A job interview candidate asking a prospective employer questions about the role and benefits

As much as the landscape for hiring and interviewing has changed in the past few years, some things have remained relatively constant. Hiring managers still expect candidates for a position to ask questions during an interview. Not to do so shows disinterest in the company, a lack of preparation, and disengagement with the interviewer.

The hiring managers are under pressure to select just the right person to fill a role and have much to gain or lost by betting on you as their choice. The multi-stage interview process calls for a different approach to each to maximize your potential as the right fit for the role you want. The key to getting the offer: make a good first impression on your future boss and coworkers.


What to Ask in a First Interview

The goal of a first interview is to discuss you, your experience, history, and skills to see if you will move forward in the process. The hiring manager is looking to gain as much insight as they can about your dependability, coachability, and any other attribute that ends with the word “ability.” The questions you ask in this stage should be squarely focused on the role. Here is a list of answers you’ll want to get when you walk away:

  • What about my resume stuck out to you as a good fit for this role?
  • Is this a newly created role or an existing one?
  • How is performance measured for this position?
  • What would the first 30, 60, and 90 days goals be?
  • How has this job been performed in the past, and how is it adjusted now?

Questions like these show that you are thinking about how you would fit into the responsibilities of this position and how they would fit you.


What to Ask in a Second Interview

If you have made it to the second interview, the focus shifts to reinforcing that you are a better fit than the next candidate for this particular team, role, and company. The company is evaluating not only hard skills and experience, but also soft skills, potential culture fit, and understanding of operations within an organization like theirs.

By the second interview, a candidate will often meet someone other than the hiring manger such key stakeholders, peer groups, or project team members. These could be your future coworkers who also report to your hiring manager.

  • What do you like best about working for this company and on this team?
  • Is there a formal recognition program?
  • Who are the company’s main competitors in the industry?
  • How do projects get distributed among the team?
  • If I were starting this job tomorrow, what advice would you give me?

This is the opportunity to find out how the department or team operates on a day-to-day basis while discovering how you would fit into their existing workflow.


What Not to Ask During an Interview

There are certain questions that will help you make a decision about whether this is the right job for you, but there is a time and place to ask them. The interview is not it. Keep the conversation limited to the role and the company as it pertains to you as a candidate.

  • Do not ask about perks, schedule flexibility, professional development programs, training budgets, or the like. These can be discussed with your recruiter or the HR department another time before or after the second interview.
  • Do not speak negatively of your prior company, boss, or team. Even if the information is true, it is not helpful to demonstrate anything but respect for your former employer in an interview. If anything, find a place to insert in the conversation that you hope to maintain a good relationship with them after your separation.
  • Do not ask “gotcha” questions of one person after hearing contradictory information from another or try to catch anyone in an inconsistency. Different people in the company have different perceptions and perspectives. The best thing to do is take notes and bring up any lingering concerns with your recruiter next time you talk.

The most important thing is to leave the conversation on a positive note after a good exchange of information. Consider what will matter most to the interviewers and limit the conversation to what interests them most during the interview.


Set Yourself Up For Success

Fortune favors those who prepare. Before your interview be sure to do your research of the company so that you can relate better to the conversation. Practice your discussion of your past experiences and future expectations as it were the story of your career up until this point. Listen carefully to the responses to your questions. Anticipate and rehearse answers for the questions you expect from them. The more polished your interview skills, the more likely you are to get the role you want.

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