10 impressive questions to ask in a job interview

It’s the question you’re likely to be asked at the end of every job interview: “What questions do you have for me?”

As someone who’s interviewed probably thousands of job candidates in my career, I’m always taken aback by how many people don’t have questions about the job at all. After all, you’re considering spending 40-plus hours a week at this company … surely there’s something you’d like to know?

The problem, I suspect, is that people worry that the invitation to ask their own questions is really just another way for interviewers to judge them. They’re worried they’ll ask something that seems overly demanding or out-of-touch, or they wonder if they’re supposed to pick questions that will somehow burnish their image as the most highly qualified candidate. Or, especially common, they have no idea how to tactfully ask the things they most want to know … like “What are you really like as a boss?” and “Is everyone here miserable?”

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

{ 140 comments… read them below }

  1. Sloanicota*

    I have definitely lost jobs by asking bad questions during this phase of the interview. I asked about office culture in a way that made it sound like I was looking for a new social network, like I wanted happy hours and buddies rather than focusing on the work tasks they wanted to hire for. I actually do think my purpose was valid, because past unhappiness in jobs has come from overly-rigid or stuffy office cultures, but it came off badly and I was not invited back. So I totally understand why sometimes there’s silence when asked this question!! Also, I so often find it gets squeezed in right at the end when we’re almost out of time and I feel bad taking up more than the allotted appointment space.

    1. Random Dice*

      I don’t know how I managed it, but somehow I got one interviewer (in a 1-on-1) to crack and spill out all the dirty laundry. She was being so careful with her responses that I knew to dig a little.

    2. Random Biter*

      So much this. I tend to just freeze and all my well thought out questions fly out of my head. I end up deer-in-headlights or saying, “I think you’ve addressed them all.”

  2. Susie To Go*

    I tend to interview at small, local, non-corporate type businesses where a lot of the interviewers tend to be pretty informal and hands on type people (ie: the people who can both work in the plant and also own the plant) and generally, asking, “What are three qualities that a successful person in this position should possess and three qualities that that person should not possess?” (I started asking for 5 and quickly found that that was too many.) This usually throws them for a loop- no one seems to ask this and they seem to appreciate it.

  3. NotBatman*

    The question I care a lot about is “how well did your company do at supporting employees during COVID?” but I’ve never been sure about how polite it is to ask, or the best way to phrase it.

    1. BuffaloSauce*

      I have asked this as well in interviews. People seem to not be taken aback by the question and answer honestly. Thankfully everywhere seemed to handle pandemic well.

    2. PABJ*

      I would go with something like, “What measures did you put in place to protect employees from potential COVID exposure?” Put the focus on getting them to describe what they did without putting any potential evaluatory phrases in there.

      1. irene adler*

        +1! make them tell you what they did.

        I remember one interviewer (preCOVID) kept stating that the company ‘really supported’ her. She never elaborated; I didn’t think it was a good move to ask.

      2. KHB*

        Just be mindful of who you mean by “you.” Unless you’re dealing with a very small company, the people you’re interviewing with were probably not personally responsible for the company’s COVID response.

    3. I don't have a clever name*

      I wonder if there’s a tactful way to ask at what point in the pandemic they started requiring RTO. My company started demanding it before a vaccine was even available; if and when I look for another job, I’ll want to avoid one that’s so dedicated to butts in seats that they put the lives of vulnerable employees and family members in danger.

    4. NeedRain47*

      I’ve asked it pretty bluntly, like “what changes happened here in March 2020 and what was the phase-out of covid precautions like? (timeline, communication, etc.) An employer that doesn’t want to talk about it almost definitely not someplace I want to work, nor is a place where they started phasing out precautions after two months.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      The way you word the question here put them on the defensive because it’s asking them to either say they did a good job or say they did a bad job, and no one wants to say they did a bad job, especially if it was their own decision how things were handled. Instead, ask what measures were put in place before, what measures are in place now, and also ask about anything specific you care about (remote work, sick time, etc.). Then you can make your own decision about whether they supported/continue to support their employees well or not.

    6. RJ*

      I interviewed extensively during the pandemic and always asked this question. There was only one employer who had a very defensive reaction to it, which really took me aback. Based on this and how he answered other questions on workflow, culture, etc. I took myself out of the running. The company’s ratings got progressively worse from what I heard from my network.

      1. NotBatman*

        I did something similar! I was in the third and final round of interviews for a position with good pay and good location… and my prospective GrandBoss assured me that there was “barely a blip in business as usual” during COVID, and then proceeded to talk about some of the (often vulnerable and underprivileged) clients as “complainers” who would “take any excuse” to meet online rather than in person. Goodbye and good riddance to that job.

        1. Retired To Morning Room To Write My Letters*

          Wow. Such a great question, then, for weeding out a problematic manager.

    7. ursula*

      Honestly, I would be tempted to ask this in the present tense! Transmission is still active; in my area, there were more deaths from COVID in 2022 than any year prior. I want to know what people are doing *now* as well. And even if the answer is “not much,” I want to know if my future boss bristles when asked the question.

    8. Samwise*

      Any employer that thinks this is an impolite question is an employer you don’t want to work for.

      1. Baron*

        As other commenters have said, I think it’s an ineffectively worded question – because people aren’t always honest with themselves, and “how well did you do?” is going to lead to “perfect, as far as I know!” a lot of the time. But I think the purpose of the question is excellent.

    9. danmei kid*

      Also keeping it as a present tense question – how well is your company doing, not how well did they do, since we are still living with it.

  4. Spaceball One*

    Ahh. The best, most comfortable interview I ever had ended with me asking a ton of questions; the three-person hiring panel answered them all and then the main manager said something akin to, gee, you had as many questions of us as we had of you! They were very good-natured about it. I was offered the role a couple days later but the salary was so far from what I expected, we amicably parted ways. Still though, it was such a pleasant experience.

