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What questions should I ask in a job interview?

Student Career Placement Consultant

Two women interview another woman in a high-rise offie building. (Photo via http://wocintechchat.com) It's important for you to realize that every interview is a two-way street. You should be interviewing the prospective employer every bit as much as they are interviewing you. They get to decide if they want to offer you a position, but you get to decide if this is the type of organization where you want to work.

My students often say that they don’t know what kinds of questions to ask, so you should think about and then plan that part of the interview ahead of time. It’s quite possible that you’ll learn the answers to some of your questions before you get to ask them, so it’s a good idea to have several ready.

Here are some things to think about as you prepare:

  • It’s okay to have the questions written out ahead of time.

  • This is not the time to ask about salary, benefits, or other perks — that can wait until you’re actually offered the job.

  • Learn as much as you can about the mission, values, culture, and work environment of the organization before the interview and ask questions about those aspects of the position when you’re in the interview.  For example, you might want to:

    • Reference the mission statement that you read on the company website and ask how that is enacted in everyday activities.

    • Ask what the interviewer thinks are some of the most important values within the company.

    • Ask what aspects of the company’s culture the interviewer enjoys the most.

    • Ask if work is done primarily in teams or independently.

    • Ask about the chain of command or hierarchy within the company.

    • Ask how long most employees stay with the company.

    • Ask if new employees customarily have an orientation session and/or are assigned a mentor in that organization.

  • If all else fails, you can ask the interviewer:

    • to describe a typical day for someone in this position

    • what he or she likes best about the job and/or working for this company

    • what a typical career path would look like for someone starting out in the position you are applying for.

  • As your final question, ask what the next steps are in the hiring process. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask when they plan to make a decision or when you can expect to hear from them. You can also ask how you can contact them if you have additional questions (for example, by email or telephone).

Share your thoughts!