It’s almost guaranteed that in every interview you attend you will be asked whether you have any questions for the interviewer. This generally comes at the end of the interview – when you might assume you’ve already won or lost the job, and either way are ready to get out of there.
However, your questions to the interviewer can definitely have an impact on your chances of getting the job. Asking intelligent and relevant questions helps you come across as eager and engaged, while a poor choice of question – or worse, asking nothing at all – at best loses you a chance to shine, and at worst makes you look indifferent or objectionable.
And equally important is the fact that this is your chance to find out more about the company and the role, and decide whether it really it the right place for you. The Head of HR at Goldman Sachs, Edith Cooper, suggests that candidates should see an interview as a two-way conversation, where both parties need to evaluate the other. Cooper recommends asking questions that lead to a discussion, rather than just an answer.
Trying to come up with questions on the spot might leave you floundering, so it’s best to prepare 4 or 5 questions beforehand. Two is a good amount to ask, but some may be answered in the course of the interview, and you don’t want to be caught out! Here are 5 of our suggestions to inspire you – and 3 questions to avoid at all costs.
Can you tell me about the company culture?
Hopefully when researching the company before the interview, you’ll be able to get a sense of the working environment and company culture, but asking your interviewer this question gives you a chance to hear about it straight from the horse’s mouth. You’ll be able to judge whether you’ll enjoy working there – and you’ll show the interviewer that you understand how important fitting into the culture is.
Alternatively, you could ask about whether the company lives up to its core values. Maintain a respectful tone: if you’ve read up on the values, you could ask the interviewer how a particular ethos is put into action in the workplace. This lets you show off your knowledge about the company, while at the same time proving that you want to get to grips with the reality of working there.
How do you evaluate success in this role?
There are plenty of variants on this question. You could ask how someone in this role can ensure that they get good feedback, how you could impress in the first month in the role, or what qualities successful past employees have shared?
Asking about what success looks like at the company shows the interviewer that you’re invested in the role and keen to do it well. And by showing an interest in how you’d be evaluated, you’ll suggest to them that you’re an employee who would take on board feedback and adapt accordingly.
Can you tell me more about the team I’d be a part of?
This question gives you a chance to find out more about the people you would be working with, and how the position fits into the company as a whole. You’ll gain a better understanding of the hierarchy within the team and beyond. Not only will this inform you about the internal structure of the company, but you’ll also highlight the fact that you’re a team player.
You might also wish to expand on the point, and ask the interviewer about a recent challenge the team faced or project they worked on. This will give you a stronger sense of the team dynamic, the work you would be doing, and how you would fit in.
What’s one of the most interesting projects or opportunities you’ve worked on?
This question comes approved by a woman who interviewed over 100 candidates at Goldman Sachs; Becca Brown cited it as the most impressive question she was asked during her time hiring at the company. It’s a way to get the interviewer reflecting on their own experiences, and make the interview feel like more of a two-way street. You’ll also get to hear about a specific example of the kind of work the company does, and about why it interested the interviewer.
Asking the interviewer about their own views and experiences is a great way to build a rapport with them, and to get insight into life at the company. You could also ask them what they like most about working for the business, or how they came to work there.
Do you have any reservations about my qualifications?
Asking this question takes courage, which will hopefully impress the interviewer in itself. However, the main benefit of asking it is that it will give you a chance to address any concerns the interviewer might have about you. You’ll be able to defend your weaknesses, and have a final go at showing them how right you are for the position.
You don’t want to put the interviewer in an awkward position by demanding feedback and asking how you did, but this question offers you a way to gauge how the interview has gone and where you stand.
How soon could I be considered for a promotion / a raise?
Looking to the future when considering a position isn’t a bad idea, but in an interview it’s important to show that you actually want the job, not just a convenient stepping-stone to better things. Instead, you could ask whether the company offers good opportunities for further training and progression, or if there is a clear career path for an employee starting in that role. And asking about how soon you can get a raise will cast you in a bad light, making you appear driven by money rather than enthusiasm for the role.
Who are your competitors?
Don’t ask any questions the answers to which you could easily find out by doing a little research. Basic questions about the company or it’s competitors will make you look sloppy or indifferent – certainly not the impression you want to leave at the end of the interview.
How much will I earn?
Asking for salary details in the first interview is unlikely to go down well. Save any enquiries about this for when you’re approaching the end of the hiring process, or when the company is about to make you an offer. The same is true for any questions about company benefits, holiday leave, flexible working, and so on. These factors might well influence your decision, but asking about them too early on gives an impression of greed or laziness.
About the Author: Claire Kilroy is a content writer for the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency, Inspiring Interns. Head to their blog for graduate careers advice, or check out their website if you’re on the hunt for an internship, or for graduate jobs in London and beyond.
Back to Candidate blogs