3 questions to ask during your next job interview - Give Me Back My Five Bucks
3 questions to ask during your next job interview

3 questions to ask during your next job interview

Let’s face it, job interviews are stressful. Not only do you have to do a lot of research on the company before hand, but you also have to somehow figure out a way to make yourself stand out from the other candidates. Then once you’ve got all that sorted, you have to remember the little things – like how long it’s going to take to get to the office, what you’re going to wear, what the names are of the people interviewing you, and the questions you plan on asking them.

If I’ve ever met you in person, you might have noticed that I can come across as shy, and maybe even a bit awkward. I’m not great at small talk, and I get nervous easily. This definitely makes things like networking (or even first dates) kind of a problem, and it should also make interviews a nightmare. But for some reason, I’m good at them. Still haven’t figured out why that is!

My boss told me that I won my current job over another candidate with more directly related experience (I don’t know anything about nuclear science!) because I showed that I was confident, passionate, and believed in what I do. When I was less than a year into the workforce, I was offered two different fairly high profile jobs (which both required 5-7 years of experience), and once during the final round of interviewing, a city manager told me that I had a quality about me that he couldn’t pinpoint, but found very appealing.

Related: Truth – if you don’t ask, you won’t get

Now, I’m not saying all of this to boast. It’s to illustrate my point that your resume and experience might get you the interview, but it’s how you come across in person that will win you the job. At least that’s been my experience in my industry. With a 2-year technical diploma, I’m likely never going to be the most qualified person – but I make up for it by showing enthusiasm throughout the entire interview. And I think one of the best ways to do this is near the end, when they ask “do you have any questions about the job?”

I feel like it’s common knowledge to have a few standard questions to ask, but I’ve been surprised over the years when conducting interviews, many people just say no. Then the interview is over, and it’s been completely one-sided – with one person asking, and one person answering. You wouldn’t go on a date and not ask any questions, would you? So it shouldn’t be any different with an interview. Sure, they’re interviewing you for the job, but you’re also interviewing them to see if they’re the right employer for you.

These might be pretty generic, but here are my favourite questions to ask employers:

1. Is this a new position to the company?

This is by far my favourite question to ask, if I haven’t already been able to find the answer online. It can give you a lot of seriously good insight into what the position is all about.

If it’s a new position, the follow-up questions become pretty important: why the position was created in the first place (was it to go in a new corporate direction, take the burden off of another employee, or because they’re expanding so rapidly?), or where they see the position moving to in the future. Is there room for growth?

Sometimes with completely new positions, they don’t really know what they’re looking for – just that they know they want somebody. In my current position, I was hired to write. But in the 9 months I’ve been there, I haven’t done any writing, and I knew that based on the interview. I was the first and only hire in the newly created marketing position, so I knew I would take on everything else that marketing encompasses, like trade shows, graphic design, event coordination, website maintenance, etc.

If the position you’re interviewing for is to take over for somebody else, asking why that person is leaving is also a good question to ask. Usually LinkedIn will provide clues as to whether the company has a high turnover rate, or if their employees stay long-term.

2. What is the corporate/company culture like?

For me, this is an important one because I want to know what it’s going to be like working there on a day-to-day basis. What are my co-workers like? Is everyone social, or do they keep to themselves? It’s also important because it shows the employer that you’re likely interested in staying long-term, and that you’re looking for more than just a pay cheque.

Usually you’ll learn things about the corporate environment (open space vs. offices), and sometimes they might even bring a few employees in to talk about what it’s like there. I really appreciate it when they do that. Getting to talk to potential colleagues makes it real, and you will likely get a much better feel for the company that way. Not that I want to make best friends out of my co-workers, but it’s important that you like the people you work with.

3. What direction do you see the company headed in the next 5 to 10 years?

I like this question because you will be able to see how your position can affect the company’s short-term and long(er)-term goals. If they’re looking to expand, perhaps that means there will be opportunities for advancement or movement/travel to different offices. If they’re looking to chase competition, that might mean exciting opportunities. If they’re looking to go a different direction, you will get a glimpse into whether you want to go that direction as well.

Related: Are you a job hopper?

As a side note, I think there’s a fine line between presenting the best version of yourself that you can be, and being fake. Once, I crossed that line. I got caught up in the personalities of the two people interviewing me, and I started to act and answer questions in a way that I knew they would like, but wasn’t me at all. In the end, I got the job… but once I actually started working, we all quickly realized that my day to day personality was a lot different (and that came across in my writing, which is what I was hired for). I was let go within my probation period. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a good one nonetheless.

What are your favourite questions do you ask during job interviews?

About Krystal Yee

I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.

4 comments

  1. Well well, your questions are thoroughly and drill right down in tho the “meat” of the job. I can totally agree with you, knowing just what you are getting into is a good way to plan and position yourself for success in the company.
    I might add two more
    a) What most immediate challenges need to be addressed within the first 3 months of the job?
    b) What are the career paths in this particular department? (Its always good to know where one might be headed I think)
    Excellent post!

  2. I always ask about culture too. Similarly, I ask what they like most about working there, and the challenges.

    If the position is not new, you can ask what type of people have excelled in the role in the past. I don’t think I’ve actually asked that yet, but it seems like a good idea. :)

    Asking about management style is one thing I do, and also how staffing for projects works. This is indicative of the types of place I’ve interviewed, where it isn’t always 100% clear what the specifics of the role might be (i.e. you are hired to a manager, but then staffed to projects separately – a matrix organization).

    Honestly, if it were appropriate, I could give a whole reverse interview to my interview: What’s your management style? How do you motivate your team? Tell me about a time when you had to give uncomfortable feedback to one of your employees. Where do you see the company in 5 years? Tell me about the companies biggest weakness. What are the biggest changes the company has initiated in the past 2 years? What is the company most proud of? How is the financial health of the company?mmWhat does a typical career trajectory look like from this position? Etc.

    But that is not appropriate, so I just show enthusiasm and try to understand the culture and the day-to-day job.

  3. Those are some serious questions Krystal :-| If you ask any of them the interviewer will know you mean business and are probably a diligent and professional individual. I like :) Thanks for sharing those. I don’t know any other good questions I can ask a potential employer, but I do know some questions that shouldn’t be asked, like the following:
    -What does your company do?
    -How late can I be to work without getting fired?
    -What are you doing after work this evening ;) ?
    -Do you do background checks?
    -Does this company monitor Internet usage?

  4. One question I HATE being asked (as the interviewer) is “what’s the work life balance?”. just want to role my eyes – if your focus is on how much you don’t have to work, you don’t stand a chance when there are 10 people behind you who are excited to work hard!

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