Questions to Ask in an Interview

The variety of questions to ask in an interview is virtually endless, but they all have a common goal.  If you are the interviewer, you want to learn more about the applicant and whether he or she is a good fit for the job.  If you are being interviewed, asking the interviewer the right questions can help you determine if the job is right for you.

Questions to Ask During an Interview

If you’re interviewing someone you’re thinking about hiring, you want to learn more about the individual as a person as well as how he or she will fit into your organization.  You’ll also want to know how well the individual works with and without supervision.

A few good questions to ask in an interview to learn more about the person include:

  • What do you feel are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do you overcome your weaknesses?
  • How do you cope with deadlines and stress?
  • How do you think your coworkers would describe you?
  • If you discovered a costly mistake someone had made at work, how would you handle the situation?

questions-ask-interview

Some job interviewers ask questions without being direct by saying something like, “Tell me about yourself.”  This is a very open ended suggestion that gives interviewees an opportunity to talk about their personal characteristics, job skills and ambition.  If you’re being interviewed, be careful to focus on aspects of yourself that would interest your future employer.  Your dating life isn’t of interest; the volunteer bookkeeping you do for a non-profit organization is.

The following interview questions can help you get a feel for whether the individual is a good fit for the job they’ve applied for:

  • What interests you about the job you’ve applied for?
  • Why are you the best person for this job?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What would you do to improve the position you’re applying for?
  • What experience and skills can you bring to our company?
  • What challenges do you see in the job we’re discussing?
  • How much do you know about our company and what it does?
  • Do you have any questions about the job or our company?

Sometimes an interviewer will ask questions that are difficult to answer because they assume a bad situation or outcome in some way.  Consider the following questions and think about how you would answer them in an interview so you’re prepared.

  • Tell me about a time when you didn’t get along with a supervisor or coworker. How did you resolve the situation?
  • We’ve all worked with someone who didn’t do his or her share of the workload.  How did you handle this situation?  How could you have handled it better?
  • What job did you like the least in the past, and why?  What could you have done to improve the situation?

Keep in mind that, although some questions an interviewer asks may seem like questions that you can’t answer without sounding bad, that isn’t the interviewer’s intent.  Your answers to the questions will reveal a lot about your coping skills, how you view adversity and challenges, and whether or not you are resilient in the workplace.  When you have to face difficult interview questions, your willingness to answer honestly and in some detail will win you points and possibly the job.

Questions to Ask an Interviewer

When being interviewed, you may think that answering your interview questions well means the interview is over.  You couldn’t be more wrong.  In fact, if you don’t have any questions to ask an interviewer, they may think you aren’t really all that interested in the job.  Having a few questions of your own to ask the interviewer will demonstrate your interest in the job, how well prepared you are for the interview, and will show your initiative.

Some of the basic questions to ask an interviewer will focus on the details of the job that he or she may have neglected to cover:

  • Who will I be reporting to in this position?
  • Will I have the opportunity to meet my supervisor prior to the start of the job?
  • How many people are in the department I would be working in?
  • Why did the previous employee in this position leave?  Are they still with the company?
  • What is your company’s management philosophy?
  • What are the hours and will overtime be expected?
  • What is a typical week like in this position?
  • Could you give me a brief description of the duties and responsibilities of this position in your own words?
  • What is the starting date for this job?
  • How soon will you be making a decision about this position?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to ask me?

There are also questions you should avoid at all costs during an interview.  Many people make the mistake of asking inappropriate questions during an interview, when even one wrong move could make the difference between a job offer and being quickly shown the door.  A few questions you should NOT ask at an interview include:

  • How much vacation time is offered the first year?
  • How many sick days and personal days are available?
  • Is there a penalty for being late?
  • Will my schedule be flexible?
  • What is your position on maternity leave?

You might be surprised how often interviewers are asked these inappropriate questions.  Asking about your time off before you’re even offered a job gives the impression you are only looking to make some money and get some time off as quickly as possible.  Asking about being late or changing your schedule makes it sound like you are unreliable.  While maternity leave is a valid concern, if you ask during the interview, the interviewer may fear that you are already planning to get pregnant as quickly as possible and then take a long maternity leave.  You have the right to use maternity leave, but it shouldn’t be your top priority when you apply.  Most of the questions you should avoid will be topics that the Human Resources department will naturally cover with you if you are offered the job.

If you are in any doubt about what questions to ask in an interview, ask yourself, “Does this question indicate my interest in the job and the company?”  If the answer is “no,” don’t ask the question.