What Questions Should I Ask in an Interview?

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The first rule of thumb for any job interview is to recognize going in that it's a two-way street. Preparing for the expected questions based on work history, job skills, and strengths is necessary, but you also need to take the time to formulate good questions to ask of the potential employer. Overlooking what questions to ask can be a deal-breaker.

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If you say something akin to "No questions; you've been very thorough in describing the position," that sends the wrong message. What the interviewer hears is, "I didn't do my homework before this interview."

Here are some sample questions that will show you're prepared and leave you with an insider's view of the company.

I see sales increased X% last quarter. What do you attribute ABC Company's growth to?

This question immediately lets the interviewer know you are thorough, have done your homework, and were interested enough to take the time to learn more about the organization. If you're interviewing with a privately held company and therefore might not know about the company's sales, you might ask something like this: "ABC Company has been a leader in its field for nearly 20 years. What do you attribute its success to?" 

What do you like best about working at ABC Company?

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In my 20-plus-year career, which has included many job interviews on both sides of the desk, this question has never failed to elicit a smile from someone involved in the interview. The purpose of the question isn't to catch the interviewer off-guard but rather to gain insight into the positive aspects of professional life at ABC Company.

What would you say is the average tenure of the employees here? Why do you think that is?

Similar to the previous question, the answer you get here will provide you with a sneak peek of the company's inner workings. If most of the employees have been around for years and years, that's a sign of a good work environment. The second part of the question will help you dig deeper into the answer you get.

Does ABC Company tend to promote from within, or do you generally look outside first?

Some may find this question a bit forward, but I've never had a problem letting a prospective employer know that when I make a decision, not only do I intend on staying for the long haul, but I also want to know there are career opportunities for those who warrant it.

What are your expectations for the position six months or a year from now?

Knowing the longer-term benchmark expected of the role will give you an idea of the challenges that lie ahead. Asking for a shorter timeframe -- say 90 days -- may send the message that you're focused only on the short term.

Where do you see ABC Company five years from now?

This question reinforces the notion that you're looking for a permanent role, not simply a paycheck. It's also a means for you to learn if the leadership team has its eye on the future.

Final thoughts

Select just a few of these questions, or variations thereof. While you certainly want to learn about the position and company, peppering the interviewer with too much will probably end up doing more harm than good.

Consider writing these questions down before the interview, and come with more than you intend on asking. Then, when you're asked what questions you have, reference your list, check off those already addressed, and select a few to ask. Not only will this method help ensure that you don't skip a question you were interested in having answered, but it also lets the prospective employer know you're organized and always well prepared.

And remember: Don't ask about salary or perks at the initial interview. It may come up during the course of the discussion, but if not, save those questions for the next round of talks. Good luck!

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