Interviewing is a two-way street. It is appropriate to ask whether or not the job and organization fit you. In general, questions relating to job duties, responsibilities, opportunities for training, and employee advancement within the company are appropriate. Avoid asking self-centered questions—those dealing with salary and benefits should be avoided during the first interview. The questions you ask do as much to differentiate you from the competition as the ones you answer.
- What are the major responsibilities of this position?
- Is there a job description? May I see it?
- Can you tell me why this position is open?
- How often has it been filled in the past 5 to 10 years?
- What did you like most about the person who previously held this position?
- What would you like to see the person who fills this position do differently?
- What qualifications would you expect the successful candidate to possess?
- What do you see as my strengths/weaknesses for this position?
- What are the greatest challenges facing the person in this position?
- What kind of support does this position receive in terms of people and finances?
- How much freedom would I have to determine my work objectives and deadlines?
- How would my performance be measured and how is successful performance usually rewarded?
- How would you describe your management style?
- Can you describe your organizational culture?
- Do you have a lot of turnover? Why or why not?
- Why are you looking at external candidates for this position, instead of promoting from within?
- Would it be possible to meet the people who work in the department?
- Do you encourage participation in community or professional activities?
- Do you have a management development or internal training program?
- What are the company’s plans for growth in the next five years?
- How does the company intend to remain competitive?
- How do you encourage professional growth?
- Don’t ask specifically about tuition reimbursement; save discussion of employee benefits for salary negotiations.
- How long has this position existed in your organization?
- Does the company foresee any growth for this department?
- Is your company environment formal or informal?
- What are some of the most difficult problems I’d face in this position?
- Can you estimate the amount of travel required?
“Your questions must be asked in a spirit of honest and open inquiry. Tone of voice matters. Employers have weak spots, too. The interview is not the time to step on toes, so be careful how you ask your questions. It is suggested that you write down your list of questions on an index card and carry it in your suit pocket, attaché case, or purse. If you can remember all of your questions without referring to your card that is excellent. However, given the stress of the situation, you may find it difficult to recall the questions you wished to ask. If that happens, mention to the interviewer that you have some questions you want to be sure you don’t forget to ask and then refer to your index card.”
Interviewing, The Wall Street Journal, National Business Employment Weekly, 1999