Turning the Tables: What to ask during *your* interview

Sarah Schildmeier, Vaco Memphis

Sarah partners with accounting and administrative professionals in Memphis to help them take the next step in their career. If she’s not at home with her husband and their two doggies, she’s usually out at the soccer field or finding a sunny patio.

“So, do you have any questions for us?”

That question can be daunting during a job interview. If you’re not prepared to ask your interviewer questions, you may leave the impression that you are disinterested or indifferent about the employer and the position, thus risking your chance to land the job.

We’ve laid out some great questions to have on deck, as well as some pointers on how and why to ask them.

It’s about them, not you.

Your first interview is not the time to ask about benefits or pay. This is the opportunity to show your strategic thinking capabilities and general interest in the position for which you are interviewing.

It’s OK to write down your questions in advance to bring to the interview. Not only will it show you’re thoughtful and prepared, you’re less likely to forget something you had in mind.

Focus on questions relating to the company and the role:

  • “What is expected of the person in this role during the first six months?”
  • “What qualities have made previous employees successful in this role?”

Both questions show ambition, confidence and forward-thinking. You’ll appear ready to fill the shoes of the position and show you are motivated to execute your responsibilities successfully. 

Also, thoroughly research the company to gain a strong understanding of its everyday operations, such as the type of clientele it serves or its specific areas of expertise. Asking questions about your research shows you have a real interest in the company. For example:

  • “I read an article about your company recently expanding into X market. What challenges did you face during that process?”

Steer clear of asking anything regarding moving up within the company once you hypothetically accept the position, such as, “How long does it normally take for people to get promoted?” You might think you show interest in investing yourself to the company, but these types of questions could frame you as opportunistic and uninterested in the actual role.

Assess your chances.

Don’t be afraid to gauge your interviewer’s immediate thoughts:

  • “Is there anything that we’ve discussed today or that you’ve seen in my resume that you feel could hold me back from this position?”
    • This is a polite way of asking if you’ve met their qualifications and if you need to improve.
  • “How do I compare with other candidates you’ve interviewed for this role?”
    • It’s OK to ask how you stack up against your competition. This question is slightly more aggressive, so it’s best to read your interviewer before posing this question. If the interviewer is receptive to your questions, friendly beyond the “interview protocol” and seems impressed with your qualifications, then he or she may be less likely to push back on straightforward questions like this one.

Think ahead.

When you’re on the job hunt, it’s normal to have other potential employment opportunities. It’s important to get an idea of what things look like going forward with this employer. You will get a better sense of how proactive you should be in your job search and where the interviewer is in the hiring process.

It’s fair for you to know how long you might have to wait to hear back. Consider asking:

  • “Do you have a time frame for when you want someone in this position?”
  • “What are the next steps for the hiring process?”

Come back full circle.

  • “Was I able to answer all of your questions?”
    • This last question is a great way to ensure you have said all you wanted, and that the employer has the necessary information. Close the conversation so that nothing is left on the table, and that neither party walks out wishing they had asked one more thing. 

Asking questions as an interviewee is just as important as answering the employer’s questions. It displays professionalism and genuine interest. Also, while you’re the one being assessed, your questions are valuable in allowing you to size up the company to determine it’s also the right fit for you. Your preparation ensures your interviewer has all the information necessary to make a thoughtful consideration.


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