here are the 10 best questions to ask your job interviewer

When I interview people for jobs, I’m always amazed by how many of them tell me they don’t have any questions for me when prompted. Like most interviewers, I set aside time for candidates to turn the tables and ask me their own questions – because you can’t make a good decision about whether to take a job otherwise. When someone doesn’t use that time to ask anything, it makes me wonder how critically they’re thinking about whether this is a job they really want, let alone one they’ll thrive in. After all, you’re contemplating spending 40+ hours a week in this role … surely there’s something you’d like to know.

Part of the problem is that people aren’t sure how to ask about the things they’d most like to know, like “are you a horrible micromanager?” or “is working here a nightmare?” They also worry that interviewers will read negative things into the questions they choose to ask (like if you ask about what hours most people work, will you look like a slacker?).

At New York Magazine today, I’ve got 10 good questions that will get you useful insights into whether the job is right for you.

{ 133 comments… read them below }

  1. Pickle Pizza*

    In addition to the “what do you like about working here” question, I also couple it with “what is one thing you would change about the position/team/company if you could?”. It’s a more polite way of asking what they don’t like while still getting the cautionary info I’m looking for.

    1. Nicki Name*

      I once got a technical equivalent to this question as an interviewer– “if you were going to rebuild (big legacy app you maintain) from scratch, what would you do differently?” A very good way to reveal the technical pain points we had.

      1. Una ganga*

        “Interviewer, how can I help you get a gold star on your next performance review?”

    2. Kaiya*

      May I ask how your interviewers answered the question about changing something if they could?

      1. Roland*

        Not who you asked, but I often ask something similar (“what’s your favorite thing, and what’s one less-than-favorite thing/something you’re not a fan of”) and I do get reasonable answers. Like maybe priorities can change a lot, or they’ll mention any of the inherent difficulties in a growing software team.

    3. Lisa*

      Yes. I’ve gotten surprisingly candid and useful answers to “Tell me something you really like about working here, and something you don’t like.” I’m in engineering FWIW.

  2. Miss Chanandler Bong*

    I’ve used the measuring success question since I read it on here. I’ve had interviewers stop and say they’ve never had anyone ask that question before. It’s one of my favorite to use now.

    1. mreasy*

      I think every time I’ve asked it I’ve been complimented on what a good question it is!

    2. It Might Be Me*

      Same. For my current position I asked the six month and one year accomplishment. My current boss went, “Huh, good question.” It’s helpful if hired too because I can check myself to see if I’m on track with the stated priorities.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I actually just asked this question of my interviewer yesterday! She gave a good answer which delineated the job a lot more thoroughly than I got with my initial interview with the team I’d be working on.

    3. MassMatt*

      It’s also interesting to see whether hiring managers have definite goals they have thought about or just seem to make something up on the fly.

  3. Alan*

    I’ve rarely had people ask me questions but one does stand out. A young woman asked “Is this place a meritocracy? Because I’m really good and I want it to be recognized.” FWIW, I think my employer does really well at recognizing good performers but she was fresh out of school, and she came across as having an inflated impression of her own specialness and probably more trouble than she was worth.

    1. anon_sighing*

      I wouldn’t have been impressed by that question either. Interviews are show, don’t tell – if you’re good, what do you have to show for it? Also the term “meritocracy” is a very soft yellow flag…gives me shades of “alpha dog” language when used in the context of an interview….when used by the interviewee!

      “How is good performance recognized in this position?” and “Is there room for advancements for top performers and what processes are in place for it?” May have been better ways to get an answer.

      1. Alan*

        Yes, your questions are hugely better and I would have been happy to answer them, because I think we do well. I was so taken aback by her question that I hesitated and she actually got kind of a sneer on her face. She may indeed have been an exceptional performer, but I’m pretty sure that even if so, she would have been unpleasant to work with. So often as I get older what I look for isn’t technical competence — if you performed well in a good university program, whatever technical deficits you have can likely be addressed — but attitude. If you’re going to be difficult to work with, I don’t want you.

        1. Venus*

          Unrelated to interviews, but I once worked with someone who was well known in our workplace for her physical hobby, say it was running, and she was so good that she made the news because she was competing in international races and at one point had helped save someone’s life. That workplace had a racing team, and she had applied but been rejected. I later met someone who ran the racing team, and mentioned my surprise that she hadn’t even been considered. He asked “How was she to work with?” and I hesitated just long enough for him to say “We hire people based on their attitude, not their skills. We aren’t looking for expert runners, because it’s easy to teach someone the basics of running. We put our runners in unusual situations so we hire people who look forward to running as a team.” At which point I agreed that she was very competitive and would not have done well within a team, and could very much support their decision.

      2. MsM*

        Even the “room for advancement” question can be a bit fraught, especially for entry level positions: I’m pretty sure I bombed a few interviews by giving a similar impression I thought I was too good for the role I was actually interviewing for and would be on to something more interesting as soon as possible. Something more along the lines of “What would most set someone up for success in this position?” usually goes over better.

