10 really good questions to ask in a job interview

You’re in a job interview, you’ve fielded a couple dozen questions from your interviewer, and now your interviewer asks, “What questions do you have for me?”

If you’re like a lot of people, you might end up stumbling around for what to ask. I’ve interviewed probably thousands of job applicants in my career, and I’m always surprised by how many people don’t have many questions at all – which is hard to understand when they’re considering spending 40+ hours a week at this job, and when it’ll have such a big on their day-to-day quality of life.

So, what should you ask when it’s your turn to question your interviewer? At New York Magazine today, I suggest 10 really strong questions that will get you useful insights into whether the job is right for you. You can read it here.

{ 110 comments… read them below }

  1. DarthVelma*

    I just finished two rounds of interviews for an open position and not one candidate asked any questions other than about next steps/timeline for the hiring process. It was really disappointing.

    1. Corrvin (they/them)*

      Maybe we should be flipping it around– “Interviewer, what’s the question you wish more people would ask about this job?”

      Personally, my brain can’t be trusted after staying on-topic for a full 30-45 minutes. I think “No questions thank you” probably beats the questions I ACTUALLY have percolating in my brain by that time, none of which are related to my ability to do the job or whether I’m going to be willing to take the job if offered, like:
      –Do we ever get t-shirts at this job?
      –Why are there so many picture books about bunnies when they’re such an infrequent topic at any higher reading level?
      –What’s the weirdest question that you’ve ever successfully answered?
      –What’s your opinion on genrefication of adult fiction as opposed to interfiling all the genres?

    2. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

      I’ve usually found that the interviewer (a good one at least) will end the interview on those points. It makes for a nice wrap up.

      1. L'etrangere*

        +1 – there has never been an interviewee who wasn’t interested in those answers, they should be routinely included

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      It’s disappointing to hear you wanted to discuss those things and didn’t bring them up. That makes this feel more like game-playing and interview-theater than educating and informing each other (you educating me on the job’s demands and requirements, I educating you on my skills and experiences).

      Actually, the whole article leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If these 10 questions are so good, why are they not part of the interview agenda instead of relying on cultural norms to bring them up at the end?

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Plus, I’ve often found myself saying that the questions I had for the interviewer had already been answered by the discussion we’d had so far! Now, I guess anyone could just *say* that (to cover for the fact that they hadn’t come up with any), but it is often true.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          That’s actually how I usually navigate this portion of the interview; I just touch on the things important to me that have already been discussed. If it’s important to me, I’m not leaving it until the portion of the interview that will be truncated if we start over the allocated time.

        2. Case of the Mondays*

          This has definitely happened to me. I’ve had interviews where they are just selling themselves to me so they have answered everything by the time we get to questions. The questions on the list in the article though are all great ones.

        3. Forrest*

          I always do, “my main questions were about the make-up of the wider team and how much opportunity is have to work on the Llama Diversity Project — but I think that’s been covered, so yeah, I think that’s good!” It shows that I went into the interview with an agenda of what I wanted to get out of it, and I didn’t need my questions.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yes I agree, I have said similar things the couple of times they really did cover all my questions!

        4. L'etrangere*

          It’s usually the case for me. I don’t consider an interview a one-way expose, so I ask questions and clarifications as we go along, interspersed with my answers. Which usually means I’m left question-less at the end, and I end up thanking them for answering me as we went along. It’s not entirely bad, reminds them that I did ask questions/show interest. But I’m thinking it’d probably be wise to add the ‘what makes an employee great’ one.

        5. Junior Assistant Peon*

          It’s also a problem when you have a series of interviews with several people. I often use up all of my questions on the first few people, then I have no intelligent ones left when I meet with the main hiring manager.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Plenty of these things ARE covered by interviewers. There’s no implication here that they’ll never ever come up otherwise…? But yes, it’s disappointing when a candidate doesn’t have any questions about the job; it makes it seem like they’re not thinking rigorously about whether the role is a strong fit for them or not, or just disengaged/not terribly interested.

      3. meyer lemon*

        I think so much of this will depend on the individual candidate that it’s not really feasible to answer them all in advance. Common questions, yes, but the interviewer won’t always be able to predict what elements of the posting the candidate was unclear about, or what specifics about the job the candidate is particularly interested in learning more about.

        Also, these questions provide job seekers with tools to get the information that’s in their own best interest to know. I wouldn’t want to rely on hoping that my interviewer is going to address all of this on their own.

    4. voluptuousfire*

      I get it, but next steps should be mentioned by the person conducting hte phone screen as the standard. The candidate should not have to ask. IMO/IME that’s a given. I’d wager that’s why no one asked!

