The Questions Good Job Candidates Ask

Posted August 24, 2012 by Marcy Farrey in Career Moves

At the end of every job interview, the potential employer asks, “Do you have any questions for us?”

This is the part of the job interview I felt the least prepared for after I graduated college. I had spent all of my time preparing answers to their questions, but hadn’t thought much about my own. When I went on the interview for my first job, I drove with the company’s VP for an hour (that’s how long it took to get to the news station from the airport). The whole ride was devoted to me asking him questions, and while I successfully