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7 job interview questions you should ask

Questions to ask the interviewer

It’s a common situation: The job interview is wrapping up, and you’re confident you’ve done well. But then the hiring manager says, “Do you have any questions for me?”

Responding with a polite “no” isn’t going to cut it. Your time to ask questions likely will be limited, so you need to be prepared. Here, two experienced career coaches suggest seven questions that will help show hiring managers why you’re the candidate they want:

What do you like most about working here?

Put this question at the top of your list, says Virginia Green, PhD, area chair of strategic analysis and planning for the University of Phoenix® School of Business, and an instructor in the MBA program.

“After you’ve thanked the interviewers for their time, say you’d love to know what has made them stay with the company as long as they have,” Green advises. “This can help reveal the most positive aspects of a company and its work environment, and can also clue you in on whether you’re a good fit for their culture.”

Try to get interviewers to share two or three specific aspects of the company they especially like, she encourages.

What’s the most challenging part of this job?

The answer to this open-ended question can reveal whether you’re up to the demands of a certain position — and whether its toughest components will appeal to you or send you looking for other opportunities, says Kathryn Scahill, MA, a nationally certified career counselor and associate director of career coaching for Phoenix Career Services™.

“Say you’re looking for a position with good work-life balance,” Scahill suggests. “If the hiring manager says a challenging aspect of the job involves working a lot of overtime or on weekends, it could clue you in that this position might not be a good fit for you.” She adds that it’s never acceptable to inquire about work hours because a potential employer could infer that you lack a strong work ethic.

The interviewer’s responses also can provide insight into how the business is positioned in the marketplace, Scahill notes, which could affect how well you’ll be able to do the job.

“Let’s say you were interviewing at a marketing company that did a lot of work in print media — a shrinking industry,” she says. “You could say, ‘Given the current environment for print media, where do you see your growth areas?’”

Why are you hiring for this position?

“With this question, you can find out if it’s a new position being added because the company is growing or if it’s open because the previous person got promoted. Both demonstrate you could have a bright future with the employer,” Scahill points out.

“Or if they just say someone left for personal reasons, that gives you something to think about,” she notes, like whether the company might have trouble keeping employees. In that case, she suggests talking to anyone you know at the company or checking out sites like Glassdoor for more information.

What’s the long-term career path for someone in this job?

Scahill says it’s “really important” to find out the answer to this question, especially if you want to stay with a company for a long time. “If your predecessor had the same job title for 15 years, then that’s not a sign you’d have a lot of room for growth,” she points out.

This inquiry can show the employer that you’re committed to planning your career and that you think strategically, she says. After hearing the answer, if you’re still interested in the job, Scahill advises making your sentiments clear.

What’s the most important thing to know about working here?

Asking this question can serve as a relationship builder with hiring managers and can provide you with a more intimate understanding of a company’s culture and day-to-day operations, according to Green.

“You’re giving the interviewers the opportunity to talk about themselves and their own experience — which most people like to do,” she points out. “And the interviewer is the expert who can tell you the most about what a company is really like to work for.”

How will my work be evaluated?

To do a job well, you need to know up front the standards you’ll be expected to meet, as well as how often they’ll be measured, Scahill stresses. “Ask about the company’s performance-measurement policy — whether you’ll be evaluated quarterly, annually, monthly,” she says.

Find out the top priorities for the position, including what milestones the hiring manager would like to see reached in the next six months to a year. You may also want to ask about the company’s objectives and how you’ll know if you’re helping to meet them.

When can I expect to hear back from you?

While inquiring in an interview about salary, benefits or when the employer expects to make a hiring decision is still taboo at many companies, you can ask the more general question about when you might be contacted regarding next steps in the hiring process, Green says.

“That’s a fair question to ask, because you have a life, too,” she notes, cautioning that you be patient and not make follow-up calls if you haven’t heard anything in the time frame the interviewer gave you. If the company wants you back for a second interview or to offer you a job, you can be sure you’ll be contacted.