      1. MassMatt*

        Well, lots of things SHOULD be done a certain way, but aren’t. In many cases, people not asking about what the next steps and timeframe will be will leave the interview without knowing unless they bring it up.

        The interviewer may not have a set time horizon, or assume people that don’t ask the question are not under any particular hurry or pressure to know.

      2. ecnaseener*

        I think you misread. DarthVelma said no one asked anything *other than* next steps / timeline

  2. Smithy*

    Just to plug having some of these more “canned” questions has always helped me open up more specific questions. Nerves often get in the way of coming up with those super focused questions on the spot, but having a few of these more general ones that do give good insight often helps bring to mind something more focused.

  3. Nastya*

    Really good list! A question: how many questions are appropriate to ask at the end of an interview? I feel like asking all ten of these would be too many (though I could be wrong!), but I’m not sure what number to aim for. 2-3? 3-4?

    1. dude, where's my cheese*

      It depends how much time you have left in the scheduled interview, which answers you need to know to decide if you want to move forward with the role, whether the person you’re speaking to is the right person to answer, and whether the interview stage you’re at is the right stage to ask about the topic (phone screen vs. in depth interview maybe). 10 is maybe too many, 2 is almost definitely not enough.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I don’t know that there’s a right number, but, as a hiring manager, I want candidates to ask any question that would impact their taking the job. A lot of times, I find that people’s questions are answered through the course of the interview, so they may not have very many at the end. (I interview a lot for a starter position that has an average tenure of 18-24 months by design, so I tend to incorporate information about which I get a lot of questions into the conversation.) Other times, we missed some things they want to know about, so there are more.

      I think the more important thing is to ask thoughtful questions and ensure you’re not asking about something that’s already been covered – definitely a quality over quantity. A good interviewer should be providing the answers to some of the 10 questions well before you get to the end, so you’re left with a smaller list.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ugh, I did that once a long time ago. Had a brain fart in the middle of the interview and asked about something they had just talked about. I was totally listening; the question just came out wrong, and I was too nervous to recover well. Did not get the job.

        1. New Job So Much Better*

          That’s the thing, we’re too nervous to think of good questions in that moment. I always tell people to email if they think of other questions after the interview is over.

    3. Krabby*

      I think it also depends on the seniority of the role. I’m going to expect and be prepared for a lot more questions from a Director-level role. 10+ questions would be fine.

      If you’re applying for an entry-level position, I’m going to be a little frustrated if you ask more than 4-5 (and if it’s more than 3, the questions better be relevant and not something that’s been answered already).

      1. ecnaseener*

        That’s interesting – why do you expect fewer questions at entry level? I would expect lots of questions since they’re likely either new to the field or to the workforce.

        1. GraceRN*

          Not Krabby but I’m thinking the same about director-level and above roles having more questions. There are many reasons. In my personal experience, these candidates tend to:

          1). Be more experienced in the work-world, generally speaking. They tend to have a better idea of what the work and the environment *should* look like. They also tend to have a better idea of they’re looking for in their next job. They’re asking questions to see how the new job fits into their known experience and vision.

          2). Ask questions that organically come out as part of the interview, and not necessarily from a list.

          2). Know what red flags at work look like, and they proactively ask questions and follow-up questions to suss them out.

          3). Be much less reticent about asking questions. They will ask as many question as they need in order to decide for themselves whether the job is a good fit.

    4. BRR*

      I personally go for 2-4 plus the timeline question. It depends on what has been covered and if my questions have short answers or long. I sometimes might mention in a sort of off-hand way what questions I had that they answered already. Usually because it was a good interview and we talked about my more industry-specific technical questions.

      1. Kes*

        Yeah this is about where I fall; probably 2-3, maybe 4 if a follow up is needed if there’s something else specific and important you want to get info on, and then next steps as the obvious transition question.

    5. Caboose*

      I normally just go with “what does an average day look like” and “what’s your favorite thing about working at this company” for mine! I might add in more if I have time, but those are the ones I always try to fit in.

  4. Sam the writer*

    Years ago, I tried asking “What do you like about working here?” at a university, and it seemed to be a good, well-received question. I then tried it at another interview, and one of the women responded grouchily with “I’m supposed to be interviewing you, not the other way around” and I felt like it was a mis-step on my part. I guess she was just a one-off, though. I didn’t get the job but I wasn’t disappointed about it.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      She was a one-off. I get this question nearly every interview, and it’s a softball for me to answer. (Though I also disagree with her regarding interviewing – I flat-out tell candidates that they’re interviewing us as much as we are them and to ask any questions that are important to them.)

    2. middle name danger*

      Sounds like the answer was, she didn’t like anything there well enough to say, and you dodged a bullet.

