How and Why to Ask Questions During an Interview

Shannon Smales Ogborn

We have all been there, the moment where the interviewer asks, “So, do you have any questions for me?” You may not realize it, but this is one of the most pivotal moments during any interview, whether it be on-site or via phone/video.

Let’s talk about the why and how.

Why is this so important? Great question.

Employers look for multiple things while interviewing a candidate, hard skills, soft skills, experience, etc. Now, more and more companies are shifting their focus to also include passion, engagement, and culture fit.

To a potential employer, asking questions about the organization and role demonstrate these things. By asking carefully considered questions, you may be setting yourself apart from other candidates. In addition to helping demonstrate your engagement with the role and company, asking questions can also be vital to your understanding of the opportunity, and if it is a good fit for you.

Understanding the why is important, but equally important is the how.

One of the first ways to demonstrate interest is through asking questions about the role.

This is important, given interviewers on any team want to make sure you are a right fit for the role itself. These questions are best left to the hiring manager, an individual already in the role, or a team member who often cross-collaborates with the role.

A few solid things to investigate amongst the interviews may be: a breakdown of daily tasks, what it takes to be a high performer in the role, and if you are addressing someone already in the role, what they feel the pros and cons of the role are. This will show your engagement, as well as provide you with clarity on the role.

The second level of questions should be about the company.

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Every employee has a different perspective on the company they work for, and the insights can be valuable.

Again, asking about the organization as a whole shows a passion and dedication to learning more about the culture, strategy, and structure of the company.

Some examples might be: ‘Which company value is most important to you?’, ‘How do teams interact with one another?’, as well as addressing any concerns you have.

But remember, framing is everything, so be sure to carefully think out these questions beforehand to show your confidence in the company vs sounding accusatory. Showing your enthusiasm in these ways could very well set you apart from other candidates that are interviewing.

When asking questions, it is important to remember your audience, whether that be an individual you are interviewing with, or a larger group. For example, you would not ask the VP of Technology a question that may be better suited for the VP of Marketing.

Being able to distinguish which question is appropriate for which individual demonstrates a level of comprehension you have for the organization, and the roles the individuals play. You can (sometimes, depending on the information available) source this information via LinkedIn, or you can ask “follow ups” based on questions regarding the person’s role.

Whether you are going on-site or chatting via phone, asking thought provoking questions is something that really stands out to employers, and when done correctly, can also provide you with valuable insights for your own decision making.

Be confident, and ask away!