Best Questions to Ask at Your Interview – and 3 you Definitely Shouldn’t

We have all been there. The interview seems to be going well and then here it comes – “so do you have any questions for me?” If you say nothing, it all goes a bit flat and an awkward silence sets in. If you say something negative, you could blow the whole thing and ruin what was otherwise a great interview.

The good news is that with a little bit of preparation, you will view this as an opportunity, not an obstacle, and put yourself ahead of your competition.

Despite this being such a common interviewer’s question, in reality, most people simply don’t prepare for it.

They don’t value its importance.

Remember, first impressions are powerful, but last impressions will linger.

To avoid a disappointingly weak ending at your next interview, take some time to do a bit of research.

How to prepare the right questions for your next interview

If you Google “Questions to Ask at an Interview” you will find lots of examples but, unfortunately, that is not the sort of preparation that truly puts you ahead of your competition.

Sure, it will help you avoid that embarrassing silence, but you will sound just like everyone else which will make you blend in and not stand out and above other candidates.

All research is not equal though.

Don’t just memorise a list of generic questions from the internet.  Learn about the company’s latest projects, recent awards, culture and history.

Don’t forget to scan their Careers Pages too to see what you can find.

If you can show that you are genuinely interested in working for them in particular, and not just because they have an opening, it will put you above your competition.

Another thing to consider when preparing your questions is to remember that interviews are a 2-way street.

When you are at your next interview, remember that you are actually interviewing them back to see if you really want to work for their company.

This is why you need to put some effort into preparing questions that you personally want answers to on the day.

You can ask about a typical day, the teams you will be working in or leading, opportunities for continuous personal development, or particular projects or ventures.

Examples of questions to ask at your next interview

Once you have completed your research, it’s time to put it in action.

Here is a list of some examples that our Career Coaching clients have recently used to secure new positions to give you an idea of what actually works.

I was really interested in this opportunity because of your (name) project and I wondered what other projects I might be involved with if I am successful?

I have heard that you are tendering for quite a bit of work at the moment. Which sectors are you concentrating on?”

I saw that you implemented (some initiative). How has that been adopted within the company?

 “In my last role my greatest achievements were seen as my ability to (x, y and z). What would I have to do to succeed in this role?”

What are the challenges that the predecessor faced in this role?”

What are you hoping to find from the next person to fill this role that was missing in the last?”

Now you have merged with (company name), how has that impacted the key priorities of the business for the next 5 years?

I see (project name) has been awarded (award name). What would you say made this possible?”

I read that there was a major obstacle you successfully overcame with (name reason – this one was suppliers) last year. Going forwards, what would you say would be the major challenges I would face on a day to day basis with this role?

Questions such as these to open a discussion where you can contribute with how you can provide what they want

The best number of questions to ask at your next interview

So now you know what to ask, how many should you prepare for?

This will depend on the skills of the interviewer and the type of position you are applying for.

Three or four solid, well-researched questions will always be better than ten weak ones. 

Don’t bombard the interviewer with loads of questions in the hope it will impress them. They will just be irritated, and you will come across as desperate and pushy.

But what if the interviewer has already covered all your questions?

Make sure you have your questions with you in a notebook or printed out on a sheet so that they can see you have taken the interview seriously.

In an interview situation you may forget them so this will act as a prompt for you.

And if they truly have answered all your prepared questions, you can thank them for being so thorough and gesture to your list when you tell them that they have covered all the questions you had prepared.

That is much better than just saying “no, I don’t have any” plus it has the added benefit of flattering them for being an accomplished professional.

The three questions you should never ask at an interview

Aside from questions relating to the obvious areas of ‘sex, religion and politics’ these are the most important questions not to ask at your next interview.

“What does your company do” or a similar type of question

There really is no excuse these days for not knowing. All the information you need is at your fingertips. And in case you were thinking of using it, never say you have been “too busy.” Everyone is busy and it just shows that you didn’t care enough.

“Is there any reason why I might not get this job?” or similar

Yes, I know you want to ask this but resist the temptation.

I also know that a lot of advisors will encourage you to be bold and do this but, speaking as a recruiter and career coach, you don’t want to be put your interviewer on the spot. You are going to come across as confrontational and manipulative.

The better thing to do is to say at the end of the interview, when you are shaking their hand, “thank you for your time. I have really enjoyed this interview and I just want to say how excited I am by this opportunity and that I really hope to hear from you again soon”

And finally … the biggest mistake of all. “What is the salary” or similar.

 Never ask about the salary at your interview.

Here are 3 reasons why…

You need to get them to want you first

Concentrate on what you can offer them, why you are better than your competition and how you will fit seamlessly into their organisation.

You might aim too low

If you go too low, the interviewer may sense your lack of self-worth and see this as a cause for concern.

If you ask about the salary they will ask what you want, and you might crack under the pressure and sell yourself short in the process because you lack the confidence to say what you want.

And what if you put yourself in the uncomfortable situation of receiving a low offer that you can’t accept because, in reality, you need more?

You might go too high

If you set a figure that is too high and out of their budgeted range, then there is little point in continuing the interview.

They won’t stop there and then – but mentally they will have.

Good luck with that next interview and, if you would like more interview and job search advice, check out our Career Advice blog.

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Amanda Datchens

About the Author

Amanda Datchens

A career coach, headhunter, and entrepreneur, Amanda has founded and been involved in developing multiple companies known for innovative HR and recruitment solutions. Originally from London but now in Queensland, Australia, she is the co-founder of the Hi Vis Hub & Hi Vis Jobs.

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