I've given this question a lot of thought and there are many websites that provide advice. But, the advice is so general that the questions are often not applicable to entry level college positions. So, here are a few tips regardless of what questions you choose. Then below this, I've offered a few questions to consider, which have been curated from multiple websites, employer/alumni conversations, and my own experiences.
3 Things You Want to Achieve
When you ask the right questions, you want to achieve three things:
- Make sure the interviewer has no reservations about you.
- Demonstrate your interest in the employer.
- Find out if you feel the employer is the right fit for you.
Start your question with language that indicates you've done your research/you've been listening to what the interviewer has been saying/what others have been saying during your visit. That conveys as something like..."When I was reading your annual report I noticed that ____and I'd like to know more about..." Or, "When I spoke with (insert alum's name here) she mentioned that....and I'd like to know more about..."
Also, the questions you choose should be related to the position of the person with whom you are interviewing:
- for the Personnel Manage or Human Resources Director:
- what do employees like best/least about the company?
- how much turnover is there in the first year of new hires/how long do entry level employees typically stay on after their first year? Follow up to see if you can get information about what people do next who leave?
- how are raises/promotions determined?
- how often are performance reviews given, and how are they conducted?
- what type of on boarding and training programs does a new employee receive?
- for your prospective supervisor:
- what are the major responsibilities of the department
- what would I be expected to accomplish within the first six months/year of the job?
- what are some of the special projects now ongoing in the department
- how much contact with management is there? (maybe)
- what are some of the long-term goals of the department? If you have not already been told.
Again, for these questions you may refer back to your screening interview/conversations with alumni/other research to begin your question.
- for a prospective colleague:
- what do you like best/least about working for the company/department?
- what goes on during a typical workday?
- do you feel free to express your ideas and concerns? Do most people? - what are the possibilities for personal growth and advancement
- how long have you been here?
- What are next steps for you?
Be sure not to sound confrontational with any question, especially the question about what someone likes least.
For all of these, consider the way that they may be received by the person interviewing you. And go with your gut, if a question seems as if it may make someone defensive, do not use it. You do not want to alienate your interviewer. But, ask questions for which you absolutely want to know the answers.
Other Possible Questions:
Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications? I love this question because it’s gutsy. Also, you’ll show that you’re confident in your skills and abilities. But, if you are given concerns, be prepared to reply and demonstrate that you've got that covered.
Can you tell me about the team I would be working with? Notice how the question is phrased; it assumes you will get the job but uses language a little less presumptuous than "I will be working with." This question also tells you about the people you will interact with on a daily basis, so listen to the answer closely.
What can you tell me about your new products or plans for growth or changes to the team over the next year? I've spoken to (so and so) and interested in what may be coming up next. This question should be customized for your particular needs. Do your homework on the employer’s site beforehand and mention a new product or service it’s launching to demonstrate your research and interest. The answer to the question will give you a good idea of where the employer is headed.
If I were to start tomorrow, what would be the top priority on my to-do list? The answer to this question will give you more insight into the current state of the position, while the question shows that you’re invested and interested in learning how you can start things off with a bang.
What would you say are the top two personality traits someone needs to do this job well? The answer to this will be very telling. “Creative” and “intuitive” can be translated to mean you will be on your own, while “patient” and “collaborative” could mean the opposite. Not only will this question allow you to feel out whether you’re going to be a good fit; it will also get your interviewer to look past the paper resume and see you as an individual.
What improvements or changes do you hope the new hires will bring to this position? This answer can shed light on what might have made the last person lose (or leave) the job, and it also tips you off on the path to success. Asking this shows an employer you are eager to be the best candidate to ever fill this position.
I know this company prides itself on X and Y, so what would you say is the most important aspect of your culture? This type of question is sure to impress, as it shows that you’ve done your research on the company and gives you a chance to gain insight into what values are held to the highest ideal.
Do you like working here? This question might take interviewers back a bit, but their answer will be telling. A good sign is a confident smile and an enthusiastic “yes” paired with an explanation as to why. If they shift in their seat, look away, cough and start with “Well…”, consider it a red flag.
*Regardless of their answer, employers appreciate getting a chance to reflect on their own opinions, and this turns the interview process into more of a conversation*
Is there anything that stands out to you that makes you think I might not be the right fit for this job? (Similar to question above.) Yes, asking this question can be scary, but it can also be beneficial. Not only does it give you a chance to redeem any hesitations the employer might have about you; it also demonstrates that you can take constructive criticism and are eager to improve—valuable qualities in any candidate. You may begin replying to any concerns by saying, "I'm glad you mentioned that..."
“Do you have any reservations about hiring me that I could address?” This may appear to be less assertive and threatening to an interviewer. You've got to feel confident with the questions you are choosing and think of them as relevant to the entire experience. Some questions would go over great with one person and not another.
- An interviewer's reactions to this question as told by an interviewee:
- Used this one today, and was surprised by the answer that I received from the interviewer. She said I may be overqualified for the job, and I may be bored. Luckily, I asked this question and was able to re-affirm that this was exactly the position I am seeking, the right responsibility level and that I wanted to join her company.
Who previously held this position? This seemingly straightforward question will tell you whether that person was promoted or fired or if he/she quit or retired. That, in turn, will provide a clue to whether: there’s a chance for advancement, employees are unhappy, the place is in turmoil or the employer has workers around your age.
What is the next step in the process? This is the essential last question and one you should definitely ask. It shows that you’re interested in moving along in the process and invites the interviewer to tell you how many people are in the running for the position.
How would I be evaluated in my first 30, 60, 90 days on the job?
I've looked at the career paths on LinkedIn of multiple people who work here and have found... What do other career paths look like for someone who stays at the firm?
What's the best thing about working here? What's the most challenging thing about working here? (This question can be risky.)
Also, if you are not given an opportunity to ask questions, I encourage you to ask if you may take 2-3 more minutes of the interviewer’s time to ask questions, especially if you want to find out the answers! However, feel out the interviewer's response to your question to ask questions before beginning/choose questions that may match the non-verbal response of the interviewer.