Questions to Ask

Remember that an interview is a two-way conversation. For you, the interview has two purposes: one, to sell yourself, and two, to evaluate the position. After asking questions, the interviewer usually invites you to ask questions. By asking informed questions, such as the following, you not only gain knowledge about the potential employer, but you also make a good impression. Select the questions that are appropriate to the situation and your comfort level:

  • What qualifications are you looking for in the person who fills this job?
  • What would you expect me to accomplish in this job?
  • What responsibilities have the highest priority?
  • How might these responsibilities and priorities change?
  • Does the company plan to expand?
  • What are the significant trends in the industry?
  • Are any acquisitions, divestitures, or significant changes on the horizon?
  • What is his or her character and how does this influence the organization?
  • How does the organization rank within its field?
  • What is the reputation of the department to which I am applying?
  • What are the greatest problems of this department and company?
  • What are the greatest strengths of this department and company?
  • How much time should be devoted to each area of responsibility?
  • What are the initial projects for which I would be responsible?
  • What are some examples of the achievements of others who have been in this position?
  • How much travel is involved?
  • Why isn't this job being filled from within?
  • What is the history of this position?
  • How many people have held this job in the last five years? Where are they now?
  • How soon do you expect to make a decision?
  • What are the next steps?

When the position involves management of other employees, these questions may be appropriate

  • How much authority will I have in running the department?
  • Are there any difficult personalities on the staff?
  • What will be the greatest challenge in the job?
  • Who would I supervise?
  • What are those employees' backgrounds?
  • How do you feel about their performance?
  • How does their pay compare with what they could get elsewhere?
  • What is the philosophy of the management team?
  • May I see an organizational chart?
  • To whom would I report?
  • What is your management style?
  • What are the company's strengths and weaknesses?
  • What should be the relationship between superior and subordinate?

Finally, you may want to discuss issues of compensation, but generally these questions are best left to the time of offer. Following are some suggestions for questions pertaining to salary and benefits packages:

  • What are the benefits and perks?
  • What is the salary range?
  • What is my earning potential in 1, 3, 5, and 10 years?

If commissions are involved, ask about the median salary of a person holding a position comparable to that which you are seeking.

Questions to Expect

Following are sample questions frequently asked during interviews. We would suggest that you consider them and mentally prepare "positive" response to each. To get to know you, the interviewer may first pose some general questions, such as:

  • If you could have your choice of any job, what would it be and why?
  • Why do you want to go into this field?
  • What are your short- and long-range goals and how do you expect to achieve them?
  • What does success mean to you? How do you measure it?
  • What motivates you?
  • Do you plan to further your education? If so, to what extent?
  • What have you done to improve yourself during the past year?
  • If you could relive the last 15 years, what changes would you make?
  • Tell me about your greatest achievement and greatest disappointment?
  • What are some of your weaknesses?
  • Tell me about the best and worst bosses you've ever had.
  • What constructive criticism have you received from employers?
  • Everybody has pet peeves. What are yours?
  • What else do you think I should know about you?

The interviewer will also want to learn about your experience and your reasons for seeking a new position and may ask the following questions:

  • When did you leave your last job and why?
  • How long have you been out of work?
  • What have you been doing since you left your last job?
  • What did you like most and least about your last job?
  • At your last job, how much of the work did you perform independently?
  • At your last job, how much was performed by a team?
  • Do you prefer working independently or as part of a team?
  • What are some of the problems you have encountered in your past jobs? How did you solve those problems?
  • Have you ever offered suggestions to management? How did management respond?
  • What prevented you from advancing in your former positions?

To learn about your plans for the future and your motivation for applying for the job, the interviewer may ask the following questions:

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What could you contribute to our facility?
  • If you feel you have any weaknesses with regard to this job, what would they be?
  • What do you expect to experience in this job that you did not experience in your past jobs?
  • Assuming we make you an offer, what do you see as your future here?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • How do you feel about evening work? Weekend work?
  • Are you considering other positions at this time?
  • How does this job compare with them?
  • What is your leadership style?
  • How do you feel about relocating?

Sometimes the interviewer will ask vague questions that, if unexpected, may be difficult to answer. Be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Are you switching careers?
  • You don't have the necessary experience or background for this position.
  • Why do you believe that you could handle this position?
  • Since you are overqualified for this position, what do you hope to gain from it?

Eventually, money will become an issue. Among the questions that may arise pertaining to compensation are the following:

  • What are your financial needs?
  • What is the minimum salary you will accept?
  • What is your salary history?