        1. Alan*

          LOL. A few years ago I interviewed someone who told me up front that he gets bored every 18 months or so and switches jobs. He told me that for that 18 months he would be amazing though and I’d love having him. This on a 6-year project that typically takes people 6 months or so just to come up to speed on. That was the end of the interview from my perspective.

          1. Also-ADHD*

            But to be fair (and I understand it may depend on his job), if that’s how he is, your job might be a bad fit for him and likely mutually best he was honest! I def hit some points during my recent job search where I and the interviewer both realized the job was not a fit for me. I think I’m pretty great, but I’m old enough to know what I want and do best, where I should go, etc. and not interested in BS (because I wasn’t desperate for a new job, had employment I liked okay already etc). Sometimes people assume the goal is to get every job, but really I think that’s a bad perspective.

            1. allathian*

              Yes, absolutely. I had a friend in college who was just like that, and I’m in Finland where job-hopping is frowned on even more than it is in the US, and where getting fired for cause can still be fatal to someone’s career. The vast majority of employees go their entire careers without ever getting fired for cause because we’re not in an at-will environment, although layoffs are common (I’ve been laid off twice in my 35 years in the workforce).

              My friend switched to consulting because it meant she got to work in a new environment just as she was getting antsy and ready to switch without job-hopping.

        2. anon_sighing*

          Yeah, my top level comment to this is acknowledging that some questions come off better with some personalities types vs others. It’s all about how you ask and what led to it and being able to read your interviewer a little (hard for nervous me).

          I do think that “What would most set someone up for success in this position?” doesn’t get at the question of advancement and performance-based growth. I don’t think it’s wrong to show an interviewer you’re thinking long term and about staying with the org (Was shocked the last time I interviewed to get asked “where do you see yourself in 5-10 years” and now that I am on interview panels, I see it’s on our list of recommended questions from HR). But yeah, at the entry level it can come off as “I wanna zoom through this position/get my foot in the door so I can transfer.”

          Maybe “Are there any mechanisms for growth within the organization/department/agency? Both in terms of career advancement or training opportunities.” At federal jobs, it’s usually told to you up front that there is no room for advancement though…so this question would be about training and career tools.

          1. MsM*

            I like the training opportunities spin! Growth in my industry doesn’t usually come in the form of promotions, either; hence the somewhat oblique angle.

        3. sometimeswhy*

          I’ve been on the hiring end of the room for advancement question a couple of times and sometimes it feels like a company culture question and sometimes it feels like someone planning to leapfrog out of the job I really need someone doing as soon as they can.

          I answer it the same way either way, with a description of (1) what the advancement process looks like (there has to be a vacancy and it can take years; it can take years, because people tend not to leave) and (2) a description of the current team they’d be on, with how long everyone’s been here. Except for myself, I can’t say when people plan to retire but it’s a good range and gives people an okay idea of potential timescales.

          The ones who really, really don’t want the job they’re interviewing for but instead want to use it as a foot in the door or think I should somehow change our rigid hiring practices to fit their desires tend to telegraph that long before we get to the part with their questions but sometimes they help me out by stating explicitly that hiring them for that level would be a waste of their talent.

          I think if you feel like you’ve stepped in it with the question, there are ways to come back if you have the opportunity to talk about your interest in that position in particular and how you feel like you could contribute to that team doing that work.

      3. MassMatt*

        …that she describes herself as being great when she’s fresh out of school is not sending the message she thinks it is, LOL.

    2. Texan In Exile*

      Oh interesting! Before I read your conclusion, I thought, “Wow what a great question!”

      And even with knowing she was just out of school, I don’t think that question would have bothered me unless there were other indicators that her self-esteem wasn’t justified. I like a world where young women are confident that they are worthy.

      1. Alan*

        What bothers me is if you’re confident that you’re worthy without really understanding the job yet. I’m a lead, not a supervisor, but I ‘ve interviewed quite a few people over the years and there is such a difference between confident and cocky. Confident people listen, cocky people talk, for starts. I *love* confident people. Cocky people make me question their judgment and that’s a hard deficit to come back from.

      2. Ginger Cat Lady*

        I truly wondered if the response would have been different had the questioner been a man, instead of a “young woman”

        1. amoeba*

          I for one would find it at least equally off-putting, or even possibly worse (because I might be biased to be more wary of men feeling that they’re better than everybody else!)

        2. Texan In Exile*

          I was wondering the same thing, Ginger Cat Lady. Men are confident, women are arrogant. Men are leaders, women are bossy. Men are direct, women talk too much. Men are smart, women use big words nobody else understands.

        3. Lenora Rose*

          I’d have been more likely to assume he had an inflated sense of self worth, rather than more likely to assume he was great.

          The worst person we had doing a two week stint at reception was a very confident young man. He had merits but his confidence was well ahead of his skills, and I learned after the fact that he outright ignored some directions and did things his own way, which meant I had to redo a whole stretch of his work before submitting a monthly report.

    3. Beth*

      How you ask questions definitely matters! I bet if she’d asked “How is success recognized in this role?” or “Can you talk about how career growth typically works at this company?”, she would have come across as ambitious but professional. But with her phrasing, she came across as arrogant and overconfident.

      1. Alan*

        Exactly. And I would have been delighted to answer those questions! I love bright, ambitious people. I just have trouble with people who think walking in the door that they’re more special than anyone else.

