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Questions to Ask an Interviewer That Make You Sound Like a Genius

We know you’re brilliant—now make sure they know it, too

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza
Content Strategist

Woman in a job interview

At some point in every interview, your interviewer will ask you this question: Do you have any questions for me?

The answer should always be yes. In every interview you have and at every part of the interview process, you should ask questions—so that you can better understand the position and the company and whether it’s a right fit for you, and so that you can demonstrate your interest in the position and show them you’re a stellar candidate.

Questions to ask in a phone interview

Typically, the first step in the hiring process is taking a phone interview with either a recruiter or with the hiring manager. Larger companies will typically have recruiters, smaller companies may have you talk directly to the manager. 

Questions at the phone interview stage are typically higher level, asking about the role in general and company culture. 

But note: There’s no hard-and-fast rules for when any of these questions can be asked—use your best judgement.

Read more: How to Send a Thank-You Note After a Phone Interview (Tips & Examples)

What do you like about working for this company?

You can ask this question whether your interviewer is a recruiter or hiring manager. Ask what they like about the company—this can speak volumes about the organization. They might struggle to find an answer or their answer may sound rehearsed. Or, they may say exactly what you’re hoping to hear, like, I love the people I work with. They make coming to work so easy.

Ask for examples—this will give more color to their answer. 

What kind of person tends to succeed at your company? What kind of person tends to struggle?

Not only will this show the interviewer that you want to know what it takes to succeed in the job, but this is also the kind of question that can help you suss out serious red flags, like a culture of overwork, micromanagement problems, or an environment that rewards only yes-men.

Don’t necessarily count on an interviewer to be totally transparent with you, but hear them out. They may tell you that people who understand teamwork succeed and those who want all the credit for good work struggle. That can tell you a lot about the company culture. 

The first answer your interviewer gives may be vague or unsatisfying, so press them to explain further and give specific examples.

Tell me more about X part of the job description. It really caught my attention. 

This is an opportunity for you to clarify points in the job description and to show them you’re really paying attention and very interested in the job. 

Tell me about the hiring manager.

This is a question for a recruiter (or you might also ask this if you have the chance to meet potential coworkers later on). Ask them to tell you about the hiring manager’s personality and leadership style. How long have they been with the company? What do you like about working with them? 

Read more: How to Nail a Phone Interview

Questions to ask in an in-person interview

If you passed the phone interview, it’s time for them to meet you. If you’ve landed an in-person interview, you’ll likely meet the hiring manager, perhaps their boss, and a few potential coworkers. Here are some questions to ask in an interview at this point in the hiring process.

Is this a new position? If so, why has it been created now? If not, why did the last person leave?

With this question, you’re aiming to get a sense of where the company is headed. Maybe the role was created because the organization received a new grant, raised a new round of funding, landed a large client, or is building a brand new product. 

You can also learn a lot about the company by understanding why the last person to take this role left. Perhaps they made a move within the company, moved cities, changed careers, or were even let go. 

What will be the day-to-day duties of this role? 

You might even ask them to draw a pie chart and break down the role by time spent on tasks. If you’re a software engineer and want to be hands on with the code, but they expect you to spend 60 percent of your time managing a team, this is something you want to know. This is also a way to understand the most important skills for the role and whether the job fits your expectations.

How will you work with this new hire?

Ask this question of a manager to understand how hands-on they will be, ask it of someone even higher up to understand how the chain of command works, and ask it of a potential coworker to understand day-to-day operations of the business. 

The person you hire for this role—where do you expect they will be in one year? Five years?

Ask this question if you want to get a sense of your growth opportunities within the company. If they do say that this hire could expand their role, take on more responsibilities, or manage a team, ask for an example of someone in the organization who has done that. 

Read more: 7 Ways You Should Never Answer, “Why Should We Hire You?”

Where do you expect the business to be in one year? Five years?

Perhaps you learn that the company is about to grow, and you’re really more interested in startup-sized organizations. Or maybe they want to expand and you want to be able to climb the ladder in something big. 

What are your company’s core values? How does your company embody these?

Companies love their three-pronged mission statements. They’re usually something like, curiosity, integrity, persistence. These can help you get a sense of what the company values in its work and its employees. 

Ask how they walk the walk by pressing for examples of how the company embodies, encourages, and rewards these among its workforce. 

What’s a common complaint you get from employees?

Just to be sure, you may not get a straightforward answer here. Most employers don’t want to admit that they hear employees aren’t satisfied with pay or are overworked, but they might say something like: Some employees don’t like the number of hours required to work here. We like to be honest with people going in: People here work a lot. 

What’s something this company is good at that its competitors are not? Where does the company need to improve?

The answer to this question can tell you how self-aware the company is. A red-flag answer is something like, We beat our competitors at every move! There’s nothing we aren’t good at. No one is that good, and even if they are, with that attitude, they won’t be on top for long. 

What opportunities for growth does your company offer?

Ask this question in an interview if you hope to grow and climb in your next role. Ask about mentorship or training programs, whether they train people for management roles, and how they ensure all employees have an equal shot at raises and promotions.

What measures do you take to ensure your employees feel valued? What measures do you take to ensure employees are treated equally?

Don’t let them give you a vague answer here. Ask for examples, ask about protocols.

Do you feel like you’re valued here? Do you feel like you’re treated equally?

If you get the chance to talk to potential coworkers, ask them about ways the company treats them, values their work. Press them for examples and anecdotes. 

You could also ask questions like:

  • How do you address the gender pay gap? 

  • How many mothers and fathers take parental leave? How long do they usually take? How do you make sure this is possible for people at all levels of your organization?

How do you take care of your employees’ mental health / work-life balance?

Ask about the company’s paid time off policy and how that’s administered. Do you require employees to take a certain amount of time away from work? What about flex time

What do you like about working for this company?

This is a question worth asking of everyone you meet in an interview process. Get different points of view and takes on what it’s like to work there. 

Do you offer benefits like working remotely? Flexible work hours? Gym memberships?

This is a question best asked of a recruiter or HR rep. They can tell you more about the company’s benefits package and other perks. You can leave this question for later in the process unless there’s a benefit, like the ability to telecommute, that’s a dealbreaker for you.

Questions to ask late in the interview process

Once they’ve moved you into the later stages of the interview process, you should make sure that all of your questions are answered and that all of your concerns are addressed. Oh, and money...when can you talk about money?

When to have the money talk 

There are so many theories on when to bring up pay in a conversation. In fact, we recently polled our office on whether they would bring it up early or late in the interview process, and we were split right down the middle, 50/50.

I can’t prescribe a specific moment, but here are a few thoughts:

  • Some say they would bring up compensation early to ensure that the company can meet at least their minimum salary requirement. If they can’t, then no one wastes their time interviewing. 

  • Others say that you should wait until you feel confident you’ll get an offer. Wait ‘til they’re hooked so you have plenty of leverage when it comes to negotiating your salary.

Read more: How to Negotiate Your Salary (For Career Newbies & Industry Vets)

You should know that XYZ is a dealbreaker for me.

Much like the money conversation, there are different theories on when to bring up factors that are a dealbreaker for you, like the need to work around your kids’ school schedule, the ability to work remotely, or to flex your schedule.

Read more: How to Negotiate Flexible Work Hours

I want to clarify XYZ.

If something is not clear to you—part of the job description, how paid time off is handled and administered, something mentioned by the hiring manager or recruiter, whether you would be able to work remotely—this is your moment.

Take your time to ensure all of your questions are answered in full. Remember, you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you.

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