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Types Of Questions You (i.e. the applicant) Should Ask in a Job Interview

01. First, there are some questions which you must never ask.

  • Questions about the company, whose answers who can find quickly by “googling”. For example don’t ask things like what is the company’s revenue, what is it’s business model etc. Rather ask if they are planning to evolve from this business model to new business areas.

  • Questions about money, or self-limiting questions which show you as inflexible or demanding or too casual. Even if you have specific requirements like vacation time etc, save these questions for the negotiation stage. The negotiating stage in the interview comes when you are told that you have a reasonable chance of getting an offer letter from the company and then you can check if your expectations match the offer.

  • Close ended questions which invite a yes/no answer. Always ask ‘High Yield” questions – those which can not be answered by yes/no.

    • Example of close ended question: Do you enjoy working here?

    • Example of high-yield question: What do you most enjoy about working here?

  • Don’t ask questions which the interviewer can not answer or which puts him on the spot.

  • Never ask WHY questions. “Why” is a confrontational word.

  • Avoid questions which show you as desperate.

    • For example, avoid telling your problems to invoke sympathy – eg. my alimony payment and my daughter’s college fees will kill me if I don’t get this job.

  • Avoid sarcasm. Avoid humor which makes fun of ANY human being in a bad way.

  • Avoid personal questions about the interviewer.

  • Make sure you ask questions even without invited lest the time is over without you clarifying some of your own important questions.

02. Questions to ask the recruiter, staffing agency or the headhunter who has invited you to the interview

  • Ask about the nature of their business and their relationship with the customer. For example confirm which of the following categories of recruitement agency they fall into:

    • Contingency agencies: These recruitement agencies get paid only if the candidate they present is selected and if he or she accepts the offer to join.

    • Retainer agencies are those recruitement agencies which get paid a fixed sum for each candidate they present.

    • Many recruitement agencies today work as a “vendor” esp in the case of contract employees. You actually are on their payroll. Say you agree to join for $110/hour. The recruitement agency will get 20% of this amount. The client pays the recruitment agency and they pay you. The client themselves may be a vendor for another client. Eg. company A hires you to do work for company B. Company B has actually got the work from Company C. This is very common in the consulting/contract work.

  • You can ask the recruiter questions which would be inappropriate to askk the hiring manager. Eg. You can ask the recruiter questions about the hiring manager and the criteria for selection of candidates. You can also ask about the other candidates which the agency had sent to the hiring manager and what their strengths and weaknesses were perceived to be by the hiring manager.

  • You can ask more questions about the logistics and those relating to your requirements from the job. For example:
    • Is this a fulltime or contract position?
    • How much travel is involved? Ccommute to your own future office plus any other travel requirements – ie to clients, to other offices of your own company etc.
    • Flexibility in schedule (night shifts etc), work from home.
    • How much vacation would I be entitled to?
    • How is the salary structured? Is there a variable portion of the salary?
    • What are the health benefits? Any other benefits -educational allowance etc.
    • Career progression – Where would I be after 1 year, after 5 years?
    • Why is the position available today? Why did the previous empoloyee leave? What’s the typical tenure of people in this job I am interviewing for?
  • Recruiters want you and need you to be successful so they can get paid. Ask them to coach you and review your resume so you can make it relevant to the company.

  • Bond with the recruiters. Help them make money by introducing your colleagues to them who may fit the recruiter’s portfolio.

03. Questions to ask the HR person

HR people are essentially gatekeepers who go by the textbook. They will try to match you with exactly what the job advertisement says. So make sure you don’t give them room for doubt about your ability to do the job. Talk to them in general terms only, for example-

  • What do you love most about working in this company?

  • By when are you looking to fill this position?
  • What advice would you give to someone in my position?

04. Questions to ask the hiring manager

Types Of Questions You Should Ask

Example Questions

  • Questions which act as icebreakers

How to talk to anyone about anything? In an answer to this question, Pamela Walin the famous TV star says, “People are endlessly interested in themselves. Ask them some questions which lets them talk about themselves!”.

  1. Ask the interviewer -“How long have you been with the organization?”.

  2. Followup with – “What attracted you to working for this company?”.

  3. You can also ask – ” What have you liked most about working here?”.

  • Questions which indicate an aspirational nature and a passion for excellence.

  • Questions which show your interest in the job.

  • Question which communicate personal appeal
  1. What are the training & other opportunities which exist for me to further develop my core skills?
  2. What are the opportunities to help me diversify into other cross-functional areas and acquire new expertise.
  • Questions about success criteria in the the job.

  • Questions which demonstrate intelligence

  1. What would a typical day for me look like – what would be ny day-to-day responsibilities. What would be my top priorities over the next 3 months?
  2. How do you measure success of an employee in this position?
  3. What have some of the past top employees have done in this positions?
  4. What are some challenges that I can expect to face in this position?
  • Future oriented questions which add to your credibility
  1. Your company’s sales has grown by 13% in the last one year. Where do you think future growth will come from from?
  2. I see trends in your industry towards consolidation and outsourcing – in your case how do you think any of these factors are impacting the way you do business?
  3. How has this position evolved in this company over the last few years?
  • Questions which summarize the interview and plan next steps.

  • Questions which show confidence and assertiveness

  • Hard close or soft close questions

  1. From what you have gathered about me in this interview and from my resume what are your thoughts about my suitability for this position?
  2. What are the things that you have seen in other people in your shortlist which you have not seen in me?
  3. What are the next steps for me now?