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A job interview is a two-way street between you, the candidate and an interviewer, the employer. Your potential employer asks questions in order to know more about you. In return, you prepare questions to ask them. Candidates are expected to ask questions and these can make the difference between accepting and declining a job offer.

Asking questions provides the opportunity to find out more about the employer and the position you have applied for within the company. Additionally, it provides the chance for the interviewer to gauge your cognitive thought processes (critical thinking skills) and your interest in the position. Through not preparing questions, you run the risk of your potential employer assuming you are not interested or that you lack preparation.

Asking questions demonstrates you are already thinking from the perspective of someone already working in that position. Even though you are the candidate being interviewed, you are also interviewing the company. Here are some pointers when it comes time to asking all those important questions.

Be prepared

A great place to start is conducting research on the prospective company. Information can be found on their website, social media channels, plus in the job description itself. Conducting research provides a great opportunity to take notes on specific topics you might want to ask questions on. This may include the company structure, responsibilities or even history of the position. Asking questions on these topics will indicate your interest in the positon, provide an example of your engagement level and understanding of the current position. Remember to gain clarification; however, on anything that you may have a lack of understanding on, as well.

Encourage conversation

Encourage conversation by asking questions that are focused and open-ended. Avoid asking yes/no questions or questions that the interviewer may have difficulty in answering. Asking open-ended questions encourages further explanation, demonstrates interest in the position and shows your initiative to search for this information, upon which a conversation can be built. This will in-turn build rapport with the interviewer and create a good first impression.

Place a significant degree of importance on asking the right types of questions. This will separate you as a candidate from your competitors. Show you are interested in the opportunity and not just the pay packet at the end of each week!

Avoid certain topics

There are always certain questions that should be avoided in an interview. Generally speaking, don’t ask about the pay or benefits associated with the position, unless prompted by the interviewer. In the beginning, be cautious when enquiring about remote work opportunities and so too, avoid any personal topics relating to the interviewer including marital status and family, such as children or their personal life. These topics are actually illegal and can make for not only an uncomfortable conversation, but also leave a poor impression on the interviewer.

Coming up with the right questions to ask

In formulating questions, think about what you want to get out of the position professionally and what an ideal job and workplace would look like for you. How do you, therefore come up with the right type of questions to ask in demonstrating you are the right person to hire?

Here are some generic questions to help get you started:

  • What do I have to do to succeed in this role?
  • Can you tell me more about the company culture?
  • What are some of the challenges that the predecessor faced in this role?
  • Is this a new position? If so, why was this created?
  • What are you hoping to see from the next person that fills this role?
  • What would you like to see this role producing in the future?
  • Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of the role?
  • What is the typical career path for someone in this role?
  • What are the next stages in this interview process?

When the interviewer asks “Have you got any questions for me?”, take the opportunity to ask questions. Find out more about the company and the position, evaluate whether it aligns with your values and goals and ensure the questions you ask are relevant to the company, its vision and its objectives.