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Ten Impressive Questions to Ask During a Job Interview

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In a job interview, after you've answered a few questions, the interviewer now asks you, "What questions are you having for me?"

You might find yourself confused if you are like many people. I've interviewed probably thousands of job applicants in my career, and I'm always surprised by how many people don't have questions at all -- which is hard to understand when they're considering spending 40-plus hours a week at this job and when it'll have such a big impact on their day-to-day quality of life.

Many people are concerned about the right questions to ask. People worry about appearing demanding or nitpicky, or that the interviewer might draw unflattering conclusions based on what they ask. While it can be difficult to get the information you want, such as "What is your real like as an administrator?" or "Does everyone secretly love it here?"

Sometimes people don't understand how to best use this portion of the interview. Instead of using the interview to learn the most important information about the job, the manager and the culture, they use it to impress the interviewer and to pitch themselves for the job. This is a bad strategy as you don't get the information you need to make a decision about whether the gig is right. Interviewers won't like it because it is transparent. You don't have to worry about what your interviewer thinks. But you shouldn't waste the chance to learn more about what you would be signing up for if this is the job for you.

What questions should be asked of your interviewer when it is your turn? These are ten powerful questions that will give you valuable insight into whether the job is right.

Questions about the Position

1. "How do you measure success in this job?"

This is the essence of the job. What does it take to do well? And what can you do to make the manager happy?

It's possible to assume that the job description has already stated this, but it is not unusual for an employer to use the same job description for the past ten years. This applies even if the job has changed substantially. Many job descriptions are written by companies and rely on boilerplate language from HR. However, the manager may have very different views about the most important aspects of the role. Employers are often terrible at creating job descriptions. This is why many seem to be written by automated programs rather than human beings. It's also useful to have a discussion about the actual role. It is possible that you discover that, while the job description listed 12 responsibilities, your success really depends on only 2 or 3 of them. Or that the hiring manager is having a difficult time communicating expectations with her boss or that she doesn't know what success looks like in the job. This would indicate that it is best to be cautious.

2. "What are some of the challenges you expect the person in this position to face?"

You might be surprised at the information that this job description doesn't include. For example, you may learn that your department has a lot of politics or that the person you work with is not easy to get along. Or that you will have to adhere to strict budget restrictions for your program.

You may also be able to share your past experiences with similar challenges. This can help you to reassure your interviewer. It's not a good idea to ask questions in order to make a sales pitch for your company. However, if you are able to talk about the challenges and come up with an effective solution, it can be very useful.

3. "Can you give us an example of a typical week or day in your job?"

It's important to understand if admin work will make up 90 percent or 50/50 of the job description. You might discover that the part you are most passionate about isn't available every six months. Even if you don't have such profound insights, this can help you to better imagine what it is like to work in that job every day.

Tip: Some interviewers may respond to this question by saying, "Oh, every single day is different." What was their most time?

If you don't get a clear idea of your time, it could be a sign you are walking into chaos or in a job where expectations never seem to be met.

4. "How many years did the person who held the previous position hold it? What is the turnover rate in this role?

A lack of long-term commitment by any one person could indicate a difficult boss, unrealistic expectations, a lack of training or other problems. It's possible for one person to leave after only a few months. However, this is not necessarily a warning sign. Sometimes things don't go as planned. If you notice a pattern of people leaving, you might want to ask, "Does this give you an idea of the reasons?"

If the position is new, it's not possible to ask. However, in such cases you might ask about team turnover.

Questions about your success in the position

5. "What do you hope this person will achieve in the first six months, and in the first year?"

This query will give you an idea of how steep the learning curve is and what the organization's pace is. You won't have much time to ramp up if you expect to achieve major accomplishments in a short period of time. This might not be a problem if you have a lot of experience but could be a concern if it isn't. If you are someone who loves to get things done quickly, it might be a disappointment to learn that the majority of your first six month will be spent training.

You may also find information that is relevant to your project of interest.

6. "Remembering people who have done this work before, what was the difference between the good and the great?"

A job candidate asked me this question years ago, and it might be the strongest question I've ever been asked in an interview. This question goes directly to the core of what the hiring manager wants. Hiring managers don't want to interview candidates for a job that isn't worth their time. They are looking for someone who can excel in their field. This question shows that you care about the same thing. Although it doesn't necessarily guarantee you'll do exceptional work, asking this question makes you sound like someone who is aiming for that.

The answer to this question can provide you with a more detailed insight into the requirements of the job. Regardless of the answer, you can still consider whether it's something that you are likely to be able to do.

Questions about the Company

7. "How would your culture be described here?" Which type of people thrive here and which ones don't?

Sometimes, hiring managers can be terrible at describing the culture of their teams. This is partly because they have a vested desire to see it that way and also because they have a different perspective than their staff. Incorrigible micromanagers have said to candidates that they prefer autonomy and independence. This is something I've seen in my own experience. Take managers' descriptions about culture with a grain of salt. You can confirm any important information with others, but it's still worth listening to what they emphasize and don't.

Asking about the characteristics of those who thrive and those who struggle can reveal more. It's often possible to learn about the manager's values and what traits they value in employees. You can also find out which traits could cause you to clash with them or who is more likely to be a jerk at their management style.

8. "What do you like about working here?"

Interviewers' responses to this question can reveal a lot about you. Interviewers who truly enjoy their job and the company will often have many things to tell you about it. They will also sound sincere. If you receive a blank stare, a long silence before the interviewer answers or an answer that is more like "the paycheck", it's a red flag.

9. Ask the questions you care about.

While it's natural to want to impress your interviewer and make a good impression, interviewing is a two-way process. You need to assess the employer and manager and decide if this is the position that you are interested in and would be able to do well. You could end up miserable or in financial trouble if you are too focused on the job.

Before you go to interview, take some time to think about what you want to learn. What are the most important things to you about the job? How does it make you feel every day? Perhaps you value a collaborative environment that encourages informal communication. Perhaps you are most interested in working somewhere that has a relaxed work environment, with few calls or texts during the weekends or evenings. Maybe you've heard rumors about the stability of the funding for the position. You can ask the questions that are important to you, or you would like to know before you decide if this job is for you.

You shouldn't just rely on the answers of your interviewer about these matters. Do your research by speaking to people in your network about the culture and the manager, as well as reading reviews on Glassdoor and talking with other employees.

Questions about the Next Steps

10. "What's your timeline for next steps?"

Although this is a simple logistics question, it's important to ask it because it provides a guideline for when you can expect to hear back. If you don't hear back within a few days, you will likely start to wonder if you should have and what it means. You'll also be checking your phone constantly to see if anyone has reached out to you. Knowing that you won't hear from the hiring manager for 2 weeks, 4 weeks, or for 1 month is better for your life and quality of living.

This question allows you to easily check in with your employer if they don't give you a timeline. If they say they will make a decision in 2 weeks, but it has been 3 weeks, you can email them to ask for an update. I am interested in this position and would like to speak more with you.

Ten Impressive Questions to Ask During a Job Interview
Yves Lafleur Jr

Yves Lafleur Jr is an administrator at Unified Career.

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