Answering questions doesn’t cut it anymore. While job seekers focus on knowing all the right answers and impressing their interviewers, knowing which questions to ask can tell employers much more about you than any answer you might have. We spoke with a number of career coaches, headhunters and hiring managers who couldn’t stress this enough. What will stick with them is that you asked the right questions, paid close attention to the answers and really fathomed what their organization is all about.Here’s a list we gathered of the best questions you can ask, how to ask them and the right time to do it.
1. What sort of candidate are they looking for?
It’s very important to ask questions near the beginning of the interview. Why? “The key to a good interview is understanding what an employer needs, so you know what it is you have to sell.” A good questions can be: “What is the most important thing that you need someone in this position to complete in the first 30-90 days at the company?”
2. Get specific: You want to ask questions as “a doctor or analyst might do while conducting a thorough exam”
You’ll want to hear where this organization has been, where they are today and what type of goals they’d like to achieve. “What’s the history of this particular role? How did they come to define it as such? How will they recognize top performance and by what method will they calibrate results?”
3. “If I started this afternoon, what would I be working on?”
You should have a 3×5 card with the three things you most want to tell them about yourself, and the three questions you have for them, says career coach Win Sheffield. Good questions would be: “If I started this afternoon, what would I be working on?” or “How would I be spending most of my day?”
4. Don’t ask: “Where might I end up in three years?”
Stay away from questions on your growth opportunities in the company, says Neil. This will make your interviewer question your intentions.
5. DO NOT ask about benefits or vacation time
“It’s kind of weird when someone gets into the nitty-gritty of the benefits,” says Alison Green, from Ask A Manager. “I’ve had people ask me who the health care provider is, if we have dental plans, how many vacation days we offer.” Sheffield agrees: “Nothing about payment, or any kind of question that is self-indulgent.” Once you’re offered the job, that’s when discussion about payment starts.
6. And whatever you do, don’t ask these two questions
A – “Do you drug test?”
B – “When can I go home?”
7. At the end of the interview, you can finally ask: “I’m wondering where you are in your hiring process?”
Win says the questions you ask at the end of an interview are also equally important, but they all depend on your interviewer’s reaction. This question allows you to know when to follow-up with your interviewer.
8. Then ask: “I’m very interested in this job, I’m wondering where I stand compared to your ideal candidate?”
This is a great question, Win says, because depending on what they say, you will know what to write in your follow-up message. In a second or third interview, or if you’ve developed a friendly relationship with your interviewer, you can reword the question to: “How do I stand against the people you have interviewed?” Like the question before it, their answer can give you clues as to what to write in a thank you note, or how to answer other questions better.
9. After you ask your questions, be sure to listen to your interviewer’s answers — and judge their reaction
“Listen to how they self-diagnose while you make your own private diagnosis. Consider whether your assessment matches theirs,” says Jaffe. “Never mind whether you’re the right person for this role. You can think about that later, in the car on the way home.”
10. Express concerns you have about the company (within reason)
“Hiring managers honestly want to flush out any questions you might have about the company,” says Green. “One of our worst nightmares is having someone take a job and three months after realize that they’re miserable and have to start all over again.”
11. Your enthusiasm for the job should come across in your answers
Goldman Sachs’ head of human resources once said that the most important thing someone can show her in an interview is enthusiasm for the job, according to Sheffield. “If you’re not asking questions about a job you’re interested in, then I wonder why you’re interviewing for it in the first place,” he says.
12. The worst thing you can do is wait until the end of the interview to ask your questions
In-person interviews allow you to judge someone’s reaction. Phone interviews, on the other hand, tend to be more structured, Green says, so it’s fine to wait until the end to ask questions.