    4. snoo snoo*

      Yep, I would read that as, “If anyone gets promoted over me, I will claim that the company is biased.”

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        It may have been inartfully worded but for a young woman it can certainly be a legitimate concern – how many times per day do we read here about women, POCs, etc getting passed over, work dumped on them, and much worse.

        1. YetAnotherManager*

          It’s a legitimate concern, yes, but I would still absolutely side-eye the question from a candidate; no interviewer is actually going to say “Nope, it’s all about who you know here!” even if that’s true, so it comes across as absurdly naïve at best and actively confrontational at worst.
          I hire for roles with a lot of stakeholder management, and even from an early-career candidate, that question would be enough to take them out of the running immediately. I need candidates who try to think critically/strategically about their communication goals, even if their execution isn’t perfect.
          It’s like asking “Are you a micromanager?” It’s a valid thing to want to know, but the chances of getting any kind of useful answer are so, so low compared to the cost of introducing an adversarial dynamic that I lose all faith in the candidate’s ability to handle everyday stakeholder communications if they’re willing to make that exchange. (And that’s not even getting into “I’m really good,” which is a WILD statement for any recent graduate to make…)

    5. selena81*

      I just hope for her sake that she got bad advice and getting the cold shoulder from you was her wake-up call.
      The question about meritocracy sounds like an (unfounded) accusation. And stating she is great right out of school isn’t a good look (even if you were good at school that’s not the same thing as being good at a job)

  4. anon_sighing*

    My top three favs that, regardless of how many times they hear it, should just be run-of-the-mill for interviewers to answer (and frankly, they should lay all three of these out to candidates they’re serious about):

    1. “How will you measure the success of the person in this position?”
    2. “What are some of the challenges you expect the person in this position to face?”
    3. “What are you hoping this person will accomplish in their first six months and in their first year?”

    And then always “(I’ve told you why I want to work here, so I’m curious on) What do you (all) like about working here?” is a given – it’s a great way to tell what the culture is like based on their tone, response, and how much detail they share. I always worry about asking the culture question because I don’t want a trigger happy interviewer to think I *am* trying to sus out if they’re a horrible micromanager. Lol.

    Some of the other questions I worry that my personality type may make them come across less curious and more negative. For instance, I love #6 in the context of – I’m competing against others who can do the work, previous people in this position can do the work…what other qualities are you looking for that you feel make someone thrive in this position beyond the technical skill set? Wait. Maybe I could phrase it like that somehow. Not going to be interviewing anytime soon but a good thinker on that.

    1. Ama*

      Oh I really like the wording of that second question — I always struggle with how to ask about potential pain points/problems.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I don’t want a trigger happy interviewer to think I *am* trying to sus out if they’re a horrible micromanager

      But why not? If they get defensive at the very idea that you might want to know the culture or their management style, doesn’t that tell you all you need to know?

  5. Girasol*

    “Does HR track the diversity of the workforce? How does the percentage of race or gender in management compared to individual contributors?” If a particular race or gender is a significant portion of individual contributors but an insignificant portion of management, the ladder for that group is broken. If HR doesn’t track these statistics, the lack of attention to DEI could be concerning.

    1. English Rose*

      Yes, and if you as candidate happen to be white, neurotypical, straight etc., especially ask about it. That’s allyship, and showing you notice these things.

    2. selena81*

      I think of that more as something I research before I apply.

      But I’ve heard some (privileged) people brag that they apply to shitty companies, and when the company is drooling all over them go like ‘nope, no way would I work anywhere with your DEI record and your abdominal pay’.
      And I think that is a pretty amazing way of using your privilege for good

      1. I Have RBF*

        I have actually asked abou6t DEI before, because as an older disable enby (AFAB), it actually affects me. Another thing I look for is a mix of young, middle aged, and older employees. That tells me that ageism is not as bad there as it would if the team was all 20 somethings and the manager was in their 30s.

      2. TeaCoziesRUs*

        I know what you meant, but thanks for a sleepy morning smile over a company needing to do crunches before your accept that pay. :)

  6. mango chiffon*

    Had a a candidate ask us “How does [company name] show they care about their employees?” which I thought was a fascinating question. It’s along the lines of the “what do you like about company” question, but kind of pushes the interviewer to talk about actions the company takes rather than answering with my usual “I love my colleagues” answer.

    1. mango chiffon*

      On the other hand, we also had a candidate ask if we “saw any red flags” in his resume/cover letter. The wording of it was odd…

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I’ve gotten something like “Are there any concerns about my resume or my experience that I can address for you” in the past, which I think is a better way of basically asking that same question, heh.

        1. Straight Laced Sue*

          I’ve used this twice, a long time ago, and both times the panel just looked stumped and said a version of no. I don’t think I got either job. I haven’t asked it again.

          1. ecnaseener*

            I’ve had some very positive responses to it but also some blank stares and awkward mumblings about sending feedback later. I think it’s one of those things where if they’re already loving you it makes no difference, and if they’re already thinking you’re a bad fit they’re not going to answer. It’s theoretically useful if they really do have just one or two niggling concerns, but I haven’t had that happen.