    1. Random Dice*

      I always have tons of questions. The ones that show that I bothered to look up their mission and company news; the ones that let me know if I’m going to succeed there; the ones that subtly suss out toxicity; the ones that let me know how much they know about the industry.

  5. BuffaloSauce*

    I like to ask what the culture is like surrounding PTO, taking time off for appointments etc. You can tell a lot about a manager and company by the way they answer this.

    1. Matt*

      I’ve heard that you’re not supposed to ask about PTO, vacation time, benefits, etc. during an interview. This is supposed to be reserved for when you’re offered the job.

      1. badger*

        I think there’s a difference between asking what the benefits are, and asking what the attitude about using them is. If people never use their PTO or if the expectation is that the employee still be available by email/phone/whatever, you want to know that, and I think it’s fair to ask.

        The funny thing is, I had an interview once in which they described a scenario in which the employee had a day of PTO planned and multiple tasks with imminent deadlines and wanted to know how I would handle it/prioritize. At that point in my career, I was willing to give up a day of PTO to get stuff done (unless it was for something I absolutely could not move, like surgery or travel), and I said as much. The panel all looked really taken aback, because that was not at all their culture, but it was at the workplace I was in the process of leaving. I didn’t get that job but the one I did get has a similar philosophy – we are encouraged to use PTO and where possible, have systems in place so that we can take time off and not be overwhelmed when we get back.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        I wouldn’t make it your only question in a first interview, but it seems fine for later rounds.

      3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        That shows a toxic culture straight off!
        Benefits are part of the compensation, of course you need to know about them. If you’re not supposed to ask, you’ll find out that they’re not nearly as good as you thought. Like yes, there is health insurance but it only covers x and y whereas you need z.

    2. BuffaloSauce*

      I guess I should have elaborated. More about what the attitude around is for taking time off for appointments and such.

      How does your office handle when employees need time off for appointments etc.
      Can I come in late for the doctor appointment and stay late to cover the time?

      I often ask this, after I ask more questions about the culture of the office. This can tell you alot about the manager and company.

      1. DontBeConfrontational*

        This would come across negatively/as confrontational at most places I’ve worked unless you’re having a conversation with HR specifically about benefits.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          If you regularly need to come in a bit later because you have an appointment early in the morning, and can easily make it up by staying later in the evening, you do need to know whether that’s possible or frowned upon or you need to find someone to cover for you or what.
          Of course if all your questions are about taking time off it wouldn’t be a good look. But you sometimes need to know.
          Like my first job after having a baby, I was expected to stay late like my colleague, but there was no way I was doing that, even if overtime was paid for. So I didn’t, and it caused lots of problems. My colleague saw me standing up to the bosses and was inspired to take them to court for all his unpaid overtime. So the fact that I didn’t ask about overtime ended up being a good thing for my colleague, but I was pretty miserable working for such toxic bosses.

  6. EngineeringFun*

    I’m a female engineer with 20 years of experience. I’ve had worked at 10 different companies Usually interview with 3-6 technical people and then finally HR, asks if I have any questions. HR can’t answer these questions. I’ve usually tried to ask these to all the technical people along the way. By the time I get to HR I know if I want the position or not. So I don’t have any questions.

    1. Ahab*

      “Usually interview with 3-6 technical people and then finally HR, asks if I have any questions.”

      Also a female engineer, and am very familiar with how engineering interviews go. Every place I have ever interviewed, the technical people asked me if I had questions when they were done with their questions.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Same, or I was able to ask questions as we went. They do tend to ask “any other questions” at the end though, and in my case, sometimes the answer was yes, but often (with the good ones) it’s more like I quick check my list of questions I came in with and make sure I already got answers to them from whatever we already discussed. Then say “I think you’ve already addressed all the questions I had”.

  7. ZSD*

    I would add to make sure you’re not asking questions that you’ve already been given the answers to. I’m currently on a hiring panel, and one person we interviewed asked us three questions. The answers to two of those questions were in the job description, and the answer to the third was in the email I’d sent him inviting him to interview. It made me question both his reading comprehension and his interest in the job. If he were truly interested, I thought he would have prepared more carefully.

  8. Modesty Poncho*

    The problem I always run into is that I’ve written down a list of questions, and by the time they reach “do you have any questions for me?” they’ve all been answered. Usually that means we’ve been having a good give-and-take through the whole conversation, but then I’m still left with nothing prepared and it looks bad.

    1. Mouse*

      I’ve had that happen before. I just said “I think we’ve covered all my questions through our conversation! *performatively check the list* Yep, all I have left is to ask about your timeline and next steps.” I felt like it was received well, and I think the interviewer even made a comment about how glad he was that the conversation had been helpful for me too.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        This is what I have done as well, and I’ll say something like “X was the biggest question I was going to ask and we covered that”

        I do sometimes ask what was their favorite moment at The Company if there is time and we’ve already covered everything else I had in my list. But I only ask that if there is plenty of time left, if we’re cutting it closed to the end, I just ask about timeline and next steps.

    2. Samwise*

      I would have some more open ended questions ready. I mean, not questions where you don’t care about the answers, but something like: what do you see as the biggest challenge working here/ working with X population of students (I’m in higher Ed)?

      If you’ve been here for several years, what keeps you here?

      Because I work in higher ed, I always ask about bureaucracy, getting things done to help students.

      Ask about professional development opportunities. Is that formally structured at this employer, or more ad hoc? What kind of opportunities are available? Are they open to (name your preferred opportunity)?

      Guaranteed you have not learned everything you’d be glad to know when your other questions have already been answered during the course of the interview.

