What’s in a Question?

Vector picture of two people sitting in chairs engaging in a conversation

When preparing for an interview, most professionals know to have good questions ready. Oftentimes, interviewees want to make a good impression by showing interest in the company, its culture, and its goals. While strong questions can be a tool, potentially improving your chances at securing a role, you may also be interested in more substance than the standard answers that may be given: like, say, whether you personally could thrive within this company’s systems and workforce.

It can be hard to flesh out such large concepts in the time allotted. To get the best understanding of your potential fit, you’ll want to use questions that are engaging, concise, and pointed. Ultimately, the more thoughtful you are, the greater your chances of impressing the hiring team–it’s a win-win situation! So where do you start?

First, it’s a given that you do your research on the company you’re interviewing with. Having a good understanding of the company and hiring team ahead of time can help you figure out what you really want to know and what you can already glean from outside sources. Next, take a moment to consider your ideal work environment. Try to get really ambitious here! Consider what would make you the most productive, successful team member you could be–this will be different for everyone.

Finally, be precise so you can get to the root of what you want to know. For example: instead of What does onboarding look like for new hires? maybe ask What steps are taken to ensure the remote members on this team are onboarded successfully? The difference may seem subtle; however, specificity goes a long way and can help both parties be fully engaged.

Whenever possible, we suggest that you insert yourself into the interview questions more intentionally. For example: What can I expect day to day in this role? instead of What does the day to day in this role look like? Or What would my team look like? instead of What does the team look like?

If the interview process is multiple rounds, we also suggest asking each interviewer to describe the company’s culture and goals. It’s a good way to determine if everyone is (or is not) on the same page. In a similar vein, it can be useful to hone in on the interviewer’s personal take. Some great examples include: If you were to leave your current employer what would you miss most? and What is something you are most proud of about your current team?

Leveling with an interviewer can also yield great results. You can start simply with: Why did you join this organization? And to further build your connection with an interviewer, you might consider: What path brought you to this company?

Meanwhile, asking reflective and personalized questions can help you uncover more substantive information. If an interviewer has a long tenure with their company, for example, consider asking: What has kept you with this role/team/company? or How has the company changed from when you first started? This approach can yield a genuine, engaging discussion, while also helping you determine your long-term fit.

Finally, if the company and role are checking your boxes, we recommend leading with confidence. You’ll be sure to make an impression with: Based on our discussion, I feel my background is a perfect fit for this position. What is the next step? Similarly, you can clear the air with: Is there anything that came up during our interview that might give you pause on my fit for this role? If so, I would love to address that now. And if these feel a little too bold, you can always opt for: What are the key traits of the people who excel within this team and company? If their answer sounds like you, then take the opportunity to tell them so! And if not, then you may consider moving on to find your perfect fit.

Which questions will you be asking in your next interview?