            1. selena81*

              I think that with most managers the thinking proces is ‘if I had serious concerns you would not be in this seat’.
              They are mentally past the stage of weeding out bad candidates and are now chosing which of the acceptable candidates is the best.

      2. anon_sighing*

        I could have sworn in an old AAM post a version of this question was recommended but I think it was phrased as, “Are there any concerns you have about my candidacy or fit for the role?” (Or probably more tactful than that).

        I read it and thought that’s a loaded question, but it could be a great way to open up a dialogue about lack of experience in certain areas or other things that are harder to ask about in a standard set of questions. It could also be a weird awkward pause. But I agree the use of the word “red flags” is a little too associated with negativity and a strange way to ask the question.

        1. LadyVet*

          When I got laid off a few years ago, the career coach my then-company hired for us recommended a question like that.

          It didn’t seem to sway things either way when I used it.

        2. Coffee Protein Drink*

          I’ve used variations of that. It’s a way to get a clue of what’s important to the interviewer if they answer. About 50% of the time, I’m told that they didn’t have additional questions or that I didn’t have to elaborate/clarify anything I’d said.

  7. Gentle Reader*

    I spent twenty years in academic laboratory research. I had many job interviews. (I was laid off five times!) When you are interviewing for a lab job, if the interviewer asks if you have any questions, they mean about the research. They are not, in my experience, interested in other questions.

    1. English Rose*

      That’s really sad, and says a lot about the interviewers and workplaces concerned. Maybe it’s always like that in your field.

    2. sometimeswhy*

      Production labs and regulatory labs (I’ve been a manager in both, across a few industries) are different than research labs! We are absolutely interested in other questions. I left academia for a bunch of reasons but this hadn’t even landed on my radar at the level I was when I left. I’m sorry this has been your experience.

    3. anon_sighing*

      I spent the first few years in lab research before transitioning out and the questions they seemed to love to hear are ones that show you understand the realities of working in a lab (overnight experiments, freezer alarms, attention to detail, reporting mistakes, keeping a lab notebook, etc).

      I think one of the major differences between lab research is that the people interviewing you are almost always very hands-on in the work that you will be doing and therefore have a connection to it they’re excited about (and really want to know you know you know what you’re doing).

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, and also, those tend to be the questions I am actually the most interested in in case I didn’t already get answers (like in a lab tour or something)! And I’m not even mostly lab-based myself, but whether there’s an NMR machine on site or if samples need to be sent or what licenses for academic journals are available are just much more relevant to my daily life than abstract questions about soft skills.

  8. English Rose*

    If not offered to be shown round the workplace, do ask this if it’s possible. Be observant and you’ll get a feel for how people are interacting. This may also reveal practical issues you’ll need to consider very carefully. For example I once accepted a job which was ideal in every way except for being stuck in a tiny windowless box in the basement.

    1. Fuzzy Crocodile*

      I had a hiring manager show me around an office and point to where I’d be working, but he wouldn’t introduce me to any of my colleagues. When I asked, he said he didn’t want to disturb them. I realized I only interviewed with people at his level or higher. I had another offer and this just felt off.

    2. MassMatt*

      I was going to say something along these lines. If possible, ask if you can talk with people in the role, or that you would be working with. They will often give you a more realistic perspective on what the workplace is like, pro and con.

      I think I’ve mentioned this here before, but this helped me dodge a real bullet once. The interviewing manager had extolled their wonderful vacation policy, but when I spoke to people working there they all bragged about how many hours they were putting in (never a good sign) and the closest thing anyone could mention in the way of a recent vacation was not working one weekend.

      1. Ama*

        I will say the one time I’ve interviewed somewhere where I realized mid-interview the job wasn’t for me was when I got interviewed by the person I’d be replacing and the person who would be my main coworker (both of us would have been reporting to a senior level person). My interview with the senior level person had gone pretty well, but when I interviewed with the staff some of the things they mentioned doing were absolute dealbreakers for me (working at the senior level person’s home, running personal errands for her like picking up her dry cleaning — this was not supposed to be an EA position and neither of those things were mentioned in the job description). If I’d only talked to the senior level person I might not have realized what the job really entailed until it was too late.

    3. Nightengale*

      I’ve shared this before but I was once looking specifically for a job in a city. It was high priority to me to move somewhere with public transit so I would no longer need to drive. I had an interview at a hospital in a suitable city. They did not offer to show me around the actual clinic and were really cagey when I asked about seeing it. Turns out they were planning to put the new person at either Satellite Office A, about an hours drive by car or Satellite Office B, about an hours drive by car in a different direction, but hadn’t decided yet which.

      Which if I hadn’t kept asking to see the space, I am not sure they had been planning to tell me?

