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Posted by on Aug 6, 2013

Turning the Tables: 6 Smart Questions to Ask the Interviewer

Turning the Tables: 6 Smart Questions to Ask the Interviewer

All hiring managers are interested in the answers we get to the questions we pose during the job interview, but I’m also impressed when job candidates come with questions for me.

For one thing, it tells me they’re prepared. They’ve thought about the company and the opportunity ahead of time. It also tells me they’re interested in this particular position and in my organization. It’s not “just another job” to them. Selfishly, it also gives me an opportunity to talk about building a Robert Half career, which I love to do.

Job seekers, I can guarantee I’m not the only hiring manager who appreciates being asked an intelligent question or two. But so few of you take the opportunity to turn the tables. Don’t waste the chance!

If you’re unsure what to say when the interviewer asks, “So, do you have any questions for me?” here are six good responses:

‘Can you clarify exactly how much travel will be required for this position?’

Yes, I know not every job will require travel. That’s just an example. What I mean with this question is that you should ask the hiring manager to fill in the blanks if you are still unsure or confused about any aspect of the position. That could be your expected work hours or who you will report to, for instance.

Your goal should be to leave with a firm understanding of what the job entails so you can truly determine if it’s right for you. If the employer can’t provide the clarification you’re looking for, that could be a red flag.

‘How will success in this job be measured?’

Don’t make assumptions. What one person considers success in a role isn’t necessarily what it entails for you.

This is another area where you need to hear specifics. For example, does success to the hiring manager mean reaching a certain sales target, completing your projects on time and on budget, or something else? Without a firm answer, you won’t really know if the job is doable, and you could risk seeing expectations shift once you’ve started with the firm.

‘Who held this role before me, and where is that person now?’

This question can provide insight into the company’s stance on employee training programs and your opportunities for advancement. If the person now has a higher-level role with the organization, you know the position in question could be a steppingstone to greater things.

On the flip side, tread carefully if you learn that your predecessor left the firm or that several people have cycled through the job in the recent past.

‘How would you describe the corporate culture here?’

If you ask nothing else, ask this question. If you don’t mesh with the work environment, you’ll have a hard time succeeding with your new employer. Remember, you’ll spend 40 or more hours each week at the office — that’s a lot of time to be in a workplace where you don’t feel like you fit in.

I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but try to get specifics. Are late hours the norm? Is the work environment collaborative or competitive? Do people hang out together after work? Does management value the input of staff members, and, if so, how is it demonstrated?

‘Why do you enjoy working here?’

As a hiring manager, this is my favorite question because it allows me to get personal. I talk about my awesome team members and how fortunate I am to work with them. Most times, I can’t stop talking!

Something like that is what you should hope to hear — someone who is truly passionate about the company and who is trying very hard to make you realize that. If that type of enthusiasm is absent, take note.

‘What do you like least about your job?’

I recommend asking this question because it’s a curve-ball. Most hiring managers won’t be expecting it, and that means you could get a more candid response. An employer’s answer can tell you a lot about the company culture and the challenges of working for the firm. Pay close attention and try to read between the lines.

What more would you ask the interviewer?

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About Robert McCauley


Robert McCauley is a career expert with Robert Half, a leading specialized staffing firm that helps skilled professionals find rewarding temporary and full-time jobs in a variety of fields. Robert has been writing about the job search and careers for more than 10 years. Connect with him and Robert Half on Twitter and YouTube.

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