Interviewing: What to Ask

Posted by Patra Frame

Are you interested in an organization and a specific job? If so, you want to do a lot of research in advance to learn more and to see if they are a good fit. Once you have secured an interview you have the opportunity to learn far more about the culture, the people, and the work. And to do that, you need to ask questions.

Define the questions you want answered. Tie them to your goals and needs. Bring them as notes so you remember them.

Ask each interviewer how much time they have to dedicate to the interview. Say you want to be fair to their time frame – and that you also have some questions to ask later in the interview.

Good questions help you assess the opportunity. When they are based on your research and demonstrate your knowledge of the organization, they show you are smart and pro-active. All questions also tell a good interviewer about you, so ask relevant ones.

This list should give you ideas for your own questions. Remember, do your research on the organization and tailor more general questions into very specific ones.

Ask the most senior people you talk with

1. What is the executive view of this function? (especially critical information for more senior positions, helpful for all)
2. What is the function’s role within the company?
3. Current view of critical issues for the function?
4. What are the “critical few” objectives for this position in the next year?

Ask the position’s immediate supervisor

1. What are the ‘critical few’ areas right now?
2. What are the key projects linked to the strategic plan?
3. What results are expected in the first three months? first year?
How will performance be measured? What is the timetable?
4. What is the function’s role within the company? Is it effective as is?
5. Why is the position open? What happened to the previous job holder?
6. Are there any internal candidates?
7. If I asked the most recent incumbent, what would s/he say about the organization and this function?
8. If it is a new position: What led to the creation of this position?
9. What are some of the skills and abilities you see as necessary for someone to succeed in this job?
10. What specific skills do you want, which would make your life easier?
11. How would you describe the ideal candidate?
12. What challenges might I face if I took the job?
13. What improvements do you see as most critical in the function?
14. Tell me about your management style and communications preferences.
15. What is the budget and who establishes and controls it?
16. What are the next step(s) in the hiring process and the estimated timeline?

Ask everyone

1. What is the current strategy?
2. What are the critical business issues facing them?

Ask other interviewers – peers, technical experts, HR, and the hiring manager – as based on your personal goals.

1. What training or development opportunities do you offer in this role?
2. Will I be on company task forces, committees, or teams in this role?
3. What does it take to succeed here?
4. What do you like about working here?
5. How would your role interact with this position?
6. What are the values you see currently in the organization?
7. How does the organization actually work in terms of work-life balance?
8. How does the company recognize top performers?

I hope these give you some ideas to create your own list. You want to have at least 3-4 questions to ask each person you interview with. Some you may ask time and again to see whether the answers are consistent. Others may be only right for one person. Take notes about answers so you can review them later and see whether this is a role and organization where you can thrive!

Patra FramePatra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.


This entry was posted on Monday, August 29, 2011 7:30 am

2 thoughts on “Interviewing: What to Ask”

  1. This is an excellent list. I might add a couple more, designed to find out a little more about the company culture. For example, I’ve asked “What is a typical day like here?” or something similar, to find out more about hours, expectations and atmosphere. I’ve also asked questions about the ability of the job seeker to help change or improve the department or specific functions of that position. I find it helpful to know if the organization wants ideas about improvements, or just wants to plug someone into an existing role and have that person maintain the status quo.

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