to be prepared for your first professional zoom call in a while.
It also never hurts to do some research on your potential employer. Make sure you research what they do, their mission statement, and look them up on Glassdoor. Glassdoor is a great website where employees can leave anonymous and honest reviews to talk about their current and former experiences with companies.
Do you have any must-ask questions for interviews?