On Tuesdays I like to cover a topic related to getting hired as a developer and today I’m going to discuss the best questions to ask during a job interview and I will also discuss the other side of the spectrum and list out some key interview questions to avoid at all costs.
If you haven’t been through many job interviews or haven’t really ever prepared for one before, you may have the thought:
“I thought the interview was about them asking me questions”
However one very important, and many times overlooked, facet of a good interview is asking strategic questions of the interviewer.
In fact, Forbes researchers have outlined three goals that your questions should achieve:
- Make sure the interviewer has no reservations about you.
- Demonstrate your interest in the employer.
- Find out if you feel the employer is the right fit for you.
Interviewers like being asked questions, the questions you ask can reveal quite a bit about yourself, good and bad, therefore it’s critical to ask the right questions.
If you don’t ask an interviewer questions, he or she may assume that you don’t really care about the job itself and you’re simply looking to make enough money to pay your rent. Interviewers want to find candidates excited about working with their company. Remember that if you’re hired, you are going to be a reflection of the interviewer and will help or hurt their reputation. Anytime that I’ve hired an employee that turned out to be bad for an organization, management has approached me and asked why I hired them and how did I miss their shortcomings. I kid you not, I hired an individual for a job around five years ago that turned out to be a horrible employee and our CEO still gives me a hard time about the hire half a decade later! So make sure to take all of that into account when you’re interviewing for a position.
The following is a list of the best questions to ask during a job interview along with rationales on why they’re good questions to ask. I’ve picked these up through my years as a manager for several software companies and through researching the topic.
Best Questions to Ask During a Job Interview
“How is performance measured for this position?”
This is probably my favorite question to be asked. It shows that the individual is not only interested in the job, but also wants to have an understanding of what it takes to be successful. A key component of this question is also that the question focuses on how the company measures performance. This will give you a good idea of how data driven the organization is and focuses on the key metrics that are important to the company.
“What are some specific challenges that I will be tasked with?”
Asking this question will show that you are not naive and that you understand that the job will have challenges and that you want to prepare for them in advance.
“Are there any responsibilities with the position that were not mentioned in the job posting?”
This type of question will tell the interviewer that you’re savvy and experienced enough to know that 100% of the requirements don’t always make it to the job website. For example, the job may be a software development job, however they may also want you to perform search engine optimization on the web application. This question not only positions you well with the interviewer but also will help you understand the full set of roles and responsibilities that the position will entail.
“What is the corporate culture like?”
I like this question because it will give you a feel for how employees interact with each other and management, it will also let the interviewer know that you aren’t purely looking for a 9-5 job, you are interested in working with the team and fitting in.
“On average, how long do employees stay with the organization?”
Similar to the corporate culture question, this will subtly let the interviewer know that you are not looking for a short stint at the organization, but that you are looking for a long term relationship with the company. The answer to this question will also help provide you with the understanding of how tolerant the company is in regard to keeping employees. If the average employee has been with the company for only a few years there may be some issues causing the rapid turnover. Whereas if employees stay on for over a decade it’s a good sign that the organization is a great place to work.
“Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications or experience?”
This is a bold question and you may or may not want to ask it depending on your confidence level. However it will let the interviewer know that you’re not afraid to ask tough questions and that you’re willing to hear constructive criticism. I’ve personally never been asked this question by an applicant but I would admire anyone that would be willing to ask it.
Poor Questions to Ask During a Job Interview
You will want to stay away from questions that appear that you want to get out of work such as asking about the amount of paid time off, tiers of vacation days, etc. It’s important to know these parts of the job, however it will reflect better on you if you instead ask questions such as:
“What types of benefits are associated with the position?”
This question will get the interviewer to give answers to the PTO and vacation time without you coming across like someone who’s already trying to see when they won’t have to work, but still get paid.
Typically you will also want to not ask questions that start with “why”, “why” questions will immediately make the interviewer defensive and will give the conversation a feeling of being confrontational. These types of questions can usually be changed to start with “how”, which will tell the interviewer that you are wanting to know more about the company instead of accusing the company of doing something wrong. An example of this would be “Why does the company pay by check instead of direct deposit?” This makes it seem like you’re saying that the organization isn’t staying up with modern payroll procedures (which may or may not be the case), however nothing good can come from this type of question.
Hopefully this gives you an idea of what questions not to ask, but just in case a few more case studies would help, here are some more questions that you should avoid:
“Is telecommuting a possibility for the position?”
If it was they would’ve already mentioned it, if telecommuting is your top goal you should consider freelancing.
“How much does the position pay?”
You should already have a decent idea of how much the job pays if you’re interviewing for it. You can worry about the wage after it’s been offered to you, it’s never a good thing when the interviewer thinks that you’re top priority is how much money you’re going to make because they’ll assume that you will leave the company if another organization offers you a modest raise.
“What type of hours would I be expected to work?”
Interviewers and managers hate this question! Based on the job you should already know this, however you can reframe this question by asking something like “What does a typical day for this position look like?”.
Lastly, never ask “How did I do?” or “Do I have the job?”. Asking how you did sounds like you just finished a spelling test in 3rd grade and doesn’t reflect much confidence. And if you had the job they would have told you. Wait and follow up with the interviewer in a week and you’ll be considered a mature and experienced candidate.
I hope that this has been a helpful guide and will help you put together a strategy of the best questions to ask during a job interview. Many aspects of an interview aren’t known going into it, however you will always have the ability to control the questions you ask, so it is good to put together a list of questions to ask so you can maintain some level of control over the interview process.