5 Powerful Questions to Ask an Interviewer in a Job Interview

As the end of every job interview draws near, the interviewer will likely ask "Do you have any questions for me?" It's surprising how many job candidates respond with a simple "No." After all, you are considering spending a significant amount of time at this company, it makes sense to have some questions. The issue is that some people believe that this invitation to ask questions is a trap, another way for the interviewer to evaluate them. They're concerned that their inquiries may seem overly demanding or unprofessional, or that they need to choose questions that will make them appear as the best candidate. In some cases, they simply don't know how to gracefully ask the questions they really want to know, such as "What are you like as a boss?" or "Is everyone here unhappy?"

So, what should you ask during the interview when it's your turn to evaluate the interviewer? Here are ten powerful questions that will give you valuable insights into whether the job is right for you.

1. What challenges do you expect the person in this role to face?

This inquiry can uncover information that wouldn't be revealed by the job description - like the existence of complicated interdepartmental dynamics, compatibility issues with a key colleague, or strict budget restrictions for the program.

Additionally, it provides an opportunity for you to share your past experiences in handling similar difficulties, which can give assurance to the interviewer. Don't merely ask questions as a means of promoting yourself - this can come off as annoying and transparent. However, if the discussion of challenges leads to an honest exchange on how you would tackle them, it can be beneficial for both parties.

2. How will the success of the person in this role be determined?

This brings you straight to the core of what is essential to understand about the job: what constitutes success, and what do you need to accomplish for the manager to be satisfied with your performance?

You may assume that the job description provides this information, however, it is not uncommon for a job description to be outdated, even if the job has changed significantly over time. Companies often use generic language from HR for their job postings, while the actual manager may have different priorities for the role. Furthermore, many employers simply struggle with writing effective job descriptions, resulting in language that sounds impersonal and robotic. To get a clearer understanding of the role, it's beneficial to have a direct conversation with the manager about what the job truly entails. You may discover that while the job posting lists numerous responsibilities, your success is dependent on only a few of them, or that the posting undervalues the significance of one key responsibility, or that the manager is still negotiating with their own supervisor on the expectations for the role, or even that the manager is uncertain about what success in the job would look like (in which case it would be wise to proceed with caution).

3. How long did the previous person in this role stay and what has been the general turnover rate in the role?

It is crucial to ask this question as a pattern of high turnover in the position could indicate negative factors such as a difficult manager or unrealistic job expectations, which could potentially lead to an unpleasant work experience for you as well. If only one person has left the position quickly, it may not be a cause for concern, but if multiple individuals have departed in a short period, it is important to inquire with your interviewer about the reasons behind this trend. If the position is a newly created role, it is not possible to ask about the turnover rate. In such cases, inquiring about the overall turnover rate for the team can be an alternative.

4. Can you describe a typical day or week in the role?

It's crucial to ask about the allocation of your responsibilities in the job, specifically if the job description mentions a combination of administrative and program work. You need to find out whether the majority of your time will be devoted to administrative tasks or if it is more balanced. Additionally, you should also inquire about the frequency of the responsibilities that you are most interested in. Knowing this information can give you a clearer idea of what it would be like to work in the job on a day-to-day basis.

A helpful tip: If the interviewer replies with "Every day is different," try asking for a description of the last month's workload of the current employee in the role. What took up most of their time?

However, if you are unable to get a clear understanding of how your time will be spent, it may indicate that the job is disorganized or that expectations are not well-defined, which could be a warning sign.

5. What sets apart the individuals who excelled at this role compared to those who simply performed well?

This question is important in getting to the core of what the hiring manager is seeking in a candidate. They want someone who will stand out and excel, not just perform averagely. By asking this question, you show that you are also passionate about making a positive impact and being exceptional in the role. Your keen interest and drive are important qualities that hiring managers look for in candidates. Additionally, the answer to this question can provide a more detailed understanding of what it takes to excel in the job, allowing you to evaluate if it aligns with your strengths and abilities.


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