      And always ask the timeline / next steps question.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Building on your second prompt, I always ask how long they’ve been there. If the answer is a long time I ask what keeps them there, and if it’s a short time I ask why they wanted to join this company. This question doesn’t always pay off in a big way, but often they light up over it! I think it makes them feel seen as people. (Bonus: If it’s an executive, I ask what kind of legacy they hope to leave.)

      2. Mimmy*

        Because I work in higher ed, I always ask about bureaucracy, getting things done to help students.

        Bureaucracy is something I’m concerned about – how do you ask about it?

  9. Phony Genius*

    Just did some interviews. One candidate asked us #1, and another #8 (out of about 10 candidates). Unfortunately, the rest of their interviews weren’t very impressive.

    1. SpicySpice*

      Ha! We need a (pretend) list of AAM questions to ask, such as:
      1. Do you let people bring cheap ass rolls to potlucks?
      2. My birthday is Feb 29th, how will you handle that?
      3. Will I be required to donate organs/body parts to any of the leadership and/or their families?

      1. Random Dice*

        4. What is the level of spice in my stolen lunch that will get me fired?
        5. Will the boss poop on anyone from the catwalk or create IEDs for the flamethrower crews?
        6. Is there a basket where guests usually poop, or can we go in any potted plant in reception?

        1. ecnaseener*

          7. How long before the CEO poaches me to be his personal assistant / life coach / emotional bedrock? Will he stalk me?

          8. After rowdy holiday parties, will the boss wait until Wednesday to confront us or will he dive right in on Monday?

        2. 30 Years in the Biz*

          7. Will I be required to share a work bathroom with a wild and crazy pooper?
          8. Am I expected to visit graveyards to deliver work messages to grieving colleagues?

          1. Tio*

            9. Will I be expected to crash someone’s wedding to confirm non urgent work details and be escorted out?

              1. FrizzleFrazzle*

                11. I have an offensive sticker on my car, is that going to be an issue?

                12. Do you have any bosses here that I may have ghosted in a past relationship?

  10. Decidedly Me*

    I’ve been asked all of these and I really like these ones. I’d rather people self-select out if our culture isn’t for them than for either of us to find out after they are hired (to be clear – I talk a lot about culture from my side, so it’s not like it’s hidden knowledge unless asked). One of the questions that someone really cared about that I was asked was related to examples of handling diversity. A question that I really didn’t like that was asked once was “When can I start?” after a 10min screener call.

    I do find that a lot of people waste the opportunity to ask questions, either with bad questions or having none at all.

  11. Spearmint*

    On “ask the question you really care about”, I care a lot about work-life balance but struggle with how to phrase it. I don’t want it to come off like I’m a slacker or that I’d never be willing to work outside 8-5 or be on call or monitor email in the evenings, as long as it was only expected occasionally. But at the same time it’s one of the biggest factors for me when considering a job so I really want to ask it.

    1. Sasha Blause*

      I have good results with “What’s your on-call rota look like?”

      Gets me an honest answer, whether that’s “one week on, two off” or “this position isn’t part of the rota; the typical maximum for off hours work is one or two nights a year and this place is a ghost town at 5:05.”

    2. DeterminedNerd*

      I’ve used “Is it expected that I’ll complete all of my work within the 8-5 timeframe? Or will the work require me to put in hours outside of that?” and that’s gone pretty well for me thus far in interviews. Honestly, if they have a bad reaction to the question about work-life balance, it’s usually a sign that it might not be for me.

    3. KHB*

      Once I had a candidate ask me how often he’d be pulling all-nighters. I gave him a confused look and said that for us, “staying late” means working until 6 instead of 5. I think I gave him the information he needed.

      But yeah, “Does this role require any on-call work outside of core working hours?” is a really, really reasonable question to ask. Ideally, employers who require that would be disclosing it upfront (and setting their salaries accordingly). But of course, not all employers are ideal.

    4. Spencer Hastings*

      Yeah, I feel kind of weird about asking those kinds of questions, too, like the interviewer is going to think “we’re interviewing her for this job and she seems oddly fixated on NOT being here” or something like that.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I agree, unfortunately. I’ve seen it from both sides – in one case a candidate only asked questions about travel and time outside of work, and I do think my boss was turned off by what she saw as a fixation on avoiding extra work. To be fair, the candidate was right that the role involved a good amount of outside-hours work (but it was a media/comms role, so that’s not totally unexpected) and it probably wasn’t the right fit for her. I’ve also been the person trying to suss out how many hours the employer is looking for, and finding it a delicate thing to handle. I hear horror stories of offices where 50 hours/week is considered standard – which I don’t think it should need to be – and I’m currently in a role where 35 hours a week is FT, so this is important.

    5. Ranon*

      I ask what a typical week looks like, what a push week looks like, how often push weeks happen, and what they do to plan for deadlines/ prevent folks overworking (I work on the project management side so these are naturally part of my work as well)

      1. ferrina*

        I love this distinction between the push week and a how often they happen. My industry has push weeks, but on a good team this will be a few months apart, on a badly run team it could be a couple times per month. Big difference in work-life balance

    6. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      “Is there a busy/crunch time for this position?” I work in higher ed so there is definitely a time of year that is super busy or certain events are “all hands on deck” even if it’s not my regular job, and then a month of almost nothing to do since faculty and students (mostly) are off campus.

      “Will this position be expected to do prescheduled overtime?” Similar to a busy/crunch season, it could be that the first Monday of each month (for instance) is a regular project planning or deliverable day.

    7. ThatGirl*

      “How often is there the expectation to work beyond/outside of typical business hours?” is one way to put it. There are other good suggestions here too.

