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Coach Me: What Are the Best Questions to Ask in a Job Interview?

  • By Alison Green, DailyWorth’s Resident Management Coach
  • December 24, 2013

I was recently interviewed for a job, and when the interviewer asked me what questions I had for her, I didn’t know what to ask. Most of what I was wondering about had been covered earlier in the conversation. Is it OK to not ask questions at all in that situation? And if not, what are the best questions to ask? — Rochelle, Colorado 

Even when you feel like all your questions have already been answered, it's smart to take advantage of the opportunity to ask more. After all, this is a job where you’re considering spending 40+ hours a week; do you really not have anything else you’re wondering about the work, the culture or the management? Plus, not asking questions when given the opportunity can signal (rightly or wrongly) that you're not being particularly thoughtful about the role, which can set off alarm bells for your interviewer.

Here are five questions to ask that won't just impress your interviewer, they’ll also get you valuable information about the job, which is key in helping you decide if it's the right fit for you.

1. What are the biggest challenges the person in this position will face?
This question shows that you don't have blinders on from the excitement about a new job, you recognize that every job has difficult elements and you're being thoughtful about what it will take to succeed in the position.

2. What would a successful first year in the position look like?
Here, you’re demonstrating that you're thinking in the same terms that the hiring manager does — about what a new hire will need to excel. You’ll also sound like someone who isn't seeking to simply do the bare minimum, but rather to truly achieve in the role.

3. How will the success of the person in this position be measured?
This question might sound similar to the previous one, but it will give you more insight into what the hiring manager values most. You might discover that while the job description emphasizes skill A or responsibility B, the manager actually cares most about skill C or responsibility D. 

4. How would you describe the culture here? What type of people tend to really thrive, and what types don’t do as well?
If the culture is formal and highly structured and you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment, or if it's an aggressive, competitive environment and you are more low-key and reserved, this job might not be an ideal fit for you. And you want to find this out before you take the job, not after you’re already working there. 

5. Thinking back to the people who you've seen in this role previously, what’s the difference between a good performance and a great one?
Interviewers love this question because it signals that you’re someone who cares not just about doing an OK or even good job, but about being truly great. It’s hard not to adore the candidate who asks this.

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