What to Ask in an Interview

The Latin word for interview means “to see about one another.” Unfortunately, many who go into interviews are only concerned about the company seeing about them. I often tell clients that the interview is a two-way conversation. Yes, the organization wants to lean more about what you have to bring to them. But don’t forget it is also your opportunity to learn more about the organization where you will be spending a significant portion of your time.

Having questions for the organization show that you are truly interested in the organization and took time to complete research to learn more. Many employers have told me when a candidate fails to ask questions, they will not be considered a serious candidate. Why? Because it tells the employer the candidate is simply seeking a job and that they are not truly interested in their organization.

So what should you ask in an interview? It depends on how much you already know about the company. The easy answer is to not ask about anything that can easily be answered from spending 15 minutes on their website or perusing their other promotional materials. This implies that you will need to do some of your own research on the organization. Consider the following sources of information:

  • Organization’s Website What is the organization’s mission? Their values and goals? If it is a public company, they likely have a recent annual report on their site. take a look at their pictures to get a sense of the organization’s culture.
  • Trade & Business Journals The company likely sends press releases to local business journals (try American City Business Journals) and industry specific magazines to promote their new products, highlight services, and generally showcase their organization. You can usually find some great recent information through these sources.
  • People who work there There is no greater source of information that people who already work for an organization. Take them to coffee or lunch and pick their brain about why they enjoy working for the organization, what the company is currently working on, and any issues they see. You will find that many people love to talk about their work. If you don’t already know anyone who works for the organization, use LinkedInto find second (mutual connections) or third (friends of friends) level connections

Once you have done some research on the organization, your questions should come quickly. You can ask your interviewer to:

  • expand on a new goal you found in the annual report
  • clarify how a stated organization value is lived out in the organization
  • explain progress on a recent acquisition or new product launch
  • describe the culture of the organization
  • share why they enjoy working at the organization

Because the interviewer will offer you the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview time, having great questions will leave a strong, lasting impression about you as a candidate. Without questions, it will also leave a strong, lasting impression–one of unpreparedness.

What are the best candidate questions you have asked or been asked?


7 Comments on “What to Ask in an Interview”

  1. skropp says:

    Great post Nick, thanks for breaking this down a bit! When I’ve interviewed in the past I know i should ask questions, but I’m never sure what to ask!! I’m learning more and more and this post definitely furthered that! Thank you!

  2. I’ve been shocked when I do all the research and follow all the steps you have described and the interviewer looks at me like I’m from a different planet. I know it works every single time and it has helped ME as a candidate to identify the organizations I do not want to work for! Great post!

    • Just as many people feel uneasy about being interviewed, there are very few interviewers that really know what they are doing! That should comfort those going into interviews!

  3. […] What to Ask in an Interview […]

  4. […] What to Ask in an Interview (christiannick.wordpress.com) Tags: BusinessEmploymentInterviewJob interviewJob SearchLinkedInOrganizationResearch […]

  5. […] What the Employer Needs Get specific and do some research on the organizationthat will be reading your materials. Read trade journals, talk with current employees, read their […]

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