It’s nearing the end of your phone interview. You’ve successfully answered the HR manager’s questions—“why should we hire you”, “tell me about yourself,” and others. And now you feel the conversation coming to a close. These final minutes can be a nerve-wracking experience.
Then, the final question: “Do you have any questions for me?”
You could just be ready to exit the convo—which is entirely understandable—but trust us, that’s the worst thing to do. Instead, use this opportunity to interview the company and determine if the position and organization would be a great fit for you and your career.
“When asking these questions, female job candidates should be looking for insights into what it's really like to work at the company, and whether or not it's the right fit for them,” says Michelle Hague, HR manager at Solar Panels Network USA. “By asking questions that probe into the company culture, mission statement, and how the position has changed over time, you can gain valuable insights that will help you make an informed decision about whether or not to accept a job offer from this organization. If you're looking for a workplace where your values are aligned with those of the company, then asking these questions is essential.”
To help get you close out that initial HR screen with ease, here’s a list of 15 questions to ask a human resources manager and what you’ll learn from the responses.
15 interview questions to ask an HR manager—and what they tell you
1. What are the requirements for this position?
Aside from the job description, it’s important to ask how your own experience would fit with the role that you are applying for. “However, it's also important to know what the company is specifically looking for,” Hague says. “If you're applying for a job as an accountant, for example, are they interested in someone who isn't quite certified yet but has the potential and drive to get there? Or do they want someone with a more established track record in that field? By asking this question, you'll get a better sense of what the hiring manager is looking for, which can help guide your next steps as you prepare for the interview.”
2. Are there current employees who have the same roles and responsibilities or is this the only position within the company?
Asking this question helps to discover skills that someone in the same position may hold and you can relate it to your own experience. “I love this question because it is a great starting point to ask follow up questions. If someone else in the company has the same position, you can then ask things like, ‘What qualities make that person successful in the role?’ and ‘Would there be any difference in responsibilities between my position and the other person?’" says HR consultant Julianna Fricchione.
3. How does this role contribute to larger company goals?
Hague says asking this question will give you insights into how the role fits into the company’s bigger picture: “Does this position play an important role in helping the company achieve its business objectives? Will it allow you to make meaningful contributions and have a positive impact on the organization? Knowing this information will help you determine whether or not the company is a good fit for your skills and career goals.”
4. What metrics are used to measure success in this role?
This kind of question shows that you are open to critique and feedback. Asking this question will help you see where you will be held accountable in the future and where you may need to ask for support. “Look for a response that is strictly KPI focused,” Fricchione says. “For example, billable hours, revenue generated, retention scores, etc. KPIs like attendance, likability, and communication, while important to overall job performance, should not be where the weight of your performance is scored. Those ‘softer’ evaluations leave room for bias which as a female can work against you.”
5. How does the company promote diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Companies should always be working toward having a diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) workplace environment, but if they don’t, that could be a red flag. A key reason many organizations engage in DEI is to retain their top talent or attract top talent—not to mention it’s the right thing to do. Hague says asking about how a company promotes DEI will help you understand how inclusive the company is toward all employees, regardless of their gender, race, age, or background. It will also give you an idea of how the company prioritizes and what initiatives and programs the company has in place making active strides toward DEI. For more specific questions on this topic, read 10 Questions to Ask a Prospective Employer About Their Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion.
6. Does the company promote any well-known books or ideology in its operations?
Fricchione says asking this question will give you insight into what managers at the company believe in and how you may or may not fit into the organization. “I once worked with a company where all the female leaders referenced Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office. I learned that there were some very smart, sharp, driven women who left the organization because at their core, they did not fit what the leaders believed from the book. You may receive a response from your interviewer saying they believe in autonomous teams, Lean Six Sigma principles, or Agile methodology, all of which can give you huge insights into your work. Make note of the frameworks mentioned in the interview and research afterward if you are not familiar with them.”
7. How has this position changed over time?
Roles evolve from the time they’re posted to, and maybe even through, when you start interviewing for one. Don’t be afraid to ask the HR manager what the job looked like before you applied, including what the responsibilities were, and how many other people currently hold this type of position at the company. Hague says by asking this question, you should be looking for insights into how the company is evolving over time and what role they play in it. It also helps you to gauge the company’s long term outlook and determine if it’s a good fit for your own career goals.
8. How do you gauge fair employee pay from a national standpoint?
Fair compensation is still a thing that is an issue, especially when it comes to minorities and women. Asking about this will let you know if the pay and bonus structure is something that you are looking for and aligns with your experience. “Your recruiter or HR at the company should be able to speak to pay grades and make a direct link to your years of experience and education in determining appropriate pay,” says Fricchione. “Bonus points if they mention non-discretionary cost of living increases and a clearly defined review process for promotions and raises.”
9. What is the biggest challenge the team has faced this year?
The HR manager may try to paint a perfect picture of the work environment and team that you would potentially be working on, but asking this question will help you uncover the reality of what working on the team would be like. It helps you to know ahead of time what challenges lie ahead, how adaptable a team is, and whether the environment or work culture is a good fit for you.
10. What is your company’s mission statement and how does it relate to the culture?
The answer to this question can go one of two ways: You might get a canned response that mirrors the company’s website, or you might (and we hope this is the case) get the HR manager’s candid take. To explore further, ask about the company’s core values, how they guide any company decisions, and how they relate to the overall culture of the entire team—listen for real-world examples. This will help you gain a better understanding on whether this company’s mission and core values align with your own values.
11. What are the company culture expectations?
This question is different from the previous one, because you are asking specifically about what the company expects from employees as a contribution to the organization’s culture. “Expectations are key to any job success and that includes what is done outside of the working hours,” Fricchione says. “Not all company culture is based on happy hours after work. Some companies expect employees to engage in volunteer activities, committees, or mentorship programs. While all these might be exactly what you're looking for in a company, be certain you ask what a week might look like for an employee, including after work hours.”
12. What are some of the challenges that may come up in this role?
A question like this will show that you are already visualizing yourself in the role and thinking through how to handle any future roadblocks—it also suggests a level of determination and confidence in your ability to get the job done. Hague says it’s important to look for insight into any potential obstacles and how the company plans to address them, including how the company supports overcoming certain challenges, whether through funding, additional hiring, benefits, or other resources.
13. How did the role become available?
This is a common question many job candidates ask during an interview. “By asking this question, you'll get a better understanding of the company's structure and organization,” Hague says. “You may also learn about possible changes or shifts that the company is making in order to accommodate growth or certain initiatives.”
14. What do you like most about working here?
Asking an insider’s perspective on what it’s really like to work at the company is a gold mine. It will give you insight into what is most important to employees, and it shows that you care about the company’s culture. You can also tweak this question to ask the HR manager what about the company keeps them motivated to determine how the company’s organization compares to others in your industry.
15. What are the next steps in the interview process?
As your interview winds down, it’s important to get a clear picture of what the process looks like from this point on. “This can help give you a sense of when you should expect to hear back from the company, as well as what they might be looking for in a successful candidate,” Hague says. “By having this information handy, you'll be able to better prepare yourself to move forward or make your next steps as needed.”