    3. meyer lemon*

      I’ve found that it’s usually a good sign when the interviewers welcome questions and actually seem to care about answering them. I’ve had some interviewers who seemed annoyed and impatient and would only reluctantly answer one or two. But the best interviews I’ve been on, they set aside a chunk of time for questions and seemed actually engaged by the discussion.

    4. GigglyPuff*

      See that’s totally an answer too! You have to read the answers beyond what they are just saying. I asked that at academic places and it usually goes over well except one time after my group presentation, room full of 20+ people who weren’t too disengaged, asked that. They all totally sat there staring at me blankly for a good 15 seconds before a few people gave me boilerplate answers. The lack of a good answer was my answer.

    5. Nanani*

      Seconding that this was a bullet dodged. It is supposed to be a two way conversation, not a one way audition. You did nothing wrong.

    6. BRR*

      If that person was the hiring manager or another leadership position I would treat it as a red flag and would most likely withdraw my application. I don’t think she was necessarily a one off, I think there’s a disappointing number of people who probably think this way, but these people are flat out wrong. If they don’t think interviewing is a two-way street, that’s pretty telling how they view the employer/employee relationship.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      That’s a red flag. And she couldn’t be more wrong. It’s *both* ways. Very odd of her to assume that a candidate does not care or want to know more about the place where they will be working, should they get and accept an offer.

    8. Executive Assistant*

      I believe you can get more useful information if instead of asking why they like working there, you ask “If you could change one thing (or top 3 things) about working here that you dislike or that frustrate you, what would that be?”

      1. Kes*

        I ask both – what do you like? and then on the other hand, what do you dislike or what’s one thing you would change?
        I find both give me good information

    9. MassMatt*

      Wow, what a grouchy answer. I would consider ending the interview on the spot and walking out unless I really needed the job. Consider it a bullet dodged!

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        If you were drawing UI benefits, this would be a job you wouldn’t want to be offered, so it’s good she let you know to withdraw your application.

    10. Glitsy Gus*

      I think you actually got the answer you needed to know everything you needed to about that workplace. :)

      Yeah, she was a one off, I ask that in every interview and it’s always been well received.

    11. Kara*

      Sounds like it got you absolutely brilliant insight actually. Sometimes the insight is from an answer and sometimes it’s from a reaction and behaviour.

  5. irene adler*

    Great questions!
    I like to include a question regarding the specifics on communications. As in how/when will my boss communicate with me, what format(s) do they prefer to use, and about what things (feedback and instruction to me, questions I have for them, etc.).
    But that’s just me.

    1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      this is actually a really good question – I have preferences, of course, but as long as it’s clear how that communication is happening, I’m pretty open to any type. However, I know there are a TON of people who VERY MUCH PREFER a specific type of communication for various reasons!

      1. irene adler*

        I just want to know what to expect communications-wise. I’m flexible; but let’s be clear up-front what the boss wants. And yes, some folks have a strong preference. Which is fine! But let’s get that out in the open.

        There’s a good amount of horror stories- on this very site -about bosses who don’t talk to their reports or restrictions as to type of communications (no phone calls, for example) and even the ones where the new hire is let go for poor performance but is never told beforehand what to improve or what the expectations are.

    2. Captain Raymond Holt*

      Understanding how the team communicates internally is very important! I just left my current job (in the notice period right now) in large part due to an internal communication environment that didn’t work for me. There is no central source of truth for anything (which is especially concerning because our team exists to manage a central source of truth for the business) and no documentation. Our project management tool is “email” and when I suggested using literally anything else I was told “this works for us.” We are managing a months long, data intense, business critical project over email.
      When I interviewed for my next job I asked specific questions about how they manage team knowledge and projects because I didn’t want to end up in this situation again. When I told them why I asked the question, they definitely understood my motivation to leave!

  6. Elizabeth West*

    Re, the “What do you like about working here?” question:

    I’m finding more and more companies doing phone screens with a remote recruiter and then moving on to an in-person/Zoom interview. Even if the company has its own talent acquisition team, they’re not always in the location where you’ll be working. I’ve run into that several times now—for example, I screened with a company recruiter for a job in OldCity who lived in BiggerCity, and the one I talked to yesterday was in a different state entirely. At Exjob, our company was based in Missouri but our HR department was in Texas.

    You can sometimes get clues about benefits that way if the recruiter is remote; if the conversation is going well, it doesn’t hurt to ask! But they aren’t going to be familiar with how things run at your location. So I would save this question for the interview with the hiring manager or team.

    1. irene adler*

      Good point!
      I’ve done the phone screen with someone located in Texas or back east for a job that is local to me (San Diego). A little hard for them to relate the local company culture when they’ve never set foot in the San Diego location.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, I try to save most of these for the actual hiring manager and/or team I’d be working with; they’re not great for an initial phone screen (though I do tend to ask about company culture early on).

