10 Smart Questions to Ask in Your Next Interview
You got the call you’ve been waiting for – an interview for your dream job! As you start preparing, you’ll most likely put effort into anticipating the interview questions the recruiter or hiring manager will ask about your skills, education, and career as they relate to the role and company. Still, one area you shouldn’t overlook when you have the opportunity to meet is the questions you should ask the interviewers.
“This may be one of the most important yet most overlooked parts of any job interview,” said Wes Maurer, AICP, vice president of energy policy and innovation. “It hits at the core of why you chose to apply to a job in the first place. It is important to remember that, as a candidate, you should be interviewing an organization just as much as they are interviewing you.”
Read on to discover the smart questions you should ask in your next interview to impress, get valuable information, and land the job!
1. Can you discuss the organization’s mission, vision, and values and how I can contribute to these in this role?
One of the best ways to show that you are interested in the role is to show interest in working for the company first. Asking questions upfront about the mission, vision, and values and how you can align with the company’s priorities will help you discern fit.
“Some of the things I look for in a candidate for an entry or mid-level growth position include someone who is self-directing, coachable, a problem solver, and a strong team player who assumes leadership when appropriate,” said Bryan Mulqueen, PE, executive vice president and Transit & Rail Corporate Business Group director. “A great interviewee is alert, inquisitive, informed about the firm and the role, and capable of demonstrating their enthusiasm to contribute to the team’s mission. Great teams occur when the team aligns to the mission, so that’s why I think this is an appropriate question to ask.”
2. How do you define success?
“This may seem simple at first, but it puts the interviewing team in the position of having to start at the end and work backward into ‘real-life,’ your daily routine, and your soon-to-be daily drivers,” said Maurer. “Now more than ever, our workforce is searching for flexibility, lifestyle, and purpose. By asking the simple question of what defines success, candidates will walk away with a much better sense of the job and what makes that particular job special, or not, to them personally. Many happy professionals learn to ask and value the importance of asking this question throughout their careers.”
Getting to the heart of how the hiring manager and company measure success is crucial because it can lead nicely into other discerning questions, like:
- What is the day-to-day mission that will be moving me?
- Is the organization well-coordinated or ad hoc?
- What do I need to achieve success?
- Who else will be integral to supporting my work? How does this role directly impact the organization?
Answers to these questions can help you determine if the work, company, and position will:
- Match with your professional passions.
- Mesh with your work style.
- Allow you to contribute in a meaningful way that leaves you feeling fulfilled.
- Foster positive and collaborative working relationships.
3. Can you describe the company culture and ideal fit or personality type for the team?
“The best questions I receive are those that show an interviewee is interested in the culture of Gannett Fleming,” said Darren Mack, PE, GE, vice president and chief geotechnical engineer. “The reason these are great questions is simple. When we interview, we put a lot of effort into figuring out if the prospective employee will be a good fit with our team – can they play well with others, so to speak – because the team and office dynamics are so important to our success.”
Asking questions about company culture can also significantly affect how far you advance through the hiring process.
“Many interviewees have great qualifications, so the differentiators are really in how they answer questions in general, and more specifically, if they will fit our team culture,” continued Mack. “If an interviewee is already thinking about fit, it means they are taking that as seriously as we are and are unlikely to accept a job offer if they don’t think the fit is right for them. It shows a lot of forethought and maturity, and it usually means that person is the team player we are looking for.”
4. Has the company culture changed since you joined, and if so, how?
Similarly, while it’s important to understand the company’s current culture, it’s just as essential to gauge how its culture has evolved, and your interviewers could have valuable insights.
“I think this is a great question because not only is the candidate gauging cultural fit, they’re also evaluating the company’s adaptability and agility within our changing society,” said Kristen Vavrek, corporate recruiter. “To me, that indicates that they are looking for a long-term home and not just a steppingstone to their next role.”
This question can also help you determine if the company will match your values in areas such as diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. You can also try changing the question up slightly as you advance through the interview process to gauge culture in different ways. As Brad Mason, PE, PMP, senior vice president and Transit & Rail client/program development leader, Southeast group, said: “These types of questions build rapport with the interviewer and demonstrate an interest in learning about the company culture.”
Here are some related suggestions:
- What attracted you to this company?
- What’s your favorite part about working here?
5. What are some of the career paths you see in this company for the person who holds this position?
Most people don’t apply for a job hoping that they’ll be in that same role for the rest of their careers. Asking about career paths and growth opportunities upfront can show an interest in lifelong learning and a commitment to professional development. And like with the previous question, it can demonstrate that you intend to stay with the company for the long haul and envision a future for yourself on the team.
“Asking this question demonstrates that the candidate is interested not only in the position but in advancing their career with the firm,” said Mason.
6. What’s the most value I can bring to your team on day one?
As with the question above, putting a focus on the value you can bring immediately to the company, your department, and manager can set you apart from other candidates.
“This question speaks to humility, a team approach, and a sense of being driven to succeed,” said Eric Rensel, FLTA, vice president and manager of smart cities. “So many candidates take a ‘what’s in it for me’ approach or spend time overselling themselves. I want the candidate to know that during their interview, I am considering how they can make our team more successful.”
7. Have you considered…?
Have you heard the expression “show, don’t tell?” The “have you considered…” question serves as an excellent jumping-off point to demonstrate your knowledge and skills and show immediate value to your interviewers. It also proves that you researched the company and position ahead of time and came prepared with solutions and ideas.
“This shows the candidate has taken the time to research the position and firm and indicates innovative thinking,” said Mason.
8. What do you expect from a leader, manager, or supervisor?
If the role you’re applying to carries management (functional, people, or both) responsibilities, it’s wise to understand the expectations you’ll need to meet and how those expectations will evolve as your role does. It’s also an opportunity to introduce the need for regular, open feedback sessions between you and your supervisor.
“I think this is a challenging question because it speaks to defining expectations and understanding that expectations change over time as circumstances do,” said Helen Pappas, CHMM, ENV SP, Northeast area manager and senior environmental project manager. “A great analogy I once heard about this is the evolution of a marriage. When you’re newlyweds, you set expectations around areas like financial responsibilities and the division of labor with household chores. Often, though, the circumstances with a marriage change as the couple has children, moves into a larger home, changes jobs, etc. The same can happen in a leadership role with circumstances and responsibilities changing, but if there aren’t conversations at regular intervals to address these, resentments and the like can build up.”
9. What are some of the biggest challenges you expect the person in this position to face?
“I feel this is a great question because the candidate can get information that the job description might not have had,” said Tim Morda, corporate recruiter.
For example, you may be able to discern:
- The type of team you’ll be working with.
- The types of clients you’ll have.
- Budget restrictions.
“It also creates an opening for the candidate to talk about how they have approached similar challenges in the past, which can reassure recruiters and hiring managers that they’re an ideal fit for the role,” said Morda.
10. Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?
While this question may put you in a vulnerable position, it’s a rare opportunity to get inside the interviewers’ heads before they leave the interview to deliberate whether you’ll advance to the next round of interviews or receive the offer.
“I like this question because it allows you to correct or change any misconceptions the interviewer might have about you before they make a decision,” said Masai Lawson, senior manager of talent acquisition and inclusion. “This can also go a long way in providing a clearer picture that you welcome constructive criticism and feedback.”
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