Why asking questions is important

Most employers, at the end of their interviews, offer the opportunity to ask questions of your interviewer. It's very important when the interviewer asks if you have any final questions, that you have at least a few questions ready to ask. 

This is for a couple of different reasons. The first is that candidates who don't have questions can come across as uninterested or unenthusiastic about a job. Employers want candidates who are excited about the opportunity to work with them. The last thing you want to do is leave an impression that you aren't that engaged by the opportunity. 

Next, employers want their employees to make their business decisions based on data. A candidate who doesn't seek to gather data before making one of the biggest decisions of their life comes across as a potential employee who won't prioritise informed decision-making. This could be a red flag to your interviewer.

It's also important for your own sake to ask questions and gather data just in case you get a job offer. A job interview should be a two way street. A time when you seek to convince a company that you would be a great employee and they seek to convince you they would be a good employer. It is the job of the person interviewing you to make sure you leave wanting the job.

First, learn about the employer

The worst things you can ask in a job interview are questions that you could easily answer yourself using a simple Google search. Many interviewers will get frustrated if you use your time asking questions that some basic research on your part could have answered. It shows disrespect for their time as well as laziness and a lack of effort on your part.

So make sure you spend time doing your research. Look at the company's website and press releases. Check out recent news and stories about the organisation. Annual reports and shareholder statements are also excellent sources of information and answers. 

Write down your full list of questions first and then reflect on this information and see if any of them can be answered using that information first. 

Smart questions about The Job Description

Unfortunately, it's a common fact that many jobs don't come with a good job description. You may think you have understood it but often that understanding can be packed with assumptions.

It is often a good idea to confirm your interpretation of the job description at the end of your interview.

Some example questions could be

  • Can you clarify if I will have direct line management responsibility in this role?
  • Can you confirm what people resources I will be able to call on to deliver my goals?
  • Can you clarify who my direct customer will be?
  • Can you clarify I would have budgetary decision making authority?
Smart questions to ask about the company

Understanding the direction of the company can also be a critical variable in deciding if this job is the right one for you. This is especially important for roles in start-ups but is also applicable even in the largest organisations. Questions about the company and their strategy and stability can be very insightful as regards the company's future.

Some example questions could be

  • What are the big changes you expect for your company in the near future?
  • What are the biggest challenges your company faces in the next few years?
  • What does your funding roadmap look like (for start-ups/VC-owned)?
  • What are the critical investments for your company in the next couple of years?
Smart questions to ask about onboarding

The early days in any role are critical. They're critical for the company's impression of you and they're critical for your confidence and the foundation of your future. Knowing what to expect from your first days can make a big difference to your ongoing success. This isn't to say every company needs to offer a smooth landing with a gentle incline to the 6-month point. Having expectations set accurately is the important thing. If you're expecting to be thrown in the deep end with no life vest, then you'll be well prepared when it happens.

Some example questions could be

  • What does the onboarding process look like?
  • Will I have a buddy as I settle into the role?
  • Is there initial training to ensure I have the correct baseline knowledge to set me up for success?
  • What can I expect some of my first projects to be?
  • What would be the most important thing for me to understand in my first few weeks?
  • Will I be the only new hire or would there be others?
Smart questions to ask about the next steps in the job interview process

In some interview processes, you'll have a dedicated recruiter who you can talk to about the hiring process. If you do then don't bother the interviewer with process questions. If you can ask those of someone, outside of the constrained time you have for your interview, that's invariably preferable. But if you don't have a separate point of contact, then it may be worth asking some questions about the next steps, so you're not left hanging in limbo after the interview.

Some example questions could be

  • What is the next step in the hiring process? 
  • When can I expect to hear back after this interview?
  • Do you have other candidates to interview for this role?
  • Do you have a target date by which you want to have an offer out to a candidate?
Smart questions to ask about Day To Day Responsibilities

Sometimes even the best job description, doesn't bring the realities of the job in real life. So, it may be worth trying to get a picture of the day to day responsibilities of the job. Job descriptions may highlight exciting projects or responsibilities but they may form only a small part of the role.

