What you Should and Shouldn't Ask During an Interview

What You Should (and Shouldn't) Ask During an Interview

Listen actively, ask intelligently

By Natalie Winzer, iHire, LLC

When it comes to interviewing successfully as a job seeker, preparation is key. A vital step in preparing for an interview is compiling a list of questions to ask your interviewer.

As a job seeker, asking the right questions during the interview will do two things: 1) show the hiring manager that you have a genuine interest in the position and 2) enable you to make an informed decision if an offer is extended. Just as the interviewer needs to be confident in selecting the right candidate, job seekers need to be confident in accepting the right offer.

When gathering your list of questions, it is critical that you research the company and the position. Find out as much as you can and jot down questions about things you wish to explore further. If you are truly interested in working for the company, this should be an enjoyable exercise and make you excited for the interview. Remember to keep your questions as open-ended as possible and prioritize them in order of importance so you can use your time wisely.

While it is beneficial to have a list prepared ahead of time, don't be constrained by it during the interview or feel distraught if you are unable to ask all of your questions. Listen carefully, let the conversation guide you, and be flexible. Don't ask a question that has already been answered or it will be clear that you weren't paying attention.

Here are some examples of great questions to ask during an interview.


About the Position

  • What attributes would the ideal candidate for this position possess?
  • Is this a new position?
  • What does a typical day look like?
  • Who does this position report to?
  • Which departments/teams does this position work with?
  • What are the key goals/objectives for this position in the coming year?
  • What are the biggest challenges this position will take on?
  • How can the person who fills this position improve upon past performance?
  • How is performance managed and measured?


About the Company

  • How would you describe your company's culture?
  • What types of professional development/training opportunities are offered to staff?
  • What are some of the company traditions?
  • Does the company participate in any community service/volunteer programs?
  • I read about Project ABC on your website and was impressed with the results. Would this position be participating in initiatives like Project ABC?


About the Interviewer

  • How long have you been with the company?
  • What did you do before this?
  • What is your management style?
  • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • What future projects are you the most excited about?
  • How can the person who fills this position best help you reach your objectives?


What NOT to Ask

Conversely, here is a list of topics that will do more harm than good to bring up. Always avoid personal or proprietary subject matter.

  • Questions about family, hobbies, religion, age, etc.
  • Gossip or hearsay about the company.
  • What does this company do?
  • What salary should I expect?
  • When are raises awarded?
  • Can I apply for another position with the company?
  • Are background checks a part of the hiring process?
  • How much time off will I get?
  • Can I work from home?
  • Did I get the job?


At the end of the interview, take a moment to ensure that both you and the interviewer have the information required to make an educated decision. Ask what the next steps are in the interviewing process, when you can expect to hear from them, if there is anything else you can provide that might be helpful, and/or if there are any final questions.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that the interview is all about how you answer questions. The questions you ask are just as important and will reflect positively or negatively on you as a potential employee. By doing your homework and preparing the right questions, you will approach interviews with genuine confidence, curiosity, and enthusiasm.

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