    3. The Dude Abides*

      I just ran into this too, but got ahead of it by looking up the recruiter on LinkedIn. I’m in the MW, company HQ is in LA-ish (position is fully remote), but the recruiter is based out of Oregon.

      I already had this and some of the Qs Allison listed on my notes, but will bookmark the page and add the rest when I get home.

  7. JC*

    There’s a great viral Twitter thread for this if you google “jade job questions”.

    I’m surprised so many people don’t prepare this before hand- it really demonstrates interest and interviews are as much me interviewing the company and management, as them interviewing me!!

    Some of my favourites are what does a candidate need to demonstrate to succeed in the role? Walk me through a day in the life for this role. What do you (the interviewer) like most about the company/ role?

  8. Mostly Managing*

    The timeline question is so useful!

    My husband had an interview about six weeks ago on a Friday, with two people from a great company.
    If he hadn’t asked, he wouldn’t have known that one of them was about to go on vacation. First one got back, the other one left…. It was four weeks before they were both working again!

    The wait would have been incredibly demoralizing without that information. Especially since the company has a great reputation in town for treating employees well, hiring fairly quickly, etc

    The two came back, he had a second interview on Tuesday and an offer by the end of that week.

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      This is a great example.

      Hiring/applying is so incredibly high-stakes for the applicant, and also (though to a lesser degree) for the employer. We tend to forget that there are still parts that are just banal, and that it’s not a good idea to read a lot of meaning into every small aspect of the process.

  9. Anonymoose*

    I usually go with “tell me about your management style”. That one is really important to me after having a series of new and/or absent managers. Once had a department head, who had been a department head, supervised at least 12 people/managers, for several years, give an awkward laugh and basically admit they had no idea and had never been asked that, and went with, “I guess check in meetings”. Told me all I needed to know. Glad I didn’t get an offer on that one.

    1. irene adler*

      Yeah, I ask that as well. The one’s who take the question seriously also seem to be good managers.

      One woman just laughed and said, “Only I can yell at you. I won’t let anyone else do that but me.”

      No, I did not get that job. Clearly not a loss.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wouldn’t put a lot of weight on this one. It’s fine to ask — who knows what you’ll hear — but people are notoriously bad at assessing their own management style accurately. I’ve watched a ton of managers talk about how much autonomy they like to give people when in fact they were awful micromanagers, etc.

      1. Anon T*

        My current company was so bad at describing itself and its culture generally…any tips for figuring out when an org is just high on its own supply?

      2. The New Wanderer*

        YEP. I listened to a senior manager give a presentation to my peers on the career progression process. The way he talked about it, things are totally fair and well thought out, no personal agendas and so on… I’m sure he might actually believe it and it’s certainly what he would say if asked. But that is not the lived experience of many (female and/or minority) people who reported to him, most of whom got out when they could.

        If you can interview with would-be colleagues, ask them instead.

    3. BRR*

      See I wouldn’t anticipate getting a good answer to this question. I think even good managers might have a hard time describing a management “style.” I feel like I just hear managers say they give their direct reports autonomy. I’ve seen it with good managers who want to empower their direct reports and bad managers who are absent. But managers like my manager would never answer this question that they were a huge micromanagers.

    4. SnowyRose*

      I always find this one hard to answer because in reality it depends. Are they an internal or external hire? If it’s internal, is it a lateral move or a promotion? And how long have they been with the organization? Which position are they interviewing for?

      Example: I recently hired two new direct reports that I manage differently at the moment. One has been with the organization for awhile and understands the culture, how we “speak,” and just plain has a higher level of professional maturity. The other has been with us for only a few years and requires more supervision, review of emails (came from a different field and her way of speaking is a bit more casual). So with one I’m more hands off and I trust her to do her job and do it well. The other I’m definitely more involved and it probably feels a bit micromanaging at the moment from their perspective. My goal is to get them to the level of the first.

      But also, to others’ points, I’ve sat on panel interviews silently thinking, “wha?? I’ve seen your management style and what you just said is not it!”

      1. Lana Kane*

        Managers are just as likely to answer a question the way they think the candidate wants to hear, just as much as vice versa.

    5. aiya*

      Yeah, I’ve found this question to be pretty useless, because it’s not like anyone is going to respond by saying “I am a total micromanager and working for me will be like hell.”

      Instead, I will ask “Can you tell me about how you communicate and provide feedback to your employees?” I asked this question on an interview once, and the hiring manager launched into a bunch of company-specific jargon, and another interviewer on the panel had to step in to “translate” it into regular human words for me. Basically, the manager said that there’s big group meeting at the beginning of every week, and if her employees has any questions or concerns, they should just speak up then. No mention of one-on-one check in or any other form of communication or support she would offer to her employees. Hard pass.