    4. selena81*

      Last person who got hired on my team asked for a zoom-call with the team where everyone introduced themselves (we are mostly remote). I guess it was mostly about seeing how we communicate and interact, and what roles there are on the team (everyone on the team does slightly different things: from nerdy to creative to administrative)

  9. Seashell*

    The bulk of my interviews for a real full-time job were over 20 years ago, and I basically would have taken any job if offered. When I had to return to living with my parents due to still being unemployed about 6 months after graduation, I would have moved anywhere or taken any salary just to get out. I think I had zero questions at the end of most of those interviews, and it never occurred to me then that anyone would have judged me poorly for that. I wouldn’t have applied if I had no interest in the job, and interviewers often covered everything I might have asked about. Hopefully, I am old enough that I won’t ever have to go on any more interviews and be forced to ask questions at the end just for the sake of it.

    1. Betty*

      I think that there’s a difference between “no, I don’t have questions” and “you know, you’ve honestly covered pretty much everything I’d wanted to ask about at this stage, thanks so much”. I think the latter is much less likely to get taken as a red flag if there’s been a clear dialogue throughout the interview, versus if it’s been pretty one-sided (they ask, you answer) and then you say you don’t have any questions.

      1. selena81*

        I’m with seashell in that I honestly didn’t have any questions at the start of my career: I was desperate and didn’t care how toxic or badly-paid the job was. If they wanted me that was good enough for me.

        But I did notice I got a more friendly look if I framed that as ‘all my questions were already answered in the interview’

    2. Venus*

      A useful way forward in this situation is to say “I would have asked about X, Y, and Z but you’ve covered all of those well in our discussion and I can’t think of anything further.”
      I did a bunch of interviews with junior employees and was providing answers to previous questions during the interview, so by the last one they had no questions. I was fine with it, but if I was the interviewee I would mention which questions I had planned and that I had good answers by the end of the interview.

      1. selena81*

        I made those up on the fly: f.i. the interviewer tells me about a day in the office and I end with ‘i was totally gonna ask about a day in the office, thank you’.
        Which is a trick that only works if the interviewer is offering up answers by themselves.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Hopefully if you do wind up having to do more interviews, you won’t be desperate and can afford to be at least somewhat picky.

    4. I Have RBF*

      Even for survival jobs, always ask what the day to day work is like (#3 in the article.) It means that you’re thinking about the work, not your desperation for needing a job.

      If they told me it was 8+ hours of constant on the go hustle, I might have still taken it, but I would be prepared for the grind.

      1. selena81*

        It feels scary, but in my experience playing-hard-to-get does work: ask questions that are polite but critical and you come off like someone who has options.

    5. MassMatt*

      I think you really missed something if you think Alison was suggesting you ask questions just for the hell of it. No, don’t waste anyone’s time, but it’s not so common that the interviewer covers absolutely everything you would like to know without at least some give and take.

      After a long interview where we go back and forth informally, or after my third interview at the employer, sure.

      1. selena81*

        When I was desperate my only real questions were ‘does it pay?’ (in the sense of ‘at all’) and ‘will you please hire me?’

        So no, I did not have any questions. But I appreciate the example questions from AAM, because pretending to have questions seems to make you look like a stronger candidate.

        1. allathian*

          It’s a fact of life that most decent employers prefer to hire employees who have options. Desperation is never a good look, which sucks when you’re desperate to get any job (I’ve been there, too). But employers don’t care about employee desperation, only their assessment on which candidate would be best for the job.

        2. MsSolo (UK)*

          As ‘I have RBF’ says, though, even if you know you’ll take the job no matter what, knowing whether you’ll have to work 100 hour weeks or if you’ll have to drive cross country every week or if they rotate managers every six months for career development / anti-fraud measures is still information it’s worth having up front so you’re not caught off guard when you start. Being able to cancel all of your evening plans up front for the next year before you start is going to be easier that having to cancel them every single week.

        3. Distractinator*

          Well, you can still frame this as “all of my questions have been answered”, in terms of you wanted to confirm that they were a real job and not a scam mafia front, and that they have employees who appear to be using this paycheck to support themselves in a non-tattered lifestyle. No matter how desperate you are, there are always dealbreakers (no really, given that paychecks can bounce it is possible to imagine a job not worth taking) so even if you don’t have any questions, they’ve still answered all your questions.

  10. March lamb*

    Job seekers, please consider what you’re looking for in the answer. The last few times I’ve hired I’ve had applicants (esp new graduates) ask these questions and then completely shut down when I see it as an opening for a conversation, Example:
    Candidate: “What do does a typical day look like?”
    Me: “Generally, we do X, Y, and Z. Do any of those sound like they are particularly interesting to you?”
    Candidate: (deer in the headlights look)
    Me: “Or do any of them play to your strengths?” Nothing. “Would you like coaching or professional development in any area?” Hemming and hawing.
    None of the things are at all unusual! They just ask the question to ask a question.

    1. Yorick*

      The job seekers’ questions aren’t a chance for employers to turn it back around on them, though. The candidate just wanted to know what a typical day looks like and may need to think about it before they know if that sounds interesting.

      Also, if I asked about a typical day, I’d want to know things like “we’re in meetings for 4 hours and then trying to fit in the actual work,” “we spend a lot of time collaborating with coworkers versus mainly doing solo work,” “the atmosphere is generally relaxed but sometimes there are busy periods,” etc. I’m not totally sure from your example, but if X, Y, and Z were job tasks rather than what a typical day would look like, I wouldn’t know how to respond either.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, depending on how it’s asked, that might feel like less of an opportunity for dialogue and more like a trap to me. Like, if I say I’m particularly interested in Y, am I going to be penalized for not being equally or more enthusiastic about X?