    8. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Me too. I got a BS answer when I asked about scheduling, being told we had a 2-hour break like it was a great perk.
      Then I overheard the interviewers as they left the room, discussing the fact that at 2.30pm, neither had had time for lunch.
      A guy who would have been my colleague called me at 8pm the next week asking why I hadn’t yet sent in my test translation for him to assess. I told him I didn’t think the place was a good fit for me “look at you, calling me at this time of night”. He tried to make out that he was working late precisely because he was doing the work of two people, and there was probably some truth in that, but I wasn’t buying it.

  12. Ashley Armbruster*

    I’ll also say, if you ask these kinds of questions but get non-answers or “we don’t know”, that can be a red flag! Learned that the hard way, three times.

    1. Decidedly Me*

      For sure, though it will depend on who you’re asking them of. The recruiter may genuinely not know (but should find out and follow up), but the actual hiring manager should.

  13. KHB*

    I’m surprised that you continue to be “taken aback” by this, when there are lots of reasons why a job candidate might not have any questions (and you’ve articulated several of them).

    For me, when I was new to the workforce and interviewing, I never had any questions for my interviewers, because I wasn’t yet fully aware of all the possible ways that workplaces could be dysfunctional, so I didn’t realize what a broad universe of things I should have been on my guard against. (AAM didn’t exist back then.) I just kind of assumed that my bosses and coworkers would be reasonable people with reasonable expectations and reasonable means of evaluating me – and I happened to luck into a job where that was actually the case.

    These days, I’m on the interviewer side of the table, and I can say: Please don’t worry about being “impressive” with your questions for me. I’m looking for someone who can do the job, not just ask clever questions about it. Ask the questions that you actually want to know the answers to – and if that’s something as mundane as “what’s the on-site parking situation like?”, that’s A-OK with me.

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I appreciate thoughtful questions, but sometimes candidates ask me substantive legal questions (how did the recent Supreme Court decision in “I googled your area of law” v. Whatever affect you?) and I find those ridiculous. Especially when googling my area of the law led to a subset of the law that I don’t deal with, which is usually the case.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      Ask those mundane questions too, sure, but if you ask me the kinds of questions Alison talks about, it’ll show me you’re putting some real thought into what it would take to be successful in the position. I wouldn’t necessarily expect someone in an entry-level position to ask all (or even any) of those, especially someone new to the workforce. But I would hope that someone with experience applying for a higher level role might ask some of them.

      1. KHB*

        I think that’s an important distinction. For somebody looking to transfer from one employer to another in the same (or a related) field, I’d expect them to have given some serious thought to how the new role might compare and contrast to how they’re used to doing things.

        But for someone straight out of school, or coming into one field from a different one, “putting some real thought into what it would take to be successful in the position” is by no means a requirement to get in the door. It’s my job, as a senior employee, to be guiding the conversation about what success looks like here, and to give candidates the information they need to decide whether they’ll be happy here. It’s not in anyone’s best interest to only give them that information if they know to ask for it.

    3. Seashell*

      I haven’t had a job interview in 20+ years, but I don’t think I asked many or sometimes any questions when I did. I needed a job (or needed to get out of a job I didn’t like), so I wasn’t in a position to be picky about much of anything.

  14. arthur lester*

    I always ask them what their favorite thing about working at the place is, and get great responses from it– not just in terms of the actual answers, but also in terms of how pleased the interviewers seem that I asked.
    In my field, soft skills and being a good culture fit are almost more important than hard/technical skills (as in, I’ve gotten jobs over someone who was more technically qualified because I seemed easier to work with) and I think in this case, that question demonstrates that I’m reasonably positive as a person, and that I care about creating and fitting in with a good company culture.

    1. I don't have a clever name*

      I ask people that as well. If it’s “The people I work with” or “We’re like a family,” I’m turning down the position.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        “We’re like a family” would be a red flag for me, but “the people I work with” can be a really GOOD thing, depending on context. If it’s “we all go out for happy hour every night together,” then…no. If it’s “they’re collaborative rather than competitive, they’re curious and have a strong work ethic, and they are always happy to step in and help out if someone is overloaded?” Damn straight, I want in on that. (Luckily for me, that describes my workplace to a T.)

        1. I don't have a clever name*

          See, to me those things are a baseline expectation. You expect people to be professional, collegial, and invested in their jobs. Granted, that expectation isn’t always fulfilled, but I don’t see it as a plus when your favorite thing about the company is “People behave the way adults in the workplace are supposed to behave.” Either you’re damning your workplace with faint praise or there’s a lot of trauma bonding going on.

          1. A Penguin!*

            Eh, I can see where you’re coming from, but I’ve had multiple places where I would grade my coworkers as a whole as ‘meets expectations’ and one where I would definitely grade them ‘exceeds expectations’. The former were fine places to work, and my best thing about those jobs would not have mentioned my coworkers. But the ‘exceeds’ job – my coworkers were definitely mentioned when I was asked about best things about the company.

          2. Cedrus Libani*

            Honestly, as someone who has spent a lot of time in academia, the second best thing about my current job IS “people behave like adults”. (Best thing: market-rate salary!)

            I can say nice things about my current employer in particular, but the list starts at third best and goes down from there. It’s hard to compete with those first two.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I have asked favorite and least favorite things and both can be revealing. Sometimes I rephrase “least favorite” to “what do you find challenging?” or “what do you think the company could improve on?” which are somewhat different questions but can also both be revealing. Especially if you ask it of multiple interviewers.

    3. Lenora Rose*

      This question didn’t net me anything exciting in my very last interview (The answers were sincere but unsurprising – think people running a llama grooming business loving improving the lives of llamas) but in the one before that, I was interviewing for the permanent version of a position I was already covering, and it told me a few things about my manager I hadn’t already known from the day to day work – and in a good way.