  10. KHB*

    As someone who used to be one of those job candidates without any questions, I find it hard to understand that people find this hard to understand. When you’re new to the work world, you don’t necessarily know a whole lot about the full range of “workplace cultures” and “management styles” that you might run up against, and you don’t necessarily understand all the types of dysfunction that might be out there that you want to avoid getting stuck in.

    I was used to my experience in school (in hindsight, the schools I went to were considerably less dysfunctional than average), where the teacher/professor would assign a (usually) reasonable amount of work to do, performance would (usually) be evaluated and rewarded fairly, and if you did what you were told to do and learned what you were told to learn, you’d be fine, and I guess I kind of assumed that the working world would be like that.

    That said, I think advice that would have gotten through to much-younger me would be: Think of the worst, most unfair teacher you’ve ever had. (And I did have a few). Your new boss might be just like that, and they’ll have control not just over your grade in one class, but all the time you spend at this job and all the money you earn from it. What information do you want to know about them to ensure that you can run for the hills now if you have to?

    1. nnn*

      Agreed, I also find it hard to understand that people find it hard to understand when candidates don’t have any questions. Most of my job interviewing has happened when I’m unemployed (weirdly, when I’m employed, I hardly ever seem to be able to connect with opportunities that are better than my existing job – currently my LinkedIn inbox is full of recruiters offering me a 20% pay cut) so it’s a whole other world to me that there are apparently so many people interviewing in a place where they can take it or leave it.

      It’s also odd to me that potential employers see a lack of questions as a lack of interest when, on the candidate site of the table, it tends to mean that I’m not going to say no.

      Interestingly, the best jobs I’ve had (supportive, non-dysfunctional work environments, good compensation) weren’t even evaluating interest. They didn’t ask “Why do you want this job?”, they came to it with the attitude “Of course you want this job! Now let’s see if you have the technical skills we need!”

      In life in general, I’ve found a good way to root out dysfunction is to see how people complain about other people – not just what they’re complaining about, but how. (I was once talking socially with a small business owner who was complaining that her cleaning lady wasn’t committed to her business vision, and then quit because she could get more money working at McDonad’s. Excellent red flag!) But I don’t think you could really carry off “Tell me what you disliked about past employees.”

      1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

        Interestingly, the best jobs I’ve had (supportive, non-dysfunctional work environments, good compensation) weren’t even evaluating interest. They didn’t ask “Why do you want this job?”, they came to it with the attitude “Of course you want this job! Now let’s see if you have the technical skills we need!”

        It’s interesting how we all have different perspectives. When I’m hiring, I definitely want to know that candidates are interested in the work and are giving thought to what it might be like to do this job. It might be because I often hire people for whom the job is something of a career change, and I want to be sure they understand that, and understand what might be challenging about it. Or it might be because I work at a company that people with a certain type of background have heard of and admire; sometimes, they are just looking for a foot in the door with hopes of transferring to a different department ASAP. Either way, gauging a candidate’s interest in the work they will have to do is very important to me. The questions the candidate asks are not the *only* gauge I have of this, but they do provide useful information.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        “It’s also odd to me that potential employers see a lack of questions as a lack of interest when, on the candidate site of the table, it tends to mean that I’m not going to say no.”

        I think that’s part of it though–they don’t want someone to come in blindly prepared to accept the job, they want to know that you’ve really thought about whether it’s the right fit for you. Otherwise they might worry you’ll come in and realize it’s not what you’re looking for and then they have to start the whole process over again.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      I know what you mean. It’s also strange to me when I hear people puzzle over questions about “unimportant” things. “The parking situation is 1/3 of what you want to know about the job?” Well, no, but by the time they’ve read the website, gone to the office, met the interviewers, gotten an overview of “we’re the widget team and we’re looking for a widget tester”, etc, probably a lot of questions have been answered.

      Also I work in tech, where it’s common to be interviewed by multiple people, one or two at a time. If I’m interviewer #6, the first 5 have probably answered most of their general questions. The candidate really might be down to trying to imagine the exact logistics of the commute.

      But yeah, it is part of the game. So keep these questions in your back pocket!

  11. Janie*

    I feel like there are lists of questions to ask for interviews everywhere (and I use AAM questions a ton). The thing I always struggle with is figuring out what questions to ask in an initial phone interview with someone from HR who isn’t really going to know much about the job. I usually end up asking cultural questions about the organization, but it always feels a little worthless to bother going into detail in a screening call

    1. Distractinator*

      Can ask about the organization – how does department that’s hiring interact with other departments, how many locations does corporation have and how independent/interrelated are they, etc. HR might rattle off facts, but you’d be asking more for the cultural interpretation of the facts. Oh, I see, 300 employees at this location, is that larger or smaller than… Do other locations also have X teams, or is this team X for all locations?
      And then when you go for your real interview you’ll be prepared with things like “how often do you interact with X teams from other locations, and does that seem more collaborative or territorial from your perspective?”