        1. selena81*

          Yeah, I’ve definitely been in informal interviews where someone says ‘we need a candidate for X, Y, and Z’ and I jump up with ‘i love X and Y’ just for them to be like ‘hm, actually we mostly do Z, so this is your cue to gracefully withdraw’

    2. anon_sighing*

      Your questions back to them aren’t helpful though. They may say something that jeopardizes their candidacy. Like, *of course* the day will be interesting to them, why would they say otherwise if they want the job? But “yes that sounds great, so fun!” seems too superficial or fake if you’ve just said “your day is monotonous data entry.” And “Would you like coaching or professional development in any area?” and they say “yes, I’d love to learn Python on the job for [valid reason related to work but not in line with the job itself]” — well, what if that’s not possible? Did they just sour in your head? Are you worried about their expectation for the job?

      ‘Cause I’ve gotten the training question and the interviewer went like “oh, well, the job isn’t that so…[hemming and hawing]…I don’t want your expectations to get up.” And despite saying, “I know,” it’s already like…ah, this person was not seeing this as information/growth-seeking but as “this is what they want from the job” despite my own explaining and it being their question.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      Interviewers, please consider what the candidate is looking for in the answer.
      In my last interview, I asked nearly every one of the questions in AAM’s list. (I don’t know if I got them here to begin with or if apparently I just have a good set of questions I always ask in interviews…) The problem was, for a lot of them, the interviewer didn’t actually answer the question. I don’t think he had anything to hide or was intentionally sidestepping, but he seemed to assume I was asking some of these things for, I donno, reassurance? Rather than wanting the actual answer to the question I’d asked. So like “how do you measure success in this role?” “What distinguishes someone who was good vs great?” “What are the challenges?” All got some flavor of “Oh you’ll be great.” I couldn’t figure out a not-annoyed sounding way of saying “thanks for the confidence, but really, how do you evaluate this?” etc.

      1. Straight Laced Sue*

        Perhaps that was useful in itself, as it told you a lot about him.
        I’d be interested in the outcome of this – did you get the job, and (if so) did you accept it?

        1. fhqwhgads*

          It didn’t actually tell me much about him – well, other than he really really really wanted to hire me. I should’ve said, we knew each other already in work-related capacities. I did get the job, and I did accept it. And they actually reorged not too long after I started and I didn’t end up directly reporting to him for very long. Not that it was bad reporting to him, but it turned out I do much prefer the management style of the person I ended up reporting to instead.

    4. March lamb*

      Interesting feedback! I’m the would-be manager so these interactions are set up as 1:1 conversations. I’m also in academia, fwiw, so our interviews are day-long affairs. We do have an official ‘interview time’ with the search committee, which is a bit more formal in nature.

  11. Venus*

    Related to the LW earlier this week, I had very few questions for my current employer because I knew someone who worked here and asked her a bunch of questions ahead of time. I mentioned it during the interview, specifically I asked a couple things and then said “I don’t have any more questions because I spoke with Cynthia and she loves working here and I’m very happy with the conversation that I had with her.” The interview schedule sent ahead of time had mentioned that at the end of the interview we’d get a tour of the building with an employee who would answer our questions without providing feedback to the committee, so they were already encouraging opportunities to learn more outside of the formal interview. I appreciated their thoughtfulness about this.

    1. selena81*

      …with an employee who would answer our questions without providing feedback to the committee..

      that’s a nice touch

  12. Dlirle*

    YMMV based on the industry and vibe of your interviewer, but at a digital agency I did once ask “so, is this place a sweatshop?” I got the job because he appreciated my directness. (It was not a sweatshop, but a nightmare on other counts.)

  13. Yes And*

    I recently had a situation where I had no questions. My first round interview was with a junior recruiter, and I asked her all the questions a recruiter would be able to answer, and got satisfactory answers. My second interview was with a senior recruiter. At that point I still had plenty of questions (including some of the ones on this list), but they were really questions for the hiring manager, not the recruiter. That is, I’d already asked about the role’s history and the timeline, and I don’t expect the recruiter to have useful information about the culture or a typical week. What should I have asked at that point?

    1. MsM*

      I think in that case, you can probably just say, “I don’t expect you to know, but I’d be really interested in learning more about X and Y.” You might get lucky and they do have some details, or they’ll flag for the company those are things you want to know about when you get to the next stage.

    2. Greg*

      I always try to have some “evergreen” questions in my back pocket for situations where my mind draws a blank, or where we’ve already covered the stuff I wanted to ask about. For example, you can ask about their history with the company, or what they like about working there. The kinds of personal questions where, even if you already asked someone else, it still might make sense to ask them

  14. Nicki Name*

    One question I like to ask, since as a software developer I move from industry to industry, is about quiet and busy times of year. This makes a good counterpoint to the “typical day” one since maybe the typical day is everyone logs out by 5, but there’s that one month where you’ll be slammed and working late every day.