  15. Jthom*

    One of the best (and go-to) questions I always have lined up for this is “What challenges do you think someone new to this role could face, and what are the best ways I could overcome them?”. Interviewers have always LOVED when I ask that, I know the challenges I would face and how to tackle them as soon as I started this role, AND it brings it to their attention that someone new in this role would have challenges, so expectations are fairly set.

    My fun follow up one after that is “What is your favorite part of working here?” and “what makes you happy to come to work every day?”

    1. Bookmark*

      I ask a version of this question in job interviews that includes “and what support/assistance/etc do you as a manager plan to provide to help overcome them?” This question has come in very handy in my recent job searches because I’m senior enough and familiar enough with my industry that I have a pretty good idea what the challenges will be in the roles I’m applying for, and they generally relate to having a lot of responsibility and a huge workload but no direct authority (i.e. no direct reports). So when I ask this question, I’m more looking to make sure that my prospective boss is aware of this reality and that some kind of support from them (having my back, providing resources, having realistic expectations and allowing for work-life balance) makes an absolutely crucial difference to whether the job is workable or not.

  16. Audiophile*

    Where I struggle is with preliminary or first-round interviews with recruiters. They often do not have much background about the role, and that makes it difficult to ask questions.

  17. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    If I haven’t been told explicitly about how the company makes money, I ask what their revenue model is and how things are going. I’m looking for an organization that will not only pay me this year, but for years to come.

  18. CTA*

    Remember to make the most of your time and ask the questions you want to ask. Remember you are trying to learn if the job is the right fit for you.

    I’m a software developer I recently interviewed someone who was fairly new to the working world. When it was time for her to ask the team questions, many of her questions were more small talk than her asking about the role and workplace. She could have used her time better. For example, I work in C# but the rest of the team works in PHP. She asked me how I like C#. The position she was interviewing for would not involve C#, ever. It’s possible she asked this question because she thought she’d have to work with that coding language. I wish she took the opportunity to ask about expectations, work load, and if the culture aligns with what she wants. She didn’t ask about any of that. I think she was more nervous/excited about interviewing at a dream company. PS – her questions didn’t factor into my evaluation. I’m just sharing this as an anecdote.

    1. Alias Sydney*

      So why wouldn’t you just share some of that information, especially for someone new to the working world that wouldn’t really have the experience to ask that info?
      I agree that it’s good for a interviewee to think of these things and ask the right questions, but it certainly seems like it’s smart for an interviewer to also just provide that information as a standard part of the discussion so that they can both evaluate if the position is right for the interviewee.

  19. Tired of Working*

    I never asked how long the person who held the job previously stayed at the company or why they left, because I figured that the HR person could lie. At one interview, the owner volunteered the information that Patty, the previous person, had left because she wanted to work for a big company. However, after I started the job, the owner told me that Patty hadn’t left for that reason – she had been fired because she was lazy. Eventually, a co-worker told me that Patty had quit and had given two weeks notice, but the owner insisted that Patty leave immediately and the owner considers herself to have fired Patty, because Patty left the company on the day that the owner chose, not on the day that Patty chose.

    I have always asked if the company provided health insurance, because I was single and didn’t have a spouse who could provide coverage for me. One interviewer got angry and snapped, “IF we decide to hire you, THEN we’ll tell you about our health insurance!” Another interviewer shouted, “Our health insurance was discussed in our help-wanted ad!” No, it wasn’t. I saved every hel-wanted ad that I responded to, and none of them discussed health insurance. Some interviewers were astonished that I asked about health insurance, because they said that they didn’t offer it, and they claimed that they were unaware that some companies did offer it.

    1. Dragon*

      I applied but wasn’t interviewed, at a sizable company that provided its benefits info only to candidates they made an offer to. While I didn’t agree with that approach, this outfit is big enough in my industry that if they were really bad, I think they would’ve been outed on Glassdoor.

    2. curmudgeon*

      As someone who is in the process of interviewing candidates, I don’t know how to answer that question because the last person was fired.

  20. Ranon*

    I tend to interview with folks that are fairly high level at smaller companies, so I like to ask what they see the future of the company being for the next five years or so- places that are growing aggressively are different from places that are planning for stability, and places that want to keep working in their current areas versus places trying to get into new work are different too

  21. I don't have a clever name*

    Weird thing about interview questions:

    When I was on a hiring committee about twelve years ago, we had probably half a dozen candidates who persistently used “we” when talking about the company – think “What are our deliverables?” and “What’s our strategy for Task X?” One guy even stopped in mid-sentence to correct “you” to “we”! I can only assume some career counselor at one of the local universities had a brainstorm and figured their students would get a leg up by using forced teaming (de Becker, 2010). I can envision them telling people “You know, if you say ‘we’ you’re making them visualize you in the role! Then you’re halfway to getting the job!”

    Needless to say, it came across as weird, presumptuous, and slightly offensive. I had never heard it before and have never heard it since, fortunately. It was just so weird and gimmicky that I almost wanted to stop candidates in mid-call and say “Someone has given you really terrible advice and I think we’ll all be more comfortable if you stop taking it.”

  22. NeedRain47*

    I’ve asked many of the suggested questions, and I’ve also done research into their current projects to show I’ve looked at what they’re doing and thought about it.

    The insights I really want:

    Does this workplace have an open plan office? (If yes, thank them, then leave, I cannot function in that setting)

    Will I be required to wear closed toed shoes? (my current employer requires this, but it turns that wearing sandals half the year was the thing preventing my foot problems from recurring. I would like less foot pain and expense.)

    1. Retired To Morning Room To Write My Letters*

      A thousand times about the open plan office. I am slightly terrified I’ll end up in one again. It’s like low level torture for me – I want to work, I care about getting stuff done, my job depends on me getting stuff done, but I can’t. For 7 hours. Every day.

