Career Focus: Five Important Questions You Should Ask At Your Next Interview

Being put on the spot is uncomfortable, so certainly interviews make a lot of us nervous. We have all been in the seat across the desk. While preparation to talk about yourself is vital, you should also spend some time putting together a list of questions to ask the interviewer. Almost all interviews give you as a candidate the opportunity to ask questions. The worst thing is to not have anything prepared. To make the process easier, and be as effective as possible, here are five essential questions you should ask that will help you seal your next offer.

1. What is your background, and what brought you to this company/position?

While talking about ourselves might be difficult in an interview, it’s pretty well accepted what most peoples’ favorite topic of discussion is: themselves. Be sure to do a little homework, using a tool like LinkedIn, to get some initial information about who it is you are meeting with. Asking your interviewer or hiring manager to share their experience with you is often something they’re more than happy to talk about. Additionally, it reveals a lot about who they are as a person, and a potential employer or co-worker. You may even have something in common that could help you to stand out when it comes time to make the next round of selections.

2. What attributes would your ideal candidate have to be successful in this position?

Sure, you’ve read the job description and know it inside and out, but take this opportunity to get feedback on how the hiring manager defines success in the job you are interviewing for. Job descriptions tend to be tailored for recruitment, and are not always the best representation of what a job really entails on a day-to-day basis. Get some insight from someone within the firm, and then use that to give examples of how you have either had similar experiences or built relevant skills around those areas of success in other jobs or school. Take the opportunity to highlight what a good fit you really are.

3. What are your major goals for the next month/quarter/year for this role?

Asking this will give you an idea of  what you would be likely working on in your new role, and allows you a benchmark for your possible manager’s expectations and hopes. This also expresses to the interviewer that you’re interested in the long term, and not just the here-and-now, showing that you have the ability to focus on the big picture and add to the company’s future success. Give your feedback based on the goals stated, and draw connections to how your experience and individual strengths will help you achieve them.

4. Do you have any concerns about my qualifications or background being a match for this position?

After you leave the interview, if there was any concern about even one thing that might make the hiring manager question your fit, it could be something that sets you apart, but not in the way you’d like. Help them to review your skill set and experience, and voice any concerns so that you have an opportunity to correct, assure, or persuade them to your benefit. Sometimes this can even help clear up minor misunderstandings that would later become larger questions, so it is best to leave knowing you did everything you could to help their decision.

5. What are the next steps of the interview/hiring process, and when should I expect to hear from you about moving forward?

At the end of the interview, if you are confident this is a job you want, then never leave without asking for it. Some might think this out of place, but if you’re not sitting there to get the job, then why are you there? Establishing the interviewer’s next steps and timeline both indicates your level of seriousness and interest in the position and better helps you as a job seeker manage your own timeline (follow-up, other interviews, etc.). Not to mention, it can provide an opportunity to quickly establish your standing as a candidate.

•••

As with any interview, be sure to go in well prepared. To be ahead, know details about the company, the job, and who you’ll be speaking with. Not to mention you’ll likely impress the person asking the questions. And don’t forget to send a thank you note. Getting a job is definitely about finding the right fit for skills, experience, personal development opportunity, and culture, but an interview can make or break your chances. Leave a good impression and have confidence in yourself, and you will succeed.


Ryan is a part of the Master of International Management full-time 2012 cohort, and a MIM Student Ambassador. Currently he works within the Willamette Valley wine industry as a social media consultant, and wants to broaden his career in marketing to a global level through the MIM program. His favorite aspects of MIM are networking with other students from around the world and learning Mandarin Chinese. Ryan is passionate about food, wine, and travel and writes on these topics for other sites. Visit Ryan’s site here.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Career Focus: Five Important Questions You Should Ask At Your Next Interview

  1. Jeremy Brahm

    Also, do not forget this question, “Is this position a new position, or is it replacing someone else?” This is a two-fold question because you will find out if others have done this type of job or not. My position that I currently have is a new job, with some parts from other employees.

  2. Jeremy – that’s an excellent point! And if you’re replacing someone, it’s a good way to understand their success or challenges in the position. Thanks for your comment! – Ryan

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