Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Skip to main content

Exeter Works doors will be closing on 31 March, but you will still be able to get support and guidance on our website. The Youth Hub will open the doors to its new home in Exeter Library from 3 April.

Job interviews: they’re for answering questions, not asking them, right? Wrong! Asking the right questions shows that you have a zesty interest in the role and are confident in the interview process. Here are some tips on what to ask your interviewer, and why.

Why do some people get nervous about interviews? One reason is because they build up the interview in their mind to something akin to criminal interrogation. But an interview isn’t all one-way traffic. It’s an opportunity for you to find out more about the role you have applied for and the company behind it.
So when your interviewer asks if you have any questions, resist the urge to bolt for the exit door. Many interviewers expect you to ask questions. Failing to do so is a missed opportunity to impress. Even worse, it suggests you don’t care about the position you have applied for. Staying shtum also strips you of a fabulous chance to gauge whether this opportunity is the right fit for your skill set, your personality and your career ambitions.

Your questions count as much as theirs.

How many questions should you ask during your interview?

It’s likely that your interviewer will ask whether you have any questions. Most likely at the end of the interview. So how many questions should you ask?

Two is a good number to aim for. But it’s best to have up to five questions at the ready. Otherwise there’s a chance your questions will be covered naturally during the interview.

What sort of questions should you ask in your interview?

It’s crucial to ask the right type of question. Fortunately, there’s lots of territory to explore. Just be sure to avoid ground that’s already been covered, otherwise it’s going to look like you left your ears at home. You should also ask open-ended questions that elicit a response from your interviewer that goes beyond “yes” or “no”. Finally steer clear of questions that are too complicated. You are unlikely to endear yourself to your interviewer if they think you are deliberately trying to flummox them. So instead of trying to act smart, focus on building rapport and showing genuine interest in the role, the company and your career.

Here are some suggestions. Below we will explore questions about the role, the company and the recruitment process.

But first…

Before you begin

There’s one question that you should ask before you turn inquisitor…

Have I answered all of your questions? Do you need me to clarify or elaborate on anything from my CV?

This is a fantastic question to ask for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s polite and shows confidence in your ability to think on your feet. Secondly there genuinely might be something that your interviewer wants to know more about but feels the moment to ask has passed.

Four questions about the role

You will potentially be spending a significant portion of your time in the role you have applied for. It’s best to make sure it matches your skill set as well as your ambitions.

1. Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of the role?

What does your typical day look like in this role? This is your chance to find out – and the answer should inspire you.

2. What qualities are required to excel in the role?

Nobody wants their job to be easy. That’s boring. But do you have the skill set to succeed?

3. What are your expectations for my first six-twelve months in the role and how will my success be measured?

Clear targets and a fair way of measuring progress against them: that’s important for any employee – including you. Knowing what your potential employer wants from you can help you make smart decisions about whether or not this is a role in which you could thrive.

4. What is the typical career path for someone in this role?

This is a smarter way of asking: what are the opportunities for progression? It shows you’re focused on your career, without casting doubt on your willingness to stick around in the role you’re applying for.

Six questions about the company

It’s not just the job you have applied for that should get you excited, but the company you are working for too. That includes the people, the culture, the scope for professional development and the overarching ambitions of the organisation.

1. What do you like best about working here?

A little personal insight – away from all the PR speak – can tell you a lot about the company you have applied to join.

2. What makes people stay at this company?

Chances are you’re curious about things like bonuses, benefits, holiday entitlement and so on. Thing is, asking about that directly during a first interview doesn’t exactly ooze class. This question might just help to elicit some of the intel you’re looking for.

3. How does this company help employees to grow professionally?

You’re not here to stagnate. The best companies invest in their employees. Will this one do the same?

4. Can you describe the culture of the company?

What’s it actually like to work at this company? It’s the million-dollar question, and this may shed some light.

5. Who do you see as your primary competitor?

If you’ve done your research, you should already have a good idea of who the company’s main competitors are. But getting some insight from the horse’s mouth could be invaluable if you make it to the next stage of the recruitment process.

6. Where do you think the company is heading over the next five years?

Is there a long-term strategy for the business? Let’s hope so, and let’s hope it excites you.

Two questions about the process

The interview process can be long and riddled with uncertainty. Let’s put that mind of yours at ease.

1. What are the next steps in the interview process?

This question doesn’t just show that you’re interested in the position. It will keep you from panicking about when you’re going to hear back from the recruiter. Perfect for stealing yourself a little peace of mind.

2. Are there any online resources or books you would recommend for background research on the role?

It’s a bit of a curveball question. But your interviewer will likely respect you for asking it. It shows that you are keen on the position and eager to learn. Your interviewer’s response may also help you to bone up for a potential second interview.

Over to you…

So much is written about how you should answer certain questions come interview time. With good reason. Just don’t miss your opportunity to ask one or two questions of your own. It could be the cherry on top of a flawless interview performance. Best of luck!

You may also be interested in:

Cathedral Appointments is Exeter’s leading specialist independent recruitment consultancy.  We have 30 years’ experience helping people across Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset to find jobs that get them excited about working.