      1. Just a different redhead*

        It would actually injure me to be in an open plan office, so I’d have to first-day quit if it somehow sneaked by!

    2. Curious*

      Why would your employer care what type of shoes you wear? Please tell me that this is some sort of safety-related thing (e. g. a manufacturing environment).

      1. Just a different redhead*

        On a limb I’d guess potentially dated dress code because open toed shoes are (were) less work-formal/professional-standard?

      2. SarahKay*

        I work in the office for a manufacturing site – although think small and delicate, like computer components rather than big and heavy, like cars. If we have to go into the workshop, or for anyone working in the workshop, then the requirement is shoes with closed toes, closed heels, no stilettos, no excessively (>2 inches) high heels; outside the workshop then there are no restrictions.
        Office people that like sandals but need to go into the workshop just keep a spare pair of shoes under their desks to pop on as needed.

  23. Skippy*

    Over the years I’ve moved away from asking questions that are designed to make me look smarter or more engaged. Instead I prefer to ask questions that actually help me determine whether I want to work at the organization, especially as this is one of the few times in the process you get to gather information. Whether that information is accurate is another story!

  24. Samwise*

    It’s true that I judge people I’m interviewing about the questions they ask:

    If they have no questions, that is a minus. Having questions means you looked at the job ad/description carefully, looked at our website, thought about what you do/don’t like in a job, etc.

    Having no questions also feels to me like a sign that you have no curiosity. Our staff loves talking about issues, figuring why things are/aren’t working, trying out new approaches… This is anecdotal, but every time we’ve hired someone who has no questions, they’ve turned out to be a poor fit for just this reason, it seems to me.

    If you can ask a question that’s a conversation starter, so to speak, then that’s a real plus in my book.

    In fact, we have a scoring rubric for interviews and “candidate questions “ gets a score. Not enough to knock a candidate out of the running, but might put them below another candidate. Or above another candidate.

  25. Lacey*

    I never knew what made sense to ask – you can’t just come out and say, “Are you guys pleasant or awful?” but you can ask about the office culture.

    Sure, they may still lie to you, but for example – one interviewer was really excited I asked bc they’d been working so hard on their office culture and were really proud of how far they’d come.

    On the other hand – it’s also really interesting to see which questions they’re utterly unprepared for. Almost every interviewer I’ve had has floundered when asked how they’ll measure my position’s success.

    I haven’t had so many jobs to really establish a pattern, but the one interviewer who was really excited by that question was also the worst micromanager, who alternated between making us guess what she wanted and basically moving our hands around for us.

    1. ferrina*

      I go to Glassdoor to answer the Pleasant vs Awful question. At one memorable point, the reviews were fascinating- older reviews were awful, newer reviews were mixed. So I explicitly asked about that in the interview.

      There was a moment of stunned silence from the interviewers. Then they began to speak very candidly about the culture problems, how there had been a long history of culture problems but the new CEO was trying to fix it, here was some of the new initiatives…. It was really nice because I got a really clear sense of the company culture before deciding whether I wanted the job. (I did end up taking it and my impression of the culture was accurate, but it turns out that their organizational structure was way more of a mess than their culture…)

  26. Elle*

    Sometimes think people don’t have any questions to ask because they’re so focused on “passing” the interview, despite the fact that both parties should be figuring out if it’s a good fit. I’ve definitely been there myself.

    1. Matt*


      Or if I have no questions, it probably means that I lost interest in the job. Something may have been revealed during the interview which turned me off.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Absolutely. Having been on the interviewer side, it’s understandable but concerning – if you come across as so desperate to please that you won’t even ask questions for fear of admitting you [have needs / don’t know everything under the sun / etc] – how am I supposed to feel good about training you? Are you going to pretend you understand when you don’t, and refuse to ask for help?

  27. 3lla*

    I always ask the same question. “I saw on your website that [company] has efforts at diverse recruitment, but what does the company do for diversity retention?” As a disabled person, there’s no good workplace for me without a great answer to that question.

    1. Willow Pillow*

      I do this too. I also say that I have an invisible disability that affects my focus, and that I wear headphones to address it – this allows me to gauge the response without having to fully disclose that I’m autistic.

    2. Loaf*

      Thank you for this, I’m a WOC and will be using this on my next interview! It’s a question I try to prod at but this is a beautiful way of posing the question (and getting to what really matters).

  28. AthenaC*

    One question I always ask is “Can you tell me about your parental leave policies?” I do always comment that it’s not for me but because I want to understand what sort of company this is and what support I can expect my teammates and subordinates to have; whether they believe me or not I don’t know since I am clearly a woman of child-bearing age, but I don’t believe I’ve lost out on any opportunities because of it.

    I also think it should be more normal to talk about parental leave, so I’m doing my part!

  29. DivergentStitches*

    I’d love to know how to best screen for a micromanaging boss. I’m currently looking, and I have a very laid-back great boss right now, and would hate to go somewhere where I’m micromanaged.

    1. Cedrus Libani*

      I’ve found that peer-level interviewers will be surprisingly honest about that stuff, at least when the boss isn’t in the room. (And if the boss won’t leave the room, or the employees are visibly uncomfortable when you ask, well…there’s your answer.)

      Ask the boss about their management style too. You might hear something authentic that puts you at ease. Maybe you won’t, but it’s still likely to be revealing, particularly when you can get the peer-levels to contextualize it.

    2. Lester*

      I had a toxic boss before who – I noticed – always included a mention of “underperforming employees” (or a similar phrase) every time he was asked to describe his approach management. Eg, “I have 2 years management experience, including managing underperformance.” I now know that this is a glaring red flag, signalling someone who is kindof obsessed with criticising their reports.

