Good, Better, and Great Questions to Ask as a Job Candidate

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Not all questions, asked as a candidate, are of the same caliber. Some are better than others; some are great at learning about the position, politics, or personalities in the office. Learn what questions may work best for you in your current or future search.

Good, Better, and Great Questions to Ask as a Job Candidate

Last week, I outlined the difference between good and bad questions for hiring managers to ask during an interview. The same advice can be given to those seeking a new job. There are some good questions and some obvious clunkers. I am reminded of an interview panel where the candidate asked us, with all sincerity, what character from a musical we wish we could play on stage.

While a delightful question to ask new friends, it fell flat in the room. And any good feelings we had about the candidate were deflated by a poorly chosen question.

In some hiring situations, candidates may meet with all the stakeholders they could possibly work with. For other candidates, they may only speak with a recruiter and eventually a hiring manager. In all cases, candidates may want to clarify who they plan to meet with and plan questions accordingly.

Below are some questions recommended from various websites. I will also share some of my favorite questions to ask. I hope these help you in your own job searches.

Successful candidates have prepared questions to ask at their interviews. Some questions are better than others, so make sure you’re taking a look at your list beforehand!

Being Prepared for the Interview

As you prepare for your interview, you may want to take stock of what you know. Sometimes, we only have a few minutes to ask questions. But if given more time, or while meeting one-on-one with the supervisor or hiring manager, you can ask different questions. Will you also meet with stakeholders? Colleagues? Senior leaders? Clients or those with whom you’ll work and serve? All of these audiences require different questions – or at least a different version of the questions you have written down.

As you look at the questions listed below, consider your audience. Will you get an answer that helps you understand your role, the organization, or the company’s future? Or are you just asking questions to fill up the time?

When you’re in the interview, you need to make sure you’re ready with different questions. Just in case your audience changes up and you’re meeting with unexpected audiences.

Good Questions

I believe it’s important to take stock of the environment and the office culture with some standard questions. If you aren’t able to glean this information from previous answers to their questions, ask your own questions. Below are examples of “Good Questions” as shared by various websites. I believe these are a great start to any good conversation:

  • What do the day-to-day responsibilities of the role look like?
  • Are there opportunities for professional development?  If so, what do those look like?
  • What are the company’s values? What characteristics do you look for in employees in order to represent those values?
  • Who will I be working most closely with?
  • What do you see as the most challenging aspect of this job?
  • Is there anything about my background or resume that makes you question whether I am a good fit for this role?

Better Questions

If you’re able to take more time, or you have a private one-on-one with a hiring manager, consider asking a more in-depth question, such as the ones below:

  • What are your expectations for this role during the first 30 days, 60 days, a year?
  • Describe what you hoping this person will accomplish in their first six months and in their first year.
  • What metrics or goals will my performance be evaluated against?

Great Questions

There is always time for a great question! While these could be framed for any audience, they may work best with the hiring manger:

  • Thinking back to people you’ve seen do this work previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great at it?
  • Where have successful employees previously in this position progressed to?
  • What do you and the team usually do for lunch?

My Favorite Questions to Ask

I have interviewed for over 100 jobs in the past 20 years. Some searches in my field could yield 15 or more phone interviews and a handful of in-person interviews. As described last week, some of these in-person interviews can last between 6 hours and two days. Most recently, I had a campus interview that lasted 10 hours non-stop – with questions during the lunch! I had to be extra prepared since the stakeholders all represented different interactions with the position, so no hour was like the one before. Which meant I couldn’t just repeat the questions each hour.

But that isn’t to say I don’t have a favorite question or two that like to ask. If the answers don’t come up during other answers, I ask as many as time allows with the interviewer(s).

We may each have a personal favorite question to ask in an interview. Show the interviewer, however, that you’re paying attention to their questions and that yours fits into information that hasn’t been shared!

What I Like to Ask

When I am given a chance to ask, I usually ask one of the following questions.

  1. For the Hiring Manager: When the team is in crisis, which can happen unexpectedly, how would you describe the work styles of the organization? How is our work evaluated when this happens? And how are expectations shifted, if at all, about our typical work?
  2. For Colleagues: Describe a departmental initiative where you received clear direction and outcomes. What was the role of the manager or director? And how was the initiative reflected in your personal year-end evaluations?
  3. For Colleagues: What are some of the unwritten rules that you all follow. Like, does everyone in the office go to lunch every day? Or there are birthdays and holidays observed?
  4. For Senior Leaders: What are some expected growth issues that the division (or institution) believes it will face in the next five years? Any funding or budgeting issues that could result in changes that will impact this role?

I have written about the impact of office politics in previous posts, and the closure of the institution where I worked. Nearly all of my questions address this topic because it’s incredibly personal for me. But perhaps your issues are around cultural fit or cultural add? Or maybe they’re about staff turnover. Take advantage of your time with each group and see if each stakeholder or interviewer talks about the same outcomes from a different perspective.

Good luck testing our some new questions as you continue your job searches. Feel free to share some of your favorite questions in the comments below!


Want to Explore This Topic Further?

I have worked with entry-level and mid-level career professionals for nearly ten years, helping them reconsider their strengths and ways to learn new skills. Let me know if there is anything I can do to support you as you develop this new skill.

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About Post Author

Joseph Rios, EdD

I am Joseph Rios and I believe that leadership is an expression of our values
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