  12. Joielle*

    These are great! My personal go-to question is “Is there anything about my background or qualifications that you’re concerned about?” Usually, interviewers think about it for a moment and then say they don’t have any concerns. A couple of times, they’ve mentioned some area where my resume is a bit weak, and I can acknowledge that and talk a little about how I’ve actually done something similar/relevant, or at the very least, I’m a fast learner. I feel like it’s a way to get any remaining hesitation out in the open and hopefully ease any concerns. As long as I say it in a friendly/non-defensive way it’s always been well-received.

    My other favorite interview question is “what’s the learning curve like in this job?” Interviewers seem to like that one. I think it shows that I’m aware that I won’t know everything immediately and I want to have realistic expectations of myself and the job.

  13. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

    As someone who tends toward being very literal, I used to HATE having to think of questions to ask in an interview. I mean, of course I had things I wanted to know, but I felt like it was silly to ask about management style, job expectations, etc, before I even knew if they wanted to give me the job.

    Sort of like… we need to pass step 1 (them wanting me) before we go on to step 2 (me deciding if I also want them).

    Now I understand (logically) that we are simultaneously interviewing each other, but it still seems weird sometimes if I think about it too hard.

  14. HC in HR*

    Recruiting has never been a major part of my work – maybe 20% at best. When I have to do it, I’m the 1st phone call, and my job is mostly to see whether or not the person will be a decent fit for the team & if they want OUR job, or just any job & they’ll leave ASAP for another $5k more.

    Given that, the best question I’ve ever been asked – “What is something you know about Company X and your job now that you wish you knew when you were 1st interviewing for the position?”

  15. ThatGirl*

    I have asked a lot of these – I typically ask about the challenges facing the team or the company in addition to the position, if possible. It can tell me a lot. Sometimes I also or instead ask “what do you like most about working here and what do you see as your biggest challenge?” or similar.

  16. Anon T*

    HA of course I had four interviews literally YESTERDAY and forgot to prep questions.

    (I did pull a few but def could’ve used this list)

    1. Anon T*

      Ok turns out I actually did ask a bunch from this list. Almost like I’m a long-time reader of this blog and have absorbed a thing or two!

  17. WantonSeedStitch*

    Both of the jobs I’ve applied for in the past 15 years have been internal promotions, so I knew a lot about the person who had held the role, a lot of the challenges that were faced, and the company culture and so on. I did really like asking the question about “what do you want to see the person in this position accomplish in the first six months/year?” That gave me an idea of where I would have to really focus my efforts. It also let me speak to how I planned to handle those things. The question about what makes a person great vs. good in the role was really helpful too.

  18. AndersonDarling*

    After I answer an interviewer’s question, I’ve begun to ask “Was my answer as detailed as you expected? Or would you like me to go deeper?”
    I get asked questions like “How would you handle X problem” or “Tell me how you set up Y procedure,” and I’ve routinely done myself a disservice by giving the highlights instead of details.
    I’ve been interviewing candidates, and I ask these questions to find out if the candidate actually does the work they claim or if they are exaggerating on their resume. So now I see how important it is go go into details, but at the same time, I’m conditioned not to ramble. Now I just ask my interviewer if they would like more information. After I ask the first time, I know how to gauge the rest of my answers.

    1. Anonym*

      Yeah, I’ve also found myself asking “was that the level of detail you’re looking for, or can I share more on that?” or similar. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge without asking explicitly, and when the detailed version is going to take significantly more of the interview time, it helps to clarify. Interviewers seemed content with the question.

  19. BlackCatOwner*

    I have asked this in every interview since I first read it on the site, and it’s never gotten me a useful answer:
    6. “Thinking back to people you’ve seen do this work previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great at it?”

    Maybe it’s because I ask it at the end after a bunch of other tough questions that already draw out a lot of information? It’s gotten to the point where I’ve stopped asking it. Has anyone else experience really lack luster replies?

    1. GraceRN*

      It can certainly be possible that the interviewer felt like they already addressed it. It’s also possible that unfortunately, after the tough questions, they already decided you were not a good fit for the role, and was not invested to go into detail with this question?

      Also, I’m not sure what’s your industry/context. Is it in organizations where the interviewer manages multiple employees all in a same/similar role, so the interviewer would have seen reports with a range a performances that they can speak to?

      Maybe it also depends on how many people have done the job before under the interviewer. If they only had very few previous reports in this role, or, if every report they had in this role was only average (or below average), and no one was really great, then the interviewer really wouldn’t be able to answer you in a meaningful way.