  30. Lizzy B*

    Caveat: I am an office worker in the US, so your mileage may vary.
    When I’m interviewing for new role, questions I have at the ready include:
    – What does success look like in this role over the first 6 and 12 months? (This almost always reveals new insights that prompt further questions, usually about resourcing, training, and processes. I’ve been surprised at how often the conversation after this question shows what the job will *really* be like!)
    – To the manager: What does the onboarding process look like for the successful candidate?
    – Who are the key partners/stakeholders that a successful candidate will work with? What is the relationship like with those people/teams today, and are there any changes you’d like to see in the future?
    – For people who eventually move on from this role/team, what are the kinds of things they go do? (This can be a tricky question, and may make weaker managers think I’m looking to leave the team quickly. Good managers wouldn’t fear that but I probably don’t know if they’re a good manager yet! So I wouldn’t risk asking this question if I needed a paycheck more than I needed to plan for long term career advancement.)
    – To the manager: What is your preferred style of coaching? For example, some managers prefer that team members bring forward questions or asks for help, while other managers prefer to raise an issue to a team member as part of an ongoing coaching model. Can you talk about your preferred approach? (I know managers are notoriously poor at estimating their own preferences, which is why I include a concrete example that is as value-neutral as possible to avoid defensiveness. You may have a different topic more important to you than coaching, but I’d recommend asking in a value-neutral way.)
    Please steal and modify any of the above as you wish, and best of luck to everyone out there! It’s a wild labor market, and I wish for everyone a respectful and fair work environment for us all.

    1. Bookmark*

      I’ve gotten great answers when I ask what success looks like in the first year and what it looks like after 3-5 years. Helps show whether this is a position they expect people to basically do the same thing just faster/better, or do they have a good internal staff development/promotion pathway, or are they expecting this position to change over time based on some internal strategy, or is it the kind of place where people develop a “niche” over time based on their own interest/expertise? Or do they not really have a plan (could be a sign the position might be precarious, or an opportunity to define the role yourself!) This question also comes in handy if you actually do get hired when it comes to performance reviews down the road.

  31. Ihmmy*

    like 3lla mentioned above, I tend to ask about diversity / DEI efforts. I also have invisible disabilities, and where I work (all my interviews lately have been internal but it’s quite a large place with many disparate units) has a lot of lip service toward Indigenization but I’m always curious what places are actually doing toward that plus how they handle disability, gender diversity, etc.

    I’ve also been asking open ended questions of what the work culture is like broadly, because I’m always curious what information they provide – what they think their good stuff is and the information they offer up.

    I also used Alison’s magic question with my last interview plus the other two and ended up with the gig :D and some positive feedback about all 3 of my queries.

  32. Safely Retired*

    I only ever had two jobs in my 30 year IT career, and I never interviewed except for those two jobs, and those were 46 and 44 years ago. Which is to say, I’m not very experienced at interviewing. But my question was “What is the biggest obstacle to productivity here.” I recall only part of one of the responses; that amounted to “I’ve never been asked that and wasn’t expecting it.”

  33. Olive*

    Even though it’s often not very revealing about the company since it tends to be very individual, I like to ask an interviewer something about their career progression. If asked with an attitude of interest, it tends to get a more relaxed answer that makes the rest of the interview feel more like a conversation and less like an interrogation (on either side).

  34. Daisy*

    I was once in an interview with two interviewers and asked them to describe what a typical day looked like. One interviewer just laughed out loud. I never really got a good answer but I really wasn’t interested after that either.

  35. AccountingIsFun!*

    Wow… talk about serendipity! I just told a mentee (Accounting/Finance honors college student) that they should look through Ask A Manager for interviewing tips, especially what questions they should ask at the end of the interview… and here it is in one handy dandy list! Thanks!

  36. DJ*

    Love the Can you describe a particular day or week? question as it does extract information on how much of the work you wish to do vs the work you’d not want to much of. Sometimes applicants trying to move out of certain types of work need to apply for positions that involve some of that type of work as well as other work to have a chance of finding a new job. e.g. could be face to face/phone customer service/enquiry work vs other work (to try to build up experience in “other work” to move onto non customer service work)

  37. DJ*

    When I wasn’t 100% health wise thus struggling to work full time without flexible working hours let alone additional unpaid hours, I faced the how do I find out if flexible working hours/no additional hours was offered situation. Naturally an employer having position information that outlined this was helpful. But it wasn’t always apparent. I would worry that asking could you advise what the hours of the position would be, do you offer flextime and time in lieu, would the employee be required to work additional hours would impact negatively on my chances of getting that position. If there was a contact person to make enquiries how would I weave these questions into other questions about the position? Should I wait until job offer then enquire and decline the job if there was no flexibility?

  38. It All Worked Out In The End*

    One of my most successful interviews, I asked “do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?” and not only was I able to further explain some of my customer service skills that the interviewer wasn’t sure I had experience with (but did) but it ended up helping wrap up the interview very nicely and turn into a job offer (which I turned down because I accepted my toxic boss’s counter offer like an idiot).

  39. tusemmeu*

    On the subject of the turnover question, I’ve been cautious about using the specific term “turnover” after the time the interviewer assumed I was familiar with the formal ways businesses track that data and I didn’t understand the answer at all.

  40. Rocket Sturgeon*

    I used to ask 1) if the interviewer saw themselves as a manager or leader (and why), and 2) if their people worked with or for them. LOTS of illuminating answers!

