Ace Your Interview: Top 10 Questions to Ask to Learn More, Impress Your Interviewer, and Make the Best Decision for Your Career!

Looking for a new role or challenge? Want to impress your interviewer? Interested in what makes a great work environment? Interviewing someone? Sharing my top 10 questions to ask during an interview for insights on all the above. I’ve interviewed a couple of thousand people over my career and found the quality of the questions asked of me during an interview often told me more about the candidate than anything else.

This pandemic has brought on the worst joblessness period post World War II.  If you’re looking for a new role or considering a career change in this rapidly changing environment, these top 10 questions to ask and why they’re effective will help you make the right impression and make the best decision for your career.  I also included a bonus question just for these times.  

1.     Why is the role/position open?

  • Why it’s effective? The value of this question is it tells you if this is a newly created position or if there’s been churn in the role.  If it’s not newly created a follow up would be why it’s open and why others in the role haven’t succeeded.  If it is new, ask why it was created and how committed management is to this new strategy/business segment.  Either way you will learn if there’s stability in the role.  

2.     What level of responsibility will I have?

  • Why it’s effective?  This is a great question to communicate your desire to have an impact and willingness to take on responsibility.  It’s also a great question to understand how much autonomy you’ll have in the role which is a critical factor for high performance teams and individuals.  You’re looking for a response that encourages you to take on added responsibility.  Shy away from places that don’t welcome this question or have keep your head down and do as your told mentality.  

3.     What is your long term vision for the company?

  • Why it’s effective?  This question helps you understand the higher purpose for the organization.  This is important for two reasons:  First, you want to know if the company you’re dedicating your life to has a future and if that’s a future you want to contribute to.  Second, research shows that purpose is one of the biggest drivers of career and life satisfaction.  If you’re sold on the vision of the company you’re more likely to find meaning in your work and life.  

4.     What does success look like for this role in the first 3 to 6 months?

  • Why it’s effective:  This question helps to ensure you’re on the same page with the hiring manager and the organization and uncover any disconnects in the hiring process.  It helps to establish a path for success should you take the role with a clear understanding of expectations.  It also communicates that you want to hit the ground running and contribute immediately something your employer will surely appreciate. 

5.     How would you describe the culture of the company?

  • Why it’s effective:  This question is effective for two reasons:  First it communicates that culture is important to you.  We spend more time working than doing anything else and you want to be in a positive culture that brings you meaning and happiness.  Second, it gives you a way to assess the emphasis the company puts on culture and what it values.  That should help you determine if the company is a good fit for you.

6.     What type of people have been successful here? Why?

  • Why it’s effective: This is another way to ask the culture question.  By having the company describe what success looks like on the inside you’ll get a great perspective on what the culture is vis a vis what values they value.  This is also a better question in the sense that you are likely to get a more candid response. It triggers people to recollect instead of invent and their response are likely to reflect both who they’ve seen succeed and why they’ve succeeded.  

7.     How does this role contribute to the growth and success of the business?

  • Why it’s effective:  It communicates that you are looking to have an impact while also ensuring that the role is of value to the organization and not extraneous.  This latter point is crucial for career growth by ensuring you’re doing meaningful work as well as stability as extraneous roles can be easily eliminated.  It also hits on some of the themes described above helping you understand how your work contributes to the mission providing you purpose and meaning.  

8.     Can I meet more team members?

  • Why it’s effective:  Going back to that culture point, there’s no better way to assess culture than to meet as many people as possible.  It’s a bit like getting married.  Sure you’re marrying your hiring manager but as they say you’re also marrying the whole family.  So the more family members you can get to know during the hiring process, the more comfortable (or not!) you might be with the union.  

9.     What does career progression look like here?

  • Why it’s effective:  One of the biggest reasons people leave companies is lack of advancement.  By understanding upfront how career progression happens and what factors play into it you’ll have a sense of whether this is the right place for you.  This question also communicates that you care about career progression and the reaction from the company will signal whether they have the plans, growth, and culture to support your potential for advancement.  It’s important on your part to communicate that this isn’t an expectation and come across entitled.  Instead communicating that you hope to work hard and contribute and want to know if you do your part there will be corresponding opportunities.  

10.  What resources/budget will I have? 

  • Why it’s effective:  If you’re going to bring your energy and talent to a team, you want to make sure you’ll have the resources to succeed.  If there is equipment, resources, or access required for you to be successful it’s important to understand what will be available and if you can work within any limitations. Once you sign up you own it, so getting this information upfront will help you make the best decision you can.  It also communicates you’re sophisticated and realistic enough to understand the impact of resources to your and the company’s success. 

11.  Bonus: Is flexibility available in this role?

  • Why it’s effective:  We’re clearly living in unprecedented times and employers are increasingly offering flexibility to their workforce.  That flexibility is wide ranging and so it’s more important perhaps than ever to understand the norms and what’s expected from your potential employer.  In normal times, you would also want to understand what level of flexibility they offer.  Do they allow work from home typically or is it only pandemic related? What if you had to drop off or pick up a child, have a Dr.’s appointment, etc. How do they view or handle that?  Having clarity on expectations will again help you determine if this is the right place for you.  

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