Ask These 5 Questions at the Interview

Experts say these topics can help candidates make better career decisions … and impress recruiters.

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With nearly 11 million open roles in the country, there are a lot of job interviews happening right now. That adds up to candidates having to answer the old standbys—“Tell me a little about yourself,” “What are your strengths and weaknesses,” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?”—in ways that showcase how that person alone is best for the role.

But experts say that while those answers are important, the questions a candidate asks the interviewer are equally critical. After all, the job seeker needs to figure out whether the role is the right fit, too. “You are trying to assess if you’d be happy and excited working for them, just as much as they are trying to assess if you’d be a good fit on their team,” says Ryan Frechette, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.

Quizzing the recruiter or hiring manager is also a way to showcase a candidate’s intelligence, curiosity, ambition, enthusiasm for the role, and even core values. Those are all traits a candidate wants to get across in an interview. Experts say it’s also a good idea to actively listen during the meeting, then formulate some customized questions about the job, the boss, the team, and the culture. And, they add, at all costs, avoid asking questions whose answers can be easily found online.

Korn Ferry’s hiring experts suggest these five questions, for starters:

What are two things you’re looking for that would indicate someone is best for this role?

Posing this question helps a candidate determine the company’s priorities for the position. It is beneficial to learn the interviewer’s unique perspective of the role, whether that interviewer is a recruiter, the hiring manager, or a group of people, says Joshua Daniel, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. Additionally, it puts the candidate in a good position to highlight experience that touches on those priorities. “It’s a final element of persuasion on top of the information that you’ve already gathered,” says Daniel.

What does success look like in this role?

The candidate should know whether being a company rock star will be all about hitting specific performance targets or something less tangible such as navigating office politics. “It gives you a look into the organizational culture and what’s valued,” says Lemise Dajani, associate principal of leadership development at Korn Ferry.

Similarly, you can also ask about how decisions are made. That can help you determine whether the organization has a top-down management approach or empowers employees.

What do you enjoy most about working on this team?

Build some positive momentum by asking the interviewer to reflect on the enjoyable aspects of working at the company, says Frechette. Focusing on the team can provide you some details about the specific group of people you’d be working with. If the person conducting the interview is the direct manager, a candidate might also learn about the team’s strategic priorities and goals, says Dajani.

What business challenges and changes has this team dealt with recently?

This question can give the candidate a glimpse underneath the hood at the current state of business––whether it’s chaotic or smooth––says Frechette. It is beneficial to know where a company’s growth is coming from and its biggest problems, adds Mary Elizabeth Sadd, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry. Don’t ask this question cold, however. It doesn’t look good if the candidate asks “What are the industry’s challenges?” when those topics are routinely covered in newspapers and online. Sadd suggests researching the industry before the interview and asking how certain scenarios might play out at the company.

When can I expect to hear back about next steps?

Don’t forget to ask what the next steps are in the hiring process and, importantly, when those steps will occur. It will prompt the interviewer to identify a date when you might receive feedback, says Daniel. Follow up this question by asking if it’s OK to contact the company if that date passes and nothing happens.