7 Questions to Ask in an Interview (and 3 to NEVER)


You know the feeling when you’re in a job interview and it’s going GREAT, and you answered every question about your résumé, felt comfortable with all the responsibilities of the position, hit it off so well with the person interviewing you that you feel you’ve known each other for a lifetime…but then they ask you that dreaded question: “So do you have any questions for me?”

According to Business Insider, “…every interview is a two-way street. You should be interviewing the employer just as much as they’re interviewing you. You both need to walk away convinced that the job would be a great fit.”

But you can’t ask too many questions, right?  And what if you ask the wrong questions? After scouring the web and asking around the Campus Philly office, here are seven questions to ask in an interview (and three to avoid unless the situation calls for it).

1. “I was reading about the company’s history, and…”

Asking questions about the company’s formation, their history, and their past accomplishments show how interested you are in what they do. Companies want to feel their conversations with you are personalized – that this conversation is something for which you’ve prepared and done your research.

…Which means that no matter how many jobs you’re applying for, you have to do your research into the company. As an example, let’s look at Campus Philly!  Every company should have a website, and nine times out of ten that website will have an “About” page.  A quick look at the About page of Campus Philly will give you their mission statement, and if we dig further we can find the Annual Report for 2017.  It’s a quick read and one interesting piece of information is there were “26,898 engaged college students” that year.  A good question to derive from that could be “What kind of programs and events brought you to that number?”  The person interviewing you will be impressed with your research and note you taking interest in the company’s success!

2. “Can you describe the environment of the workplace?”

Your work environment and company culture are very important aspects of a company to know about. After all, you’re spending 40+ hours a week there!  Some people may prefer a quiet office, where you’re mostly left alone with your work aside from meetings or conversations with co-workers, whereas others may prefer the fast-paced start-up style of work. You want to be sure that the work environment is a good fit for you, so make sure to ask this question to learn more about what you can expect. Try describing your ideal environment and ask how the company is similar to what you’re envisioning.

NEVER ASK: “How much will I get paid?”

We get it – you need to work so that you have money to live, and that’s understandable.  However, the interview is NOT the time to ask this question.  Wait until you have a job offer before asking about the pay.  Others are competing with you for this position, so focus on making the company want YOU before talking logistics.


3. “What long-term goals could I help work toward in this role?”

Employers want motivated people to fill every position – people who think not only of the work they have in front of them but of all the company projects they will have the opportunity to work on in the future.  While it’s important to ask about the day-to-day routine of a job, you’ll go above and beyond by asking about what projects the company might task you within the first six months.

Showing this interest and motivation will allow the interviewer to see that you’re serious about the company as a whole and willing to go the extra mile to help them achieve long-term goals.

4. “What does this position look like during its busiest and most challenging times?”

Sure, the day-to-day job will be the center point of the interview, but asking about the more difficult times – imagine Christmas Eve at a bakery or the iPhone 9’s release at Apple – shows that you’re thinking about more than just the average day, because you intend to stick with that job for the long run, even when times get tough (those are the best learning experiences, anyway!). Learning about how a company and its employees manage challenging times will give you a good idea of what to expect when things get busy, and asking about this will show your interviewer that you’re in it to win it.

NEVER ASK: “When can I start?”

You are likely one among many others interviewing for this role.  You’ve certainly stood out from the plenty of others whose résumés were already moved to the recycling bin, but remember –  you have not been hired until they send you that official offer of employment.  Don’t make assumptions (because you know what they say about people who assume).  Instead, a better question to ask may be “what are the next steps in the interview process?”

5. “What is your favorite part about working for the company?”

Here’s an insider tip: people love to give insider tips.  Ask the interviewer about their experience with the company.  If you’re lucky, the interviewer may start running off everything they love about the company – the space, the people, the leadership – and they’ll be happy to talk about it, which will give you a great idea of how the company works to make sure its employees feel valued.

Show interest in what they’re telling you!  Ask a few follow up questions about what they say.  Show that you are not only interested in being hired but learning about the company and the people working for it (hopefully your future co-workers) too!

6. “Can you tell me about the team I’d be working with?”

This and the previous question go hand in hand.  People love to talk about their coworkers (in a good way).  Allow the person interviewing you to talk about all the good people working for the company.  You will want to listen because these could be the people with whom you’ll be working in the future!  Another follow up question may be: “Is the team looking for any specific qualities in a coworker to best complement the others?”

Asking about the people you’ll be working with hints to the interviewer that you’ll be a good team player.  Caring for others is a trait every employer wants to see in their team, as it shows that they care about the company and the quality of the work.  One thing is certain – asking this question will set you apart from the other candidates!

NEVER ASK: “How stressful is this job?”

Other varieties may include: “How laid back is this job?”  “Will I have to do much?”  “Can I get away with getting paid to slack off?”  No employer wants to hear anything like this from someone they might want to hire – asking this is a dealbreaker!  Every job has work that you’ll have to put into it, but every job is a fun and rewarding learning experience and a resume builder.

7. “How do you interpret the company’s mission statement?”

Let’s go back to Campus Philly’s website – as mentioned earlier, it’s easy to find a company’s mission statement in the “About” tab!

Campus Philly is a nonprofit organization that fuels economic growth by encouraging college students to study, explore, live and work in the Greater Philadelphia tri-state region.

If a company’s mission statement isn’t on their website, just ask the person interviewing you! Most mission statements are broad enough to cover everything the company does and wants to do.  That being said, ask the person interviewing you how they interpret that mission statement.  After listening to what they have to say, restate what they said in your own words, making sure they know you’re on the same page.

Asking the right questions can make or break an opportunity to be hired for your dream job.  These seven questions will set you apart from the competition and help you to stand out as a stellar future employee. Go into your interview prepared and genuinely interested, and you’ll go far.


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