  41. münchner kindl*

    I haven’t recently interviewed, but I’m stumped on how to ask the important questions and get a honest answer at the end of the interview! Alison, you’ve often pointed out that bad managers often lack the insight to recognize they’re bad (similar to how interviewees often talk well but their actual work is below-average).
    If a company is stingy and exploiting employees, not all are sending up red flags; if there are systemic issues that management isn’t adressing, they won’t openly talk about it; very often the advice is “talk to your network” (though that only helps for people who have one).

    Yes, it’s important for me to know what the company is like, but if the flags are hidden, you can only find out by working there during probationary period.

    The same goes in the other direction, too: obvious red flags managers can discover during interview, and a skill test for many positions is useful; but during the probationary period, managers realize hidden problems with new employees.

  42. Suzi Quatro*

    I’d welcome any thoughts on what to ask when you’re interviewing within your current employer and already know most of the answers to potential questions. I’m an Assistant Teapot Engineer and a big part of my job is designing teapots with in-built filters. We’re a small team in a huge organisation that deals with all sorts of breakfast-related issues. At present, filters are overseen by a Teapot Engineer, but this is only a small part of her job; she has lots of other kinds of teapot to design; and my manager is hoping to create a new Teapot Engineer position to focus on full-time filter teapot design. I intend to apply for this post, and I’d be very likely to get an interview. There’s nobody else on the team who has as much experience in filter teapots as I do, so I’d most likely be up against external candidates. The interview panel would probably be my manager (who knows that filter teapots are a useful thing but doesn’t really understand the technology) and one or two Teapot Engineers who would have more specialist knowledge than she does but less practical experience than me. Either way, I would be likely to know all of them.

    I’ve been involved in a lot of conversations with my manager about what needs to change around the filter system (and want to keep doing that – even if I don’t get this job I’ll still be involved in filter teapot design and I want my opinions to be taken into account!) and I’ve worked in this organisation for over a decade, and on this team for over half of that.

    So, what’s left for me to ask? I know why this job exists and what it’s trying to achieve. I know about the salary scale and employee benefits. I know what the challenges are likely to be (heck, I’m already dealing with them most of the time). I know who’s on the team, who reports to whom, how it’s structured, and how it fits into the wider organisation. I could ask what the plan would be for filling my Assistant Teapot Engineer role if I were appointed to the new job, but I want to go in armed with more than that. I’m not very good at pretending that I don’t know things that in fact I do know and asking questions to which I already know the answer. Conversely, it seems silly to hold back on asking questions in the run up to the job being posted just so that I have something to ask when the interview rolls around. So, any suggestions gratefully received!

    1. Merrie*

      “I could ask what the plan would be for filling my Assistant Teapot Engineer role if I were appointed to the new job”

      I wouldn’t ask that, because it’s not relevant to the new role at all.

      Since you’ve already been talking back and forth with them about the job, it doesn’t seem like a mark against you to say in the interview that you don’t have any further questions. It’s not like they don’t know that you already know all this stuff, so it’s not the same as an outside candidate seeming uninterested in the details of the position.

  43. Alliesaurus*

    I actually had an interview this morning and used: “How will you measure the success of the person in this position?” The interviewer actually complimented the question after answering it! :) (I was going to tie in the “good vs great” question, but she actually segued into that in her answer of the actual question I asked, so I didn’t ask the second.)

  44. Ladycrim*

    Re: asking what you want to know. I’ve worked for a labor union for over 20 years. Just over a year ago, I decided to apply to one closer to home. When the panel asked me if I had questions, I said that what I liked about my job was getting to help people improve their working lives, and I asked them to tell me about a union campaign they worked on that they were really proud of. They responded very enthusiastically to the question. 3 hours later, they called and offered me the job. It’s been a great fit.

  45. Kwsni*

    One thing I am definitely going to be asking going forward is how coverage is handled when someone is out unexpectedly. At my current job the person calling out is expected to find coverage for the shift, and i just find that a little stressful when I’m already sick/dealing with a crisis.

  46. Krista*

    I think what people tend to forget about are corporate IT security measures your company may have in place. There are other reasons why you may have to re-log in after a period of inactivity, one being that when you are away from your work-station you could be leaving confidential company documents exposed for others to view…if you aren’t logged off.
    Now post-pandemic, different story for those who are working remotely. I am doubtful your toddler or your four-legged companion is going to leak any company secrets/skeletons :) however, your company does not know who is in your home at any given time and for that reason may have decided to keep the same security measures in place.
    In your specific situation, what really gets me is you were completely honest with them and they chose to “punish” you for it.
    You, a grown adult who did the “right thing”. If your work has always been stellar and you are an employee normally in good-standing this definitely sounds like a trust issue on your employers part and by employer I mean the “top brass” at your organization. That is concerning because everything trickles down from top. If you have a terrible manager and other managers in your company are aware and nothing is ever done that’s because the managers above them are enabling the behavior.
    You sound like a great, upstanding person and someone I’d personally love to have as a co-worker. Now you know where your org stands with this and you can decide if you are willing to live with this or find a company less restrictive. I know there are so many factors there to consider—where you are in career (stage) and if changing companies is the best move for you personally.
    I wish you the best of luck and please update us if there are more developments in regards to this issue at your workplace (other co-worker stories in regards to this, any procedural changes implemented on the side of your employer). Thank you for sharing your story

  47. Matt*

    Fantastic article! Definitely going to share that with my husband who’s been job-hunting for the last month or so.

  48. DoubleSecretProbationer*

    My last 3 job interviews, I asked, “What is the biggest opportunity for improvement for this department that my skills would be useful for?”

    It’s a little crazy, but 1) it low key gets them focused on my skills, and 2) it often helps them refine their goals for the position if I notice that they’re kind of unintentionally vague about what they really need from the position.

  49. Terranovan*

    The magic question made me imagine, “What sort of superpower does this position make you want to have/wish you could give someone in this position?”

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