Landing Your First Job — Six Best Questions to Ask an Interviewer

Feb 24, 2021

By Elizabeth Harkness, Human Resources Manager

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During pandemic or non-pandemic times, it can be daunting to land that first entry-level job right out of college. Likewise, an early career move from one company to another comes with a certain amount of interview anxiety. At any given point in time, there are many things to consider when applying for a position that suits you best. And the most effective way to help you decide on the firm for you is to ask questions! The interview is an ideal opportunity to get your questions answered. So, be sure to take advantage of having your interviewer’s full attention.

Six Best Questions

From my experience, I’ve come up with a set of six questions to ask an interviewer—whether in person or in a virtual meeting. I also recommend practicing these and/or other questions of your own, before the interview rolls around.

  • What attributes does someone need to be successful in this role?
    Asking the hiring manager or other interviewers this question will quickly give you an idea of the qualities they are looking for in the person they hire. It focuses in on what is important to them.

  • What are the biggest challenges that someone in this role would face?
    During your interview, you want to get a clear view of what the job is really like, both the rewards and demands you will face. Understanding your interviewers' perspective on potential hurdles will give you a comprehensive view.

  • What training opportunities are available to someone at my level? 
    This question can signal your interest in growing at this company. It also gives you an idea of the value the company places on staff development.

  • What's your favorite part about working here?
    This is a casual way to engage your interviewer on a personal level, while gaining valuable insights into their experiences with the organization. Their response may tee up another opportunity for you to explain why this type of environment is a great fit for your personality and work style.

  • What's different about working here than anywhere else you've worked?
    This is another way to engage with the personal side of the interviewer. Listening to how a current employee describes the office environment and culture can tell you a lot about the company.

  • Is there anyone else you would like me to meet with?
    This question is helpful for two reasons:
    • It’s always good to know what the rest of the interview process and timeline looks like.
    • Meeting with potential coworkers will provide insight into how much the company values building team synergy.

Other Recommendations

With COVID-19 restrictions in place, and a moratorium on in-person interview or wining and dining, the virtual interview process is your best bet for information-gathering, to get a real sense of the workplace before hiring on. So, be sure to steer the conversation to areas like corporate culture, team members, reporting hierarchy, work-life balance, physical office layout (for post-COVID), etc. Basically, anything you want to know up front.

Use your line of questioning to determine whether you’re a good fit early on. There’s no sense jumping into a role uninformed, only to find out soon after that it’s wrong for your personality or preferred work style. Remember, they don't just have to like you, you must like them too!

But it is not enough to know what questions to ask, it is also important to ask in a professional manner. While portraying an air of professionalism, combine that with an ease which allows you to connect with the interviewer, i.e., build a good rapport.

Finally, appearing to have given thought to your questions will let the interviewer know that you did your “homework” prior to the call. It shows you have what I like to call “snap!”

Summary

Be prepared, practice your questions, and act/dress professionally (even online). I cannot stress enough to set aside fears and seize the interview as your chance to learn as much about a prospective employer as possible.

The pandemic seems to have almost helped hiring managers with new efficiencies of online interviewing (including speed in decision-making and lower traveling costs), plus the fact that workers can be recruited from anywhere.

So, don’t hesitate to apply and ask questions. I wish you the best of luck in your job search!

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Category: Culture