      So probably depends on the context, and not applicable for every interview?

    2. ecnaseener*

      No firsthand experience, but I’ve definitely seen a lot of discussion about that question in the comments on this site. (Sorry, no clue which post to point you at, I’ve been reading the archives a lot.)

      I remember some people saying it doesn’t work for certain types of roles, like roles that are basically the same no matter what company you’re at. For example a teacher…unless you reframe it around some specific aspect of working at THIS school, a teacher is expected to already know what makes a great teacher.

    3. Wisteria*

      Alison says it’s a great question bc someone asked her, and she was impressed. That’s one data point.

      I find it a weird question bc in the type of work I do, there are typically several people who do the same thing. To ask what differentiates the good ones from the bad ones sort of puts the manager on the spot to rank their people for you. I think that’s an awkward spot to put someone in.

      Even in a situation where only one or two people fill the role, in order to get enough people who have previously done the job to say who was great and who was mediocre, the manager would have had to have seen high turnover. If it’s that kind of job, that’s great, but a manager who had a large pool people to compare might give me pause.

      I ask something similar that is more like, “what makes someone really become effective quickly?” and frame it as a cultural fitting in thing rather than about how to do the job. I don’t always get useful answers, though.

      1. kitty mom*

        She’s also printed a bazillion letters from people who said it worked really well when they used it so I don’t think it’s just a single data point.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        I think you really need to make the question 100% yours, and that includes adapting the core of the idea to the particular role. There are many reasons why the exact wording may come across as artificial. Maybe the role is so well defined that there is overwhelming consensus about what makes a great employee in it. Or maybe the role is so unique that the organization is only hiring for it every 20 years, and no one has seen a representative sample of people in it. Or the field is traditionally very competitive and you really don’t like to think of colleagues as pitted against each other even more than absolutely inevitable. Or one day the power of AAM is so great that the question makes it into every interview guide, and in order to avoid hearing a “here we go again” sigh from your interviewers you really have to put a personal spin on it.

    4. Glitsy Gus*

      Interesting. I just finished interviewing with a couple places and found that to be one of my best questions. I like it because it tends to bring up the more ephemeral or philosophical stuff that doesn’t come out in the other standard questions. I also like that it’s a bit of an open ended one, so you can use it to start a bit more of a conversation rather that a hard “let me give you a list” answer.

      The jobs I was applying for were brand new positions, so I did tweak it a bit to be, “so, I know this is a new position, but you’ve been in this industry for a while. What, in your experience, makes for a really great teapot inspector, as opposed to a really good teapot inspector?” I go t some really interesting, unexpected answers and ultimately it helped me figure out which of my two finalist companies would be the best fit.

    5. aiya*

      Same. I’ve tried asking this question with different companies and for different positions, and I always get the same blank face. I always feel like this question is too similar to the “what qualities do you look for in a new hire?” Most managers will give me the same response to both questions.

    6. laura*

      I use that question in my interviews and mostly I’ve had interviewers love it, tell me it was a great question, look impressed, ect. Then again I’m in nonprofits and that’s where AAM comes from too and there was a discussion about it here recently where people concluded it goes over really well in some industries and might not work in others.

      I’ve seen lots of commenters say it felt like it won over their interviewers.

    7. Dana Whittaker*

      I asked it during an internal interview in higher ed. The dean (my future boss) was completely flustered by it (which I am sure was strike one against me). I knew the back story on the previous employee, so it was very much a case of asking a question I already knew the answer to, but the dean was so by-the-book, I am sure she thought I was asking for the gory details

      I got the position (my previous one was eliminated, so I was automatically at the top of the list for it (union rule)), but she was one of the worst bosses I have ever worked for.

  20. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    I asked #4 re: turnover in an interview once, and the person who would be my grandboss looked me dead in the eye and said without a trace of humor: “Sometimes, people need to leave so you show them the door.”

    It sounded like a red flag at the time, but in reality the head of the department I was applying to had been a terrible boss who screamed at people, tore up their work the night before a presentation, and cried every time a client offered negative feedback. She was a friend of the CEO and was allowed to run amok, causing several employees to quit. Grandboss was promoted to her position above the department head and the first thing she did was fire her.

    A few years later I brought what she said in the interview up and Grandboss was mortified, didn’t even remember saying it let alone in such an ominous way. It’s still the most interesting response I’ve ever gotten to the question as an interviewee.

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      I actually think that is a good answer, especially given the context. I mean, if it were someone I was just meeting, again, I would hope that answer would come with other, more positive ones about making sure folks have what they need, communication, etc. But knowing that a boss is OK with making the hard decisions when they need to be made is overall a good thing.

