Questions to Ask of Your Potential Employer (And Why to Ask Them)

December 17th, 2013

Interviews are an opportunity for both parties to engage in a conversation to determine if the applicant is a good match for the company and vice versa. Having questions prepared when you go into the interview, knowing when to ask them, and doing so with style and grace will help you to stand out as the excellent candidate that you are.

Companies put a lot of time into filling their positions with just the right person. The last thing they want to do is hire someone who will decide, after three months of training, that they are in the wrong place. By asking questions you will distinguish yourself as someone who knows what they want.

Of course, you need to know what questions to ask. This will require some research on your part. Grab a notebook and begin by digging into the job description. Then review the company’s website for any pages about the culture, values, mission, or personnel. Jot down any question that comes to mind. Some ideas to consider are:

  • What does the average day look like for the person in this position?
  • Who will you report to and who will report to you?
  • Who held the position before you and where are they now?
  • If it is a new position, why is it being created?
  • What are the strengths of the current team members?
  • What would they like the person in this position to accomplish in the first six months?

Once you have a list of questions, chose the top three or four that would most influence your decision to take the position and memorize them.

It is best to wait until prompted to ask your questions, as the interviewer may have a script to follow, and preempting his or her topics could be considered rude. If, however, the interviewer thanks you for coming in and you sense the end of the interview is at hand, you should feel confident in asking if you have time for a few questions.

When asking your questions, it is always a good idea to give a brief sentence or two of background for each question. For instance: I understand that this is a new position in the company. Can you tell me a little bit about why it was created?

Once you have asked your question, give your interviewer a chance to answer completely before launching into your next question. This may be difficult to do if you’re nervous. Try to think of each question as the start of a mini-conversation. Their answer may spark more questions if you take the time to think about their response before moving on.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to really listen. This is important in terms of the impression you make, but it also relates directly to why you are asking the questions in the first place – the answers matter.

Interviews are a unique opportunity to present yourself to a company while getting a good sense of where you might fit in. Asking a few simple questions will help you put your best foot forward and increases your chances of being the one they ask to come back.

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