    1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      I sometimes ask “Is there any kind of cycle to your work over the year? Do you have regular crunch times and more relaxed times?”

  15. MikeM_inMD*

    During my last company change, the last interview was with the CEO. He appeared to be in his early 60s (not much older than me) and he had co-founded the company a bit over 15 years earlier – it was his second start-up. So when he asked if I had any questions, I paused for second and asked, “How much longer do you think you’ll be doing this?” He said I was the first one to ask him that, and replied that he wasn’t sure, but felt he would know when it was time to go. Little did I know, but he was starting the negotiations for selling the company, which happened less than 6 months later. He stuck around for a while, but when the new company went back on most of their promises about retaining the culture and independence of our group, he retired.
    I don’t think John lied, but if I had known he and the other owners were going sell us to a large corporation, I might not have accepted the offer. I did get to enjoy the culture for a while, but then the pandemic hit, and when we came back to the office, the large-company meh-culture set in. I’m 5 weeks from my 5-year workiversary, and it might be my last one here.

    1. Una ganga*

      He would not be able to disclose any ongoing negotiations concerning an acquisition – he would likely have been under NDA, if the acquirer is publicly traded it could impact stock price, etc.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        There are still a bunch of things he could have said about himself that wouldn’t be under the NDA. “I’ve started to think about it but there’s no timeline.” “It’s on the horizon, and we’re looking for staff who can weather the change and maintain continuity.” Lots of options depending on how imminent he made it want to sound.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          That should have ended “…he wanted to make it sound.”

          The phone rang and apparently my fingers remembered the words I wanted but not the order…

  16. Adam*

    One of my favorites I’ve seen someone suggest is “What’s the process for buying a $50 book?” (or some other reasonable work item), which can tell you a lot about the level of bureaucracy and team-level decision making at the company.

    1. anon_sighing*

      I have to admit, this question wouldn’t throw me off, but it would make me tilt my head before I respond. Every place I’ve worked it’s like, “You email the admin, who’s job it is to do office supply purchases, that you want to buy the $50 book.”

      1. Angstrom*

        Oh, I worked somewhere that if you filled the “date needed” line on a requisition with “ASAP” it would be rejected because there wasn’t a date. And this was in the days of interoffice mail, so a couple of days were wasted making the correction. Sigh.

        At my next job the Purchasing department was full of knowledgeable people who actively helped you find and buy what you needed. The difference was astonishing.

      2. I Have RBF*

        Exactly. Some companies it’s a whole song and dance process, others, you just “email the admin”.

        I demonstrates the level of bureaucracy involved in routine matters.

      3. Nina*

        I’ve worked in places where it’s ‘you email the admin’, in places where it’s ‘you fill out the requisition form and it goes to the buyers and they decide whether you actually need it’, in places where it’s ‘you mention at the coffee machine that you want a such-and-such and it’s on your desk the next day because one of the buyers was standing behind you’ and in places where it’s ‘put it on your direct manager’s credit card because invoices literally never get paid and most of our regular suppliers won’t supply us for months at a time’. It makes a big difference to your quality of life and ability to do your job!

      4. Lenora Rose*

        Here it depends what the purpose of the book is, what account will be paying for it, and where it’s being ordered from. Sometimes the answer is indeed “Just ask X to do it”, and it’s on your desk in a few days. Sometimes it’s “you do it yourself, through this software, with this requisition, which gets signed by X, and here’s your list of accounts, make sure you use the right one…” And sometimes the answer is, “Your boss will walk into the store, walk out with the books he wants, and they’ll send you an invoice a week later, at which point you have to confirm he actually got the books because he didn’t tell you.”

        So yeah, the answer might be telling.

  17. I Have RBF*

    For remote jobs, here are some questions specific to remote work:

    “How does your team communicate with each other? Is it synchronous or asynchronous?”
    “How much time per week does this position spend in meetings?”
    “How are goals and tasks disseminated? How are accomplishments measured?”
    “What are the core hours for availability? How many time zones do you cover? What is the primary time zone for meetings?”

    Note that most of this pertains to communications and logistics, which are crucial in remote work. Having a team that is both independent and communicative is ideal, IMO.

    1. mcbee*

      These are excellent questions. I started in my current role in late 2019 and now my team is mostly remote. As I’m looking for new opportunities, this is exactly the kind of thing I want to know going in!

    1. Una ganga*

      What a dumb, out of left field question…are you trying to convince the interviewer you are a kook?

      1. Not Alison*

        Hey Una ganga – obviously you are a newer AAM reader so you have no context for HailRobonia’s comment – which I found hilarious!

        Great question Hail Robonia!

      2. Una ganga*

        I apologize. I had no idea this was an inside joke relating to a historical question on the blog.

  18. Sarah*

    My interview for my current job I was warned to have a number of questions ready for them (thanks ChatGPT for giving me some good ones relating to IT), the whole interview was basically me asking them questions (a small company so it was with the CEO & CIO).
    It was the weirdest interview I’ve ever had

    1. Greg*

      I’ve had those before. It can be the sign of a bad interviewer. Someone who knows what they’re doing will have a list of questions they ask every applicant so that they have points of comparison. Otherwise, they are much more likely to make the decision on “feel”.

