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How to Ask Questions in a Job Interview

Careful preparation for the job interview is critical. An essential part of your preparation is to research employers and develop pertinent questions upon your research.

These questions can fall into many categories dealing with the position, the organization, the career paths, or the individuals with whom you may be working.

One of the purposes of the questions is obviously to gain information from the interviewer. Good questions, however, can make a very positive impression by showing that you are thorough, interested, intelligent and knowledgeable. An absence of questions, or routine questions that show no research on your part, leave a negative impression.

In an effort to help you prepare for interviews, the Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration has compiled a list of questions to serve as examples. They are designed to help you develop your own questions during your research and interview preparation. The idea is not that you simply use these questions but that you adapt them to your own interests and concerns.

Also, not all questions are pertinent for all positions, employers or candidates. Think carefully about the areas you want to pursue through your questions. Ask questions that are of genuine interest to you and will help you identify whether that company is a good fit for your interests, abilities and desires.

Questions to Ask in an Interview

  • Demonstrate that you have researched the company. For example, the question “How do you rate your competition?” is much more effective prefaced by the statement, “I read in a recent issue of Fortune Magazine that yours is one of the most highly competitive industries the country?”
  • Possible Question: “I read of International Paper’s concern for environmental issues in the Chairman’s message in your 1991 Annual Report. Can you tell me how you see this concern being demonstrated?”
  • Possible Question: “In Your ‘Personal Best’ brochure you mention the KFC Fast Track Program where one can manage up to 10 units in two years. What percentage of new hires are in this program, and of those, how many achieve that level of responsibility in two years?”

Pertaining to the Position Description

  • Can you tell me about the primary people with whom I would be dealing?
  • Is this a newly created position? If not, how long did the previous person hold it? Was the previous person promoted?
  • What challenges did the previous person in this position face?
  • What support services are available to carry out the responsibilities of this position?
  • To whom would I be reporting? How and when would my performance be evaluated?
  • Is regular travel a part of this position?
  • Can you tell me about the people who would be reporting to me?
  • Could you describe a typical day?

Career Paths

  • Can you tell me about the career path this position offers?
  • What percentage of the people are promoted from this position? In how long?
  • Could you tell me about the people who have preceded me in this position and in the department? Where are they now and what are they doing?
  • How are promotions or transfers determined within the company?
  • Does advancement to upper management usually require an advanced degree?

Education & Training

  • What additional training might be necessary for this position?
  • Is training done in a classroom/group session or is it handled on an individual basis?
  • Are there training programs available to me so that I can learn and grow professionally?
  • What type of on-the-job training programs do you offer?
  • Does the company support further college education for its employers?

Company Values and Ethics

  • What kind of personal attributes and qualifications does your company value?
  • What characteristics are important for this position?
  • What do you consider ideal education and experience for this position?
  • What is the most significant challenge facing your staff now?
  • Is there anything unusually challenging about this position?
  • What have been some of the best results produced by people in this position?
  • What are your projections for this department/position for the next year? (Specify type of projections, e.g. sales, production, products, profits, etc.)
  • What are some ways that previous people have had an impact?
  • What do you see ahead for your company in the next five years?
  • What are your plans for expanding the (Sales, audit, research, etc.) departments?
  • What do you see in the future for this industry?