No matter how prepared you are, a job interview is a nerve-wracking experience. You have to answer a torrent of questions on the spot and sell yourself to a hiring manager — sometimes even a room full of strangers. And when it comes time for you to do the asking, will you be ready?
These days, it’s pretty standard for an interviewer to conclude by asking if you have any questions about the job. And what you ask can make or break your chances.
We talked to recruiters, hiring managers and people who landed jobs for the best questions to ask if you want to impress the interviewer and glean important information about your potential new gig.
1. What made you choose my resume for an interview?
“As someone who has been hiring interns and junior staff for the past 10 years, the most memorable question I had a candidate ask me was this one. It flipped the script on me because I was so used to asking ‘Why should we hire you?’ Instead, I had to tell her what I liked about her experience and application, which is absolutely great insight to receive during the interview process. It’s like getting free career advice.” ― Laura Meditz, vice president of Poston Communications
2. What are the biggest challenges faced by your company/department today?
“I like asking this question to get a real sense of what they feel is most needed in their business. It could be a specific skill, improved processes or just additional resources to handle workload. Answers to this question will help you understand what your job will entail and give you the opportunity to explain how you could tackle your employer’s biggest challenge. On the other hand, if their biggest struggle doesn’t match your skills or expectations, it could be a useful red flag before accepting a new job.” ― Daniel Buchuk, director of communications at Bringg
3. What makes you different from your competitors?
When I applied for my current job, I asked questions about the company’s competitors and how they differentiated themselves. This is a good question to ask because companies want to see that you are diligent enough to do your homework in advance of the meeting and have a genuine interest in the field you are moving into.” ― Casey Hill, blogger at Musings of Entrepreneurship
4. Can you give me an example of how you live out the company values?
“I like to find out what values the company promotes on their career page — passion, integrity, accountability, etc. — and I’ll ask the interviewer how they live one or more of those values, especially as a manager. If the interviewer is dumbfounded, it typically shows that the values are nothing more than empty messaging. If they can answer the question, it shows the company believes in and instills its values in employees and the interviewer is probably a thoughtful manager.” ― Jennifer Bewley of Get Uncuffed
5. What is your training program like?
“I have found that reputable companies will answer this question by saying that the training period is as long as a new employee needs. Training that is rushed or fast-tracked to meet a quota or deadline isn’t an effective way to find reputable and reliable employees. Any new job comes with a learning curve; a good company will offer thorough training and help employees to obtain all the skills they need to be successful in the company.” ― Carlee Linden, writer for Best Company
6. What recent diversity hiring and promotion efforts are you most excited about?
“As a woman of color who is also very keen on advancing in her career, I often ask questions that would give me an insight into the company’s diversity efforts. I also almost always follow this question by requesting a tour of the office. You’d be surprised what you can glean just by walking around. It gives me an insight into whether their response is canned or truly embodied by the organization.” ― Stella Odogwu, founder and CEO of Intelle Coaching Solutions
7. What do you enjoy most about working here?
“First off, if the interviewer can’t answer this question, there should be sirens going off in your head that this might not be the greatest place to work. That said, most of the time, it allows an opportunity to get personal with the interviewer and allow them to talk about themselves for a change. This mutual exchange results in a stronger bond while allowing you to learn more about some of the great things the company has to offer.” ― Alex Benjamin, professional recruiter and owner of resume writing service Recruiter Written
8. What are the most successful team members doing differently from the average team member?
“If there is one thing that interviewees could do that would help them stand out from other candidates, it would be to be bold, speak with confidence and ask questions that hint you are a high performer who is looking to succeed with the company. This question shows drive to outperform mediocracy while also learning more about the expectations of the work required to achieve excellence in the position.” ― Emily LaRusch, CEO and founder of Back Office Betties
9. How will you know whether you hired the right person three months from now?
“I love this question because as a job seeker, it gives you a clear idea of the hiring manager’s goals, expectations and objectives for you if you are hired. It also gives you a chance to pause and consider if the answer sounds like things you will enjoy. It can add a bit more clarity to the job and the results the company is hoping to achieve by filling this position.” ― Helen Godfrey, owner of career counseling service the Authentic Path
10. How would your co-workers describe your management style?
“It’s important to ask about your potential manager’s leadership style but not just what they think about themselves. Asking what their peers and direct reports would say of their management style is key ― even better if they’re open to you talking to one of their direct reports about their leadership. A manager can make or break a job, so getting more context around the people you’ll be working with most closely will help in decision making.” ― Julia Missaggia, human resources director at CMI/Compas
11. Can you show me around before we wrap up?
“This question allows applicants to differentiate themselves at the end of their interviews by creating a unique experience with the interviewer that won’t be shared among other candidates. In fact, I can still recall my interview many years back with a candidate who asked me this very question. It breaks hiring managers out of their routines and forces them to leave the interview room and interact more naturally with the candidate.” ― Peter Yang, co-founder of ResumeGo
A few more tips to nail your interview:
Stick to open-ended questions. Even though job interviews can feel like interrogations, they’re supposed to be conversations between you and the interviewer. To keep the conversation flowing, avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”
Don’t ask questions with obvious answers. You shouldn’t ask questions just for the sake of asking; interviewers will see right through you. Do your research ahead of time and avoid asking for basic information that could easily be found on the company website.
Be respectful of everyone’s time. The interviewer likely has many other job interviews to conduct on top of meetings and regular job duties. Pick two or three important questions to ask rather than barraging them with all 11. Even better, try to weave in your questions throughout the conversation instead of waiting until the end of the interview.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to Carly Kuper. Julia Missaggia at CMI/Compas was the source of the quote.