      1. selena81*

        The few times I’ve had interviewers open with ‘lets turn this around and let you ask the questions’ it pretty much always seemed like them being unprepared and lazy and trying to make me do the work for them.

  19. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    If I were job hunting now, I’d be sure to ask:
    1) Have you ever held a Llama Designer job yourself?
    2) How long have you managed Llama Designers? Or–Have you ever managed Llama Designers before?
    3) How do you see the Llama Designer’s role within the context of the over team?

  20. Greg*

    If you’re interviewing with the person who will be managing you, I like asking, “If I were to take this role, what could I do that would make your job easier?” I know that whenever I’ve hired, there are some specific things that are either not getting done, or are getting done by me that I really want to get off my plate. Showing awareness of that will earn you goodwill with the hiring manager while also giving you insight into their priorities. In addition, you’ll have a better idea of what you’ll be working on in the short term than if you asked a more open ended question such as “What are the job responsibilities?”

    (I almost wrote “What could the person in this role do …” but I think it’s not the worst thing in the world to use the power of suggestion and put the hiring manager in the mindset that you will be taking the job. Similarly, instead of “How will success in this job be measured?” you could ask, “Let’s say I accept this position, and when we sit down for my first performance review, you tell me I’m doing an excellent job. Based on what criteria would you be making that judgment?”)

    1. selena81*

      ‘how can I make your job easier’ feels like it mostly applies to jobs where you do things directly for your manager (write reports for them, arrange meetings for them)
      As opposed to jobs where the manager is more of a conduit and their biggest challenge is often in fighting with other managers.

  21. It's Me*

    All incredibly helpful questions, but I’ve found I’m barely given time to ask two or three, tops. So frustrating!

    1. Greg*

      That’s also the sign of a bad interviewer. They should build that into their timeline.

      (It’s also possible that they have already decided, for whatever reason, not to move forward with you, so they don’t want to waste any more time.)

  22. selena81*

    Tbh, 2 or 3 seem like a pretty normal amount of questions. If each got a full answer and wasn’t rushed than I don’t think there’s much of a problem.

    Did you keep track of time? You should arrive at question-time no later than 10-15 minutes before the scheduled end-time of a 1-hour interview.

  23. Sharpie*

    This is great timing, I’ve got an interview tomorrow, for a short-term role, and it’s been literally years since I interviewed for anything, so I’m feeling nervous. Whatever the outcome, though, it’s going to be good experience.

  24. Another anon*

    I’m going to be really frank: these questions are all great on paper and yes, some of them will work in some interviews and others will work in other interviews. But, as someone who just went through intensive interviewing, I can tell you that there is not always the time or the right environment to ask these questions. In most of my interviews, I had maybe five minutes to ask anything which would maybe be one of these questions. I just want people to be realistic that they are not really going to have the opportunity to ask more than two or three questions at the most. And also it never really feels comfortable asking some of the more probing questions . I’d rather play it safe. Especially if you have been working for a long time, use your instinct to feel some of this out. I’m not saying it’s bad to ask these questions I’m just saying that in real life situations you may not get the opportunity to get as deep as this all suggests.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Companies that don’t leave sufficient time for applicants to ask their own questions are telling on themselves.

  25. Late Bloomer*

    I’m loving this conversation and will come back to it if the phone screen I have next week turns into an interview.

    Many years ago, I learned the lesson that simply having questions–as long as they’re in the ballpark–comes across as interested, thoughtful, and organized. I was going for a teaching interview (secondary ed) and, when the principal asked if I had any questions, I pulled a notecard out of my pocket with several key questions I wanted to address. As long as I taught at that school, he’d occasionally mention to others that he knew he was going to hire me when I nonchalantly pulled out my list and trained my gimlet eye upon him.

    What he never knew was that I’d decided on different interview attire at the last minute, and the list I pulled out was for a fairly different job I’d interviewed for several weeks earlier. A couple of the questions were somewhat applicable, but I made up most of what I asked him on the fly. It was the power of looking prepared.

  26. whereismyrobot*

    I like to ask how the company handled COVID. It gives me a lot of useful insight into how the company operate.

  27. WhyIsEverythingBananas*

    My problem is I want SO much information – especially after a job turned out to be:
    – working in a different office (much worse) than where I interviewed
    – starting much earlier hours (never asked – though this has since more or less resolved) than I expected
    – in a different business unit than I expected
    – double the workload than I expected
    – dramatically different tasks (think managing vendors for half my job, instead of coordinating initiatives) than were in the job description, discussed in the interview, and indicated to me in the first month of my job
    – essentially requiring me to have a car when I’m at work to navigate the tasks I need to do during the day

    I want to know where I’ll be working, what the hours are, what the benefits look like, if there’s any big changes coming up the pipe, who I’d be working with, what the salary is and what the policy on raises is, how vacation is handled, if there’s any on-call duties, and more.
    Obviously you can’t ask all that in an interview…but I wish you could. Usually interviewers don’t give you NEARLY enough time to reasonably get through more than 1-2 questions. I have almost as much interview for the job as they have for me…but they don’t make appropriate space for that.

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