Asking good questions during an interview can make a big difference in how the recruiter or hiring manager sees you. Over the years, the Staffing Advisors team has heard all sorts of questions from job seekers—some that work well and others that fall flat. We’ve found that the most effective questions usually fit into two categories: those that help you decide if the position is right for you and those that make you stand out as a top candidate. And there’s a third category, too: questions you should avoid. Here’s how to make the most of your limited Q&A time.

A Few Quick Tips

  • Show your interest. Our recruiters often hear hiring managers say they’re unsure if a candidate is truly interested in the role because they didn’t ask any questions.
  • Get specific. Broad, general questions will likely yield broad, general answers. The more targeted your questions, the more valuable the responses will be.
  • Keep it concise during the interview. While it’s natural to ask questions throughout the conversation, be mindful not to ask so many that the interviewer can’t cover the topics they need to address. Save any questions that aren’t directly relevant to the skill or experience being discussed for the end.

My advice is to lead from a place of curiosity. Even if you understand what the job is, you want to show that you are curious about how the job is done in that specific organization and how you’ll contribute to the team and their overall goals.

Staffing Advisors Project Director Lilly Khan

Strategies to Help You Stand Out

When crafting your questions, consider your career level and the function of the job you’re applying for. Demonstrating insider knowledge about the field or functional area will set you apart from other candidates. That’s why thoroughly researching the organization is such a critical part of preparing for an interview.

Review the organization’s history, recent press releases, annual reports, and any publicly available strategic documents. This will prepare you to ask well-informed questions that reflect your understanding of the organization’s current position and future direction.

Here are some examples based on different contexts:

  • When applying for strategic or leadership positions, showcase your deep understanding of the industry and how it could influence strategy. You might ask, “Given the recent [specific industry trend], what steps has [the organization] taken to stay ahead?” or “What are your expectations for how the person in this role will navigate the challenges presented by [specific industry issue]?”
  • In roles focused on individual contributions, show that you understand the specifics of the job and how it could support broader organizational goals. Consider asking, “I noticed that [organization] has recently [specific project or initiative]. How would this role contribute to the success of such initiatives?” or “Could you explain how the recent changes in [issue related to the organization’s work] have affected this team?”
  • Regardless of the role, demonstrating that you understand the organization’s current state and are thinking ahead is beneficial. You could ask, “What are the key priorities for this position in light of [current project, goal, or challenge]?” or “Looking at the organization’s future plans, how do you envision this role supporting that growth?”

Determine If the Role Is Right for You

While it’s important to ask questions highlighting your expertise, ensuring the role aligns with your goals and values is equally important. Our recruiters recommend thinking about the following topics:

  • Culture and company values. Ask specific questions about the elements of culture that matter most to you. Is their approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion important? Is collegiality a priority? Is high turnover a red flag for you?
  • Communication and collaboration styles. For early or mid-career positions, ask how the leadership team engages with staff and handles decision-making or disagreements. For leadership roles, inquire about how staff typically communicates and works across departments on key initiatives or how the board contributes to decision-making.
  • Performance expectations and metrics. Regardless of the role, it’s smart to ask how your performance will be measured. What’s the cadence of performance reviews? What factors will be considered?
  • Working environment. If the job is remote or hybrid, ask how the organization supports staff working remotely. How frequent are meetings? Are there different rules for different teams? What are the expectations for how team members manage their working time? How is the work spread out over a typical week or month? Are there higher or lower volume times?
  • Resources and support. Consider what you’ll need to succeed and ask questions to determine if the organization can offer that. Do they have a mentorship or support system in place? Do they have the technology you need to perform at a high level?
  • Onboarding. Ask about the onboarding process and how the organization helps new hires acclimate to their roles and the company culture.
  • Professional development. Think about what career growth means to you. Does the organization offer structured professional development? Do they provide a stipend or reimbursement if you seek out your own opportunities? Is professional development a priority for the organization, or is it left up to individual teams?

Avoid Questions Like These

  • “What doubts do you have about my qualifications?” If the interviewer has doubts about your qualifications, asking this isn’t going to help. If you listen closely during the interview, you should be able to determine where your skills do and don’t align. If you want to reiterate your expertise or experience in a particular area, reference that part of the conversation in your thank you note.
  • “What are the skills you’re hoping the ideal candidate has?” The skills the interviewer is looking for are the ones they just spent the entire interview asking you about and are most likely listed in the job description.
  • “How did I do? Will I be moving forward?” A good hiring manager will carefully consider your responses, debrief following your interview, and likely consult with others on their team. Even if they could, you don’t want them to decide on the spot. They may also be interviewing other candidates.

The major thing I would avoid is asking questions about anything you can find online. It can come across like you didn’t do any research. You need to show that you’ve invested time in understanding the role and the organization.

Staffing Advisors Vice President of Client Engagement Aileen Hedden

Be Authentic and Straightforward

Remember that the interview is an opportunity for both parties to figure out the possibility of a future working relationship. Don’t ask mediocre questions just for the sake of it. Ask about things you genuinely care about and include context that shows you know the role, organization, and industry or field. Think about what you could accomplish in this job and how that will benefit both the organization and your career. The more authentic you are, the more productive the Q&A time will be, for you and the interviewer.

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