3 Questions You MUST ASK in a Job Interview

This article was updated from the original on July 26, 2017

Let’s face it…if we’re being honest, no one actually enjoys the process of interviewing for a new job.  The sweaty palms, nervous glances, awkward pauses and constant second guessing make the entire scenario seem like something more appropriate for an awkward first date rather than a potentially career-making opportunity.  

This doesn’t need to be the case, however.  Preparing for an interview can eliminate much of the nervousness that comes with veering out into the great unknown job market.  Doing your research on the potential new employer, though, is just the tip of the planning iceberg.  Critical interview points should be prepped and mildly rehearsed in order to make you an unflappable, ready for anything, type of candidate.

One of the most important parts of the interview is the “do you have any questions” for me portion when the tables are turned and interviewee’s are able to quiz their potential new employers on job, company and work-culture details.  In addition to gathering information, these candidate driven questions are also excellent opportunities to show off your critical thinking and analysis skills in order to improve your chances at scoring the role.

With that in mind, here are the top three questions you should be asking during your next job interview:

1. Could you describe your ideal candidate for this position?

While this question may seem a bit open ended, asking your interviewer about their expectations and goals in the position is a great way to learn more about both the individual job and their potential management style.  After all, if you win them over this person will potentially be your new supervisor and responsible for providing feedback and performance reviews.

The question also demonstrates that you’re interested in doing the best job possible in your role.  More than a simple “what does this job entail” query, the active phrasing expresses your genuine interest in meeting and exceeding established ideals for the position.

2. If I were offered the position, what would I need to accomplish in order to receive a five star review from you a year from now?

This question again serves double duty for both illustrating your work ethic and commitment to excel while also flushing out your prospective employer’s expectations.  You’ll find out what is needed in order to move on up the corporate/job title ladder and your interviewer now knows that you’re motivated to excellence rather than merely meeting expectations.  The phrasing of this question is also important.  By asking your interviewer to picture yourself in the position it sets you apart from the crowd and allows them to see that exact scenario.  Consider this a bit of a twist on the old stand by “visualization” method of accomplishing your career and personal goals.

3. Why is the position available?

Perhaps the most important question in our list of the top three “must asks”, inquiring as to why the job opening is available will yield helpful information to both yourself and your potential new employer.  Finding out whether an opening is a staff expansion could point to increased growth of your role within a given company.  On the other hand, learning that someone else vacated may trigger the need for follow up research or questions as to dynamics amongst team members or co-workers.

That brings up an important note that is often overlooked by interviewees asking about their new potential position.  Whether this or any other question, remember to process the answer and use the responses to make thoughtful follow up questions.  Inquiring about the reason for an expansion, for example, could yield useful information regarding company growth or new office openings.  Likewise, news regarding someone leaving allows you to make inquiries regarding work-life balance, working environment and team interaction, without coming off as paranoid or overly zealous. 

Regardless of whether you use our recommendations (we really think you should) remember that asking questions during the interview process is about more than just stretching out your interview or filling awkward pauses.  Questions are valuable tools for gaining insightful knowledge into a job listing.  In skilled and prepared hands, asking for additional info in an insightful way can also demonstrate in demand critical thinking skills and a sincere interest in landing the job.  Give our questions a try, or modify them to fit your own strengths or personality, and watch as your confidence in interviews reaps real benefits in callbacks, job offers and more.