  21. RicksGuardian*

    Allow me a self-congratulatory pat on the back for asking most of these questions already! I needed to see this today.

    I did ask the “what makes a person good at this position vs great?” and got blank stares once, so didn’t do that again.

  22. HannahS*

    I’ve gotten amazing information from the question, “What do you like about working here?” The question seems generic, but the information is so helpful.
    Examples from when I was figuring out where in the country I wanted to do my residency:
    “Oh, we get loads of funding for textbooks and conferences.” Really? That’s the BEST thing about working here?
    “It’s so wonderful how small the department is, because you know everyone and everyone knows you.”
    “It’s so wonderful how large the department is, because you can really tailor what you do to your own interests.”
    “I love living in this city.”

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      Yeah, I love that one, I just used it in the interviews I had over the last month. It’s always really interesting to hear the answer and it often opens the door for a little “off the beaten path” discussion.

      I also use the 6 months question and the “What makes someone the best versus really good” Those 3 are always in the mix, then I’ll add in others if there is something that didn’t come up in the course of the rest of the interview.

    2. Kara*

      It’s interesting to see people’s reactions when you ask it also. I also think it’s not quite the same as asking the best thing about working there – asking what people like is more subjective and personal, and may get different answers.

      Re your first example: when I asked this in the interview for my current job, one of the answers included: “there is always funding to go on courses” which I was really pleased to hear. I was leaving a job where I kept being blocked from going on training for some very frustrating reasons and it was important to me to know this wouldn’t happen. And I can see funding for those things being really important to some people. I don’t think it’s about what’s objectively best, just what that person likes.

  23. Bella*

    People maybe don’t ask questions because they don’t want to know the answers. They need a job.
    “Will you offer me a job and pay me money?” is their only real question. If you want to know why this happens.

    1. anonnie*

      “people interview badly because they don’t care about the job and just want money” doesn’t make a lot of sense. if you need the job, you should try to come across well.

      1. Andy*

        Not everyone is aware it is fake question. On the surface, it pretends to give you option to ask, if you are curious about something that was not said yet. You say it is hidden test to see whether candidate can impress you by knowing questions from sites like this one.

  24. Marie*

    I’m not actively interviewing at the moment, but one thing that I will for sure ask the next time I am job hunting is: “How did your organization/team respond to the challenges of COVID?” I think it will be extremely illuminating about culture and values in ways that will be hard to bullsh*t.

  25. Deadly Nightshade*

    I would love love love to see a version of this for people on the other side of the table. I have interviewed 100s of people, hired dozens, and been disappointed (“burned”) many times. I know everyone puts their best self forward in an interview and that wet all act differently in an hour than we do 5 days a week. Any interview questions that prompt honest self-assessment and tell me something about the applicant would be so helpful.

  26. AnonPi*

    I often ask #6, and most of the time they seem to fumble/get flustered when I ask it :/
    I had an interview last week and asked it and they said they really liked the question, and got a good answer out of it. First time I can recall that happening.

  27. Arkady English*

    In my latest round of hiring interviews I had a couple of questions not up there.

    “What extra-vocational activities run here normally, and what is the uptake?”

    It gives me a really good insight into what type of people work there, and if there’s good uptake of them it shows that people are voluntarily spending more time around each other than they are contractually obliged to, which is a good sign for the culture.

    The other one was asking how people decorate their desks. This is something I usually keep an eye out for if possible when I’m going through the building. A company where people feel comfortable personalising their work space strikes me as happier than one where people don’t. After all, you wouldn’t bother bringing in plants or anything hard to move to your desk if you didn’t want to be there and were looking to leave soon.

  28. employment lawyah*

    I like those questions but would add a new twist, perhaps.

    When giving a “narrative answer” people tend to generically obscure details (it’s human nature.) But when pressed for specifics, many people will be able to remember them. To prompt recollection and accuracy, you can ask for specific numbers or force them to choose options.

    E.g. in addition to asking “describe a typical week” (a great question) you might also ask “How many times did you stay past 5:30 in the last 2/4 weeks?” This is much more likely to give you data than asking “do you work late often (what does “often” and “late” mean to you/them?)

    If they don’t remember you can follow up with “more than once? Fewer than 10 times? Would you say it’s more like 2-3, or 8-9?” and so on.

    Then you move on to “I’d like to know if those weeks were representative of the year. Would you say they were busier, normal, or less busy than average? Were any other months or times noticeably busier/less busy?” Again, giving the busy/normal/easy option makes it more likely that they will consider three options and answer rather than defaulting to “oh it was normal.”


  29. SweetPotatoontheCouch*

    “How do you see your organization growing?” Or “What do you hope to accomplish in the next few years?” This became an important question for me to ask because I’ve spoken with an org that didn’t even know what it’s own mission statement was!

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