It’s the night before your big job interview. You’ve done your due diligence researching the company, the position and the people conducting the interview. You’re ready.
But how will you respond when the hiring manager asks, “Do you have any questions for me?”
This part of the job interview is a fantastic opportunity to make a lasting impression that sets you apart from other candidates.
You should come up with four or five interview questions to ask. This way, if one or two of your interview questions are addressed earlier in the conversation, you still have a few backups ready to go.
It’s also important to choose interview questions that are most relevant to you, your interests and your specific job duties.
We asked hiring managers and recruiters for the best and worst questions to ask during the interview process.
Here’s what they told us.
The 10 Best Job Interview Questions to Ask a Hiring Manager
The cream of the crop: Hiring managers and recruiters say these are the most insightful interview questions you can ask.
They recommend any candidate incorporate these questions into their next interview.
1. “What are the company’s most important goals for the next year?”
Hiring managers want a job candidate who’s a good fit within the team. They want to determine if potential employees are committed to helping the company accomplish its goals.
Showing interest in the company’s future reflects well on potential candidates, says April Henry, an HR professional and director of workforce planning at Wycliffe Bible Translators.
“I like questions where I can tell the person is truly interested and starting to envision themselves in the role,” Henry says.
Jason Patel, founder of Transizion, a college assistance and mentorship company, adds: “What this question shows is that even though the person has not been hired, they will be invested in helping the company accomplish what it wants to get done.”
2. “What are a few examples of your company’s biggest successes and failures this year, and what have you learned from them?”
It’s always good to ask example-based questions during a job interview, says Lana Gerard, senior technical recruiter at Catalyst Software.
It gives the interviewer a chance to open up. It also helps avoid short yes-or-no responses.
“Previous experience often predicts future behaviors,” Gerard says. “How a company handled a challenge in the past gives you a glimpse into how management may handle problems in the future. Plus, it gives you a chance to really learn about company leadership.”
There’s a significant caveat to this question though. A company may not want to disclose its biggest challenges or failures, especially if it’s in a highly competitive industry. So the interviewer might focus more on the business’s successes.
“When you add that qualifier ‘What did you learn from them,’ it shows that the person wants to learn from past mistakes and help the company as it evolves,” Patel says.
3. “What are the top three skills that have made someone successful in this position before?”
Christopher Lee, founder and career consultant for PurposeRedeemed, advises candidates to ask this question if they know the job is an established position. He says interviewees can learn what skills or behaviors are the “non-negotiables” their potential boss expects them to have.
Inquiring about the behaviors of successful employees encourages the interviewer to share real-world examples and avoid ambiguity.
It also gives you a better idea of what it really takes to be successful at the company — and whether you have what they’re looking for.
Experts recommend asking the hiring manager or project manager this question instead of someone in human resources, since a manager is more likely to know the full scope of day-to-day responsibilities.
4. “What are your customers’ biggest pain points, and how will I be involved in solving them?”
Companies strive to solve problems for customers, Patel says. If the candidate is already interested in doing that, they’ll most likely be invested when times get tough.
“You want all of your employees to provide legitimate value for the customers,” he says.
This question can also help you understand the types of problems you’ll be dealing with.
5. “Do you have any concerns about me filling this role that I can address before we end the interview?”
It’s always easier to erase doubts about your job skills or past experience when the people deciding your fate are still in the room.
“It lets the hiring manager open up about any perceived weaknesses they see in that person as a candidate, and it lets the candidate address those concerns right then and there,” says Michael Sunderland, the former managing director of Full Stack Talent.
Carefully listen to their response and explain how you can overcome potential shortfalls. Showing a willingness to grow and improve — and gracefully accepting criticism — demonstrates you’re the best person for this new position.
6. “How would you describe the company culture here?”
This question can provide valuable insight into the working environment of a company. It gives you a chance to hear about the company’s values and see if you’ll be a good fit.
Asking about a company’s culture also provides a peek into their views on things like team work and work-life balance.
“If the culture is rigorous and it’s frowned upon to take vacation or work from home, and you’re a single parent who needs flex time and the ability to attend your kid’s soccer match — it’s not going to work,” says Janine Krokey, human resources director for Nursery Supplies, Inc.
Inquiring about culture also garners insight on how the organization prioritizes employee happiness and manages work flows.
“It’s also good to ask about management style, especially for an experienced or higher level manager,” says Henry. “It may make a newer manager a little nervous, though.”
7. “What keeps you at the company? What motivates you to go to work each day?”
Employers love an opportunity to brag about company perks and positivity, especially to well-qualified job candidates.
Asking a question like this can help you learn about special company benefits without throwing out an obvious question like “what’s the best benefit here?”
It also shows you’re interested in the people interviewing you — not just the benefits package.
“Showing genuine interest and curiosity is really important,” says Gerard. “Employers want thoughtful, insightful people on their team.”
8. “What surprised you most about the company or role when you first started working here?”
Starting a new job always comes with surprises. Your day-to-day work flow and experience may be quite different from the job description.
Gerard says asking your interviewer what surprised them when they first started is a telling question few job seekers ask.
“It gives the employer an opportunity to be candid and open up to you,” she says. “If you want to know what the company or job role is really like, this is a great way to find out.”
It can also provide you a heads-up on potential issues or red flags, Gerard notes.
9. “Are there opportunities for training, professional development and progression within the position/company?”
Inquiring about professional development opportunities shows interviewers that you’re ambitious and forward-thinking. It also demonstrates that you’re serious about advancing your career and exploring your future at the company.
“You need to understand what you want for both your professional development and your professional life — and make sure that the company supports or agrees with it,” says Krokey.
Does the company offer a learning and development program where employees can attend conferences, earn certifications or join professional trade groups? Asking this question is a good way to find out.
10. “Can you show me around the office before we conclude the interview?”
Asking for an office tour is a great way to prolong the interview, says Peter Yang, founder of the resume-writing service ResumeGo. “It guarantees that extra face time” with the hiring manager outside the confines of the interview room, he says.
Plus, it’s an opportunity to make an impression on the staff and potential coworkers.
Although the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many interviews are conducted, learning how the office operates is important.
If the company is completely remote, ask what support is provided for remote employees. Getting answers to all these questions will also provide a glimpse into company culture.
The Worst Interview Questions to Ask a Hiring Manager
Asking a bone-headed question at the end of the interview can crush your chances of landing your dream job.
Experts say it’s best to avoid obvious questions like “What does the company do” or “What’s the company’s mission statement?” In other words, don’t ask a question just to ask a question.
It’s simply not a good look.
“I think some of the worst stuff I’ve ever been asked is things they should already know,” Sunderland says.
The best way to avoid that? Research a company before you head into the job interview so you can respond with thoughtful questions.
And make sure to jot down good notes during the interview too, so you can ask intelligent follow-ups and get clarification.
What about replying, “Nope, I don’t have any questions”?
Also not a great idea.
“It shows maybe you didn’t do good research, you weren’t really paying attention or you don’t really care about getting the job,” says Gerard.
Finally, avoid specific questions about vacation days, time off and other benefits during the first round of interviews.
Asking about benefits and job perks too early in the hiring process reflects poorly on a candidate, Patel says.
“The thing with (questions like that) is it inadvertently — or intentionally — shows that you aren’t so much focused on helping the company; you’re only interested in the perks,” he says.
Patel offers this piece of career advice: Don’t ask questions about benefits until the job offer is in your hands. That’s the time to negotiate.
Matt Reinstetle is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder