At the end of every job interview, you will generally be asked if you have any questions. And while by doing this, the interviewer may seem like he or she is finished assessing you and is ready to focus on what you want to know, that's not quite the case. Interviewers pay attention to the sorts of questions you ask (or don't ask) and draw conclusions about you based on them.
For instance, if you don't have any questions, you're signaling that you're not very interested in the job or you just haven't thought much about it. And if your questions focus entirely on benefits, pay, and vacation time, you're signaling that you're not interested in the job itself, only the compensation.
What do most interviewers want to hear instead? Typically they appreciate questions that demonstrate you're interested in the work itself and the job's details, as well as things like the department in which you'll work, your prospective supervisor's management style, and the organization's culture.
Here are some examples of great questions to ask during your next interview. These queries won't just impress your interviewer; they will also get you valuable information about the job, which is key in helping you decide if it's the right fit for you. (However, you might not have time for all of these questions, so pick the ones you genuinely want to hear the answer to, not just the ones you think will sound good.)
- What are the biggest challenges the person in this position will face?
- Can you describe a typical day or week in the position?
- What would a successful first year in the position look like?
- How will the success of the person in this position be measured?
- How long did the previous person in the role hold the position? What has turnover in the role generally been like?
- How would you describe the culture here? What type of people tend to really thrive here, and what type don't do as well?
- How would you describe your management style?
- Thinking back to the person who you've seen do this job best, what made their performance so outstanding?
- Are there any reservations you have about my fit for the position that I could try to address? (This is a great way to give yourself the chance to tackle any doubts they might have about you, as well as for you to consider whether those doubts might be reasonable and point to a bad fit.)
And last, always remember to ask the employer about the next steps and their likely time line for getting back to you, so that when you go home you know what to expect next and you're not sitting around wondering when you'll hear something.
As part of your preparation before any interview, always write down questions that you want to take with you. It'll pay off when you're in that interview chair.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.