Me: “Well, that concludes the interview questions. Do you have any questions for me?”

Candidate: “Mmm… nope.”

Over the past couple of years, I have frequently received this response from interview candidates. It surprises me that so many candidates forgo the valuable opportunity to gain insights on their potential employer. Perhaps they truly don’t have any more questions, or all their questions were previously answered, but I find both of those scenarios highly doubtful. Remember, interviews are two-way streets. As a candidate, you are analyzing whether the company is a right fit for you just as much as the company is analyzing whether you are a right fit for them.

As I have been mulling over this topic I composed a list of questions that I have found extremely helpful in my own interviewing experience. Here they are, in no particular order.

“What does success look like in this position?”

Someone who works with a sense of urgency? Someone who has self-motivation? Someone who embraces the unknown? Pay close attention to underlying themes in each interviewer’s answer. These themes reflect what the company values in its culture and what the company bases recognition and promotions upon.

“What are the key goals of your team?”

Interviewers who can clearly articulate their team’s key goals show that they are part of a focused team. A well thought out answer reflects that the team discusses or references these goals often enough that it has become well rehearsed. In my experience, team focus influences factors such as development processes, product clarity, and team organization, making it essential for a robust team. Thus ambiguous answers from interviewers hint that their team may still be figuring things outs, so you may need to prepare for some turbulence along the way.

“Can you tell me more about the team I would be joining?”

While it is helpful to learn more about the company you are interviewing for, don’t you want to know who you will be working with? To me, happiness at work boils down to the people you work with. After all, these are the people you see every single day, five times a week.

“What is one thing you would want to improve within your team? Or within the company?”

I use to ask “What don’t you like about this place?”, but I found myself receiving simple, generic responses. “There is too much bureaucracy here.” “We don’t move fast enough.” The keyword in this question is improve. The simple change in diction have produced richer, more thoughtful responses of which are usually unique to each interviewer. I value this question a lot for it teases out potential challenges you will face if you choose to join the company.

“How does this company compare with your previous employers?”

Asking the interviewer to compare and contrast employers instigates analytical thinking. It forces a deeper response than a question like “What do/don’t you like about this place?” People’s opinions are influenced by past experiences and asking them to reflect back on those experiences reveal how they arrived at those opinions. Asking this question is essentially asking “What do/don’t you like about this place and why?

.  .  . 

The key lesson I have learned is that detailed questions lead to detailed answers. Therefore, I formulate my questions to be as specific as possible in hopes that they evoke deep, thoughtful responses. An additional benefit to these questions is that they usually elicit unique answers, so you can ask them to each interviewer you meet. 

I hope this has expanded your arsenal of interview questions for your next round of interviews. I’m still devising more myself as you can never have enough. So, what are some of your favorite ones?