Landing a Job in the 21st Century: Asking the Right Questions in Your Next Job Interview

One of the most enduring—and most potentially awkward—components of the job interview comes right at the end. Up until this point, the interview has been going well: you’re sending the right signals and incorporating a narrative format in your answers. But then the hiring manager asks if you have any questions for them, and your mind goes blank. 

This post won’t tell you what question to ask. In fact, showing up with a canned or one-size-fits all question might actually do more harm than good! Instead, we’ll cover how to approach coming up with your questions, and discuss how to give yourself a competitive edge against the other candidates. 

1. Come Prepared

The simple fact of preparing a question beforehand signals to your potential employer that you are proactive and curious, two highly coveted qualities in the modern workforce. To show how serious you are as a candidate, you should research not just the company, but the job for which you’re applying. If you want to be their next social media manager, take a look at their current accounts and how they use them. Come up with a question that shows you’re already picturing yourself in the role. 

2. Highlight Your Past Experiences

Ask a question that reinforces your experience. If you’re applying for a position in childcare, for example, you might talk about how you structured activities in your previous position and inquire what pedagogies they find most successful. In addition to providing one last chance to work in your qualifications, you’ll demonstrate the ability to translate past experiences to future projects. 

3. Don’t Interrogate 

Use your situational awareness skills to gauge how far into the weeds you want to go with your line of questions. You won’t get any extra points for stumping your interviewer! Ultimately, you want to give them a glimpse of what it will be like to work with you, that when they assign you a task you’ll consider it carefully and ask questions that will help elevate the project. They’ll be less eager to hire someone asking random or intrusive questions that don’t pertain to work at hand. 

4. Know When to Ask What

This isn’t the time to ask if it will be OK for you to take a week off next month—the person to discuss that with is the HR rep, and the time to discuss it is when hashing out the formal job offer. Or, if you have concerns about benefits, pay, et cetera, you’re welcome to call and inquire before you apply. The in-person job interview should be focused on you, the job itself, and establishing what a great fit you’ll be for the company. 

5. Show Genuine Curiosity

People can tell if you’re simply ticking boxes with little regard for the answers you recieve. Stay engaged through active listening, and thank them for their answer or ask a follow-up question if appropriate. 

In asking thoughtful questions of your hiring manager, you’ll show that you’re invested in the company—and hopefully that will make them want to invest in you.