Four Best Questions to Ask on an Interview

In preparing for job interviews, most applicants focus on getting ready for questions potential employers might ask. But one of the most important parts of the meeting comes when the interviewer invites a candidate to ask any questions he or she has. Don't hesitate to fire away, since this can be a great opportunity to separate yourself from other applicants. In case you fear you may draw a blank, here are four of the best questions experts say you should ask during an interview:

What do you like best about working here?

Josh Tolan, founder and CEO of Spark Hire, a website that couples online videos and video interviewing with traditional online job boards, says it's important to ask an interviewer why he or she was attracted to the company and what he or she likes about working there.

"If the thing your interviewer talks about sounds dreadfully boring to you, this might not be the best position or company for your personality," Tolan says.

Asking your interviewer to describe the corporate and departmental culture demonstrates you're interested in determining whether you would be a good match for the role and the overall environment at the company, advises Kerry Gumm, the director of recruiting for The Principal Financial Group, a Des Moines-based global investment management and retirement company.

What goals do you expect the person who takes this job to achieve?

David Lewis, the president and CEO of human resources outsourcing and consulting firm OperationsInc, suggests asking for a list of goals you would need to accomplish during the first six months of being hired to demonstrate you were a good hire. He says this question will provide you with a "road map for success." And it also reinforces your desire to succeed and grow within the firm.

Amanda Augustine, a job search expert for career-matching service TheLadders, says identifying your potential employer's expectations is key, because it will "help you tailor your pitch to demonstrate how exactly you can provide value to the company."

How is performance rewarded and recognized?

Gumm says inquiring about the opportunities for career development demonstrates you're focused on growing and learning in the role.

Augustine also recommends asking your prospective supervisor how you can help him or her achieve recognition from his or her own boss.

"Employers are always looking for people who want to accomplish the team's goals, not just their own personal career goals," she says.

What is the next step in this process?

Augustine advises candidates to inquire about the employer's timeline for making a decision on the hire - and asking how they can get back in touch.

"Never leave an interview without establishing the next call to action," she says. "This way, in your thank you message, you can state when you will follow up and how. The ball is in your court."

Tolan says it's essential for you to know whether the decision will be made in two weeks or two days, or whether there is another step to the hiring process, such as taking a test or providing a sample of your work.

"You want the interviewer to know you are interested and ready to tackle the next challenge," he says.