5 reasons it’s important to ask questions in an interview (and what to ask)

Some people are reluctant to ask questions during an interview. Either they’re shy, think they already have enough information, or they just can’t think of anything to ask. Here’s why you should ask questions during a job interview.

Asking a question is your chance to assess the company

Before the interview, you’ll have researched the company (if not, you should definitely do so), just as the company will have researched you. You’re at the interview because they think you’re promising and vice versa.

Just as the interviewer wants to learn more about your background, skills, thought process and attitude, you should also take the opportunity to make further inquiries. You want to understand the responsibilities, management expectations, company culture, team you will be working with, and anything else that may still be unclear. This is a chance to gather important information face-to-face before you potentially make a significant, life-changing decision..

Pay attention to more than just what they say. How the interviewer responds to your questions can provide insight beyond just the facts. If they’re vague, cagey or even openly hostile, this can be a red flag. If, on the other hand, they seem over-the-top nice and shower you with platitudes, this could also be a reason to pause.

The skill of asking questions

When an interviewer asks you if you have any questions about the job or the company, it is usually not just meant politely. They’ll continue appraising you based on your questions and their relevance to the position being filled.

Think of this as an opportunity to highlight the essence of what makes you a good fit for the job. You can do this by prefacing your questions with some key statements about yourself. Prepare these in advance and practise incorporating them into your questions, so they come across naturally. This is also an opportunity to clarify answers you think are ambiguous or not ideal.

Try to personalise your questions too, rather than asking them in a generic way, by making references to yourself in the position. This psychological trick can help them visualise you in the role, which can have a positive effect on their overall impression of your suitability.

You’ll seem engaged in the interview

Imagine having a conversation with someone where you just tell them things about yourself and don’t ask any questions. They’re unlikely to think you’re very interested in them or the conversation, are they?

Now think about your interview in a similar way. This is an exchange of information, not a one-way street. Make this part of the interview a continuation of the conversation you’ve had so far by calling back to things the interviewer has mentioned. On top of the list of questions you’ve prepared beforehand, bring a notebook so you can take notes as you go of things you’d like to query and follow up on. This also demonstrates that you’re able to think on your feet rather than just walk through a series of canned questions and answers.

It shows you’ve done your homework

Asking relevant, probing questions about the company shows that you’ve done your homework. These might be about a recent product launch, a news item you read or a trend you’ve noticed and find interesting. Keep the questions relevant to your prospective position, however, by relating them back to yourself or your expectations.

Try not to go too overboard here, as that may come across as transparently trying to curry favour. Also, be aware that this could backfire if you haven’t done your homework. Asking generic questions about information you could easily find in your own research will likely not look good.

It demonstrates that you care about what you do

If you’re sitting in an interview, chances are you want the job. But you don’t want any old job; you want one that you’re interested in and passionate about, one at which you feel you could really excel.

On a personal level, it’s important that you feel that way because you’re going to spend at least 40 hours a week engaged with this work. The more passionate you are, the better you’ll perform, the more optimistic you’ll feel and the less you’ll hate waking up on Monday mornings.

For the interviewer, it shows that you’re considering your options carefully, that your work actually matters to you and that you’re not so desperate for a job that you’ll do anything.

Interviewers typically regard candidates with no questions as uninterested or not that smart. You’re neither of those things; you just need to illustrate this.

Don’t assume you can pick something up later as you may forget about it or the interviewer may not be available and don’t be shy about getting the information you want.

What sort of questions to ask

So you understand the importance of asking questions in an interview, but you also want to make sure you ask the right things. These are some of the best questions to ask during an interview.

Questions about the company

  • Could you elaborate on the company’s values?
  • Where is the business headed in terms of development and growth?
  • Has the business changed much in recent years, and if so, how?

Questions about the position

  • What projects would I start the job working on?
  • What do you feel I should accomplish in my first three months?
  • How often do you conduct performance appraisals, and what are the key metrics for this position?

Questions about the team

  • What can you tell me about the people with whom I’ll be working?
  • What skills are missing from this team, and how do you anticipate I can fill this skills gap?
  • Who will I be reporting directly to, and what are their responsibilities?
  • Who will be reporting to me, what are their responsibilities, and what are their respective strengths and weaknesses?

Need some practice?

Interview Skills offers customised interview training to help you practise answering and asking questions that matter. Our training programmes include two interview sessions with detailed feedback, enabling you to hone your skills, boost your confidence and get the job you deserve. Contact us to find out more.