Where do you see yourself in five years? What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? What interests you about this position? Heading into a job interview, it’s easy to anticipate the questions that the hiring manager will have. But don’t forget: This is a fact-finding mission for you, too. And asking the right questions can actually set you apart from other candidates by showing how seriously you are about finding the right fit. (And finding a job you love—not salary, not fancy wellness benefits—is key to being happy work.)
Thinking up questions when you’re in the hot seat can be tough, which is why many of us answer the “got any questions for us?” question with a long pause. Next time, you’ll be prepared, as millennial career coach Ashley Stahl shares five questions that every interviewee should ask.
Bookmark these questions for your next interview and you’ll be one step closer to your dream job.
1. What does the day-to-day of this position look like?
Don’t be afraid to get into the nitty-gritty of responsibilities, Stahl says. “If a job description has five bullet points listing responsibilities and the last one says ‘other,’ find out what ‘other’ means,” she says. “If you don’t, they kind of have a license to put whatever work they want onto the position.” And nothing stings quite as much as taking a new gig and realizing the “other” is actually grunt tasks that take up 70 percent of your day.
2. What does success look like in this position?
“Asking that cuts straight to the results, and it shows the interviewer that you’re not as interested in process as you are in results,” Stahl says. “That’s what they’ll be paying you for.” And if the hiring manager can’t really answer the question, well, it might signal that the company isn’t clear on what this role is about. Another good alternative that signals you care about results and want to know specifics: “If I could do an extraordinary job in this position, what are two or three things you’d like to see accomplished in the next six months?”
3. What’s the company culture like?
You’re always going to want more vacation days, and you’re always going to want more money. But asking outright about the perks of the place can be a major misstep in the interview, says Stahl. Most hiring managers love to crow about the company perks—from in-office yoga breaks to unlimited vacation to catered lunches and liberal work-from-home policies—if you tee up the question in the right way, however.
“Asking about company culture is a good way to get at perks and benefits without looking greedy,” says Stahl. If the interviewer answers mostly with generalities (say, everyone’s a team player or it’s a laid back office), it’s okay to press for more detail. Stahl suggests questions like: How do employees manage their workload? And: Do most employees utilize their vacation time? “It cuts straight to what’s valued at the brand, but it makes it a desire to know more about their people, rather than asking about specific time off,” she says.
4. Does the company have any programs in place to grow its talent?
This is a good way to get a sense about potential growth and future opportunities at the company—without sounding like you’re only interested in moving onward and upward. “There’s a fine line with these questions,” Stahl warns. “If you’re asking about where you could be in two years, it can quickly look like you’re not interested in the position at hand.” And talking about your timeline rather than the company’s needs is a quick way to turn off a potential employer. “Make it clear that you’re interested in growing your skillset to benefit the company,” Stahl says. “It’s less about ‘where can I go’ and more about ‘how will you nurture me to be increasingly better for this company.’”
Originally published on February 26, 2018. Updated on September 8, 2018.
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