Some example questions could be

  • What would my main responsibilities be?
  • Can you describe a typical day in this role?
  • What tasks would you expect me to spend the majority of my time on? 
  • What percentage of my time would be spent on maintenance tasks versus new projects?
  • What percentage of my time would you expect me to be in meetings?
Smart questions to ask about the interviewer

Sometimes you'll meet interviewers who don't know much or maybe anything about the role you're applying for. Some large organisations use interviewers who have nothing to do with the role. That's to ensure they aren't influenced by the urgency to hire or other team bias in the hiring decision. 

If this happens to you then, you'll need to have some questions that are more generic than the ones you'd ask team members. These questions can still be insightful about what the work environment is like.

Some example questions could be

  • What would you describe as your favourite thing about working here?
  • What is your favourite office tradition?
  • What surprised you about this company when you first joined?
  • What would you change about working here?
Smart questions to ask about how performance will be evaluated

Companies pay employees to deliver results for them. Transparency and measurability of those results are critical to ensure you and your manager are aligned on expectations and achievements. We recommend including questions about how your performance will be evaluated in any interview process.

Some example questions could be

  • How would we measure success in this role?
  • What does the performance review process look like?
  • How frequently is employee performance formally reviewed?
  • Who in the company inputs to the formal review process?
  • What can you share about your performance management process?
  • What metrics is this role formally reviewed against?
Smart questions to ask about the team

Who you work with and how will have a significant impact on your ability to succeed and thrive in your job. So understanding who your team are, what their priorities are, how they operate together and how they relate to each other is extremely important.

Some example questions could be

  • What's an example of one of the team's most immediate projects?
  • What does this position contribute to the team's overall success?
  • How does the team work together on a day to day basis?
  • What other departments are key influencers of the team's success?
  • How many direct reports would I have? (people managers only)
Smart questions to ask about the company culture

The Harvard Business Review notes that culture can't be seen as a top-down process. Everyone in the company is responsible for the creation and perpetuation of the company's culture. It's not enough for organisations to have and publish company values, employees need to live them.

Your interview is an opportunity to determine if the company culture matches what you are looking for. And if you're going to be willing to take part in contributing to that company culture. If you want to find out how the company culture works, it is worth doing some research before going into your interview. You can use platforms like LinkedIn and Team Blind to reach out to current and former employees and ask them to share their experiences.

Some example questions could be

  • Which of the important values of the company do you see demonstrated the most by employees?
  • Which of the important values of the company do you see demonstrated the least by employees?
  • How has the company culture changed since you started?
  • How would you describe the work life balance here?
  • Are there employee resource groups and networks?
Smart questions to ask about professional development, career paths, and future opportunities

Identifying career opportunities is important when it comes to jobs. You want to see that your current position is not just what they want, but also that your career path will be enhanced by moving to this company.

Some example questions could be

  • How does the company support its employee's professional development?
  • How do successful employees progress in their careers here?
  • What formal structures are in place to support employees in learning new skills?
  • What internal resources are there for training and personal development?
  • Does the company set aside a budget for training and personal development?
  • How do employees identify professional development opportunities in the company?
Smart questions to ask The Hiring Manager 

A manager and your relationship with them can make or break your success and happiness in a role. So getting the information you need about them, to be comfortable you'll enjoy working with them is critical. Hiring managers should be happy to answer questions about themselves.

Some example questions could be

  • How do you support hitting goals for your team?
  • How would you describe your management style?
  • What's your preferred communication channel with your direct reports?
  • How do you like to be kept up to date with what your team is doing?
  • How do you support your teams' career path?

These are just a few examples of questions that you could use in your interviews. You won't have time to ask all of them. A good selection to ask different team members throughout the process will ensure you get the information you need and that the team are impressed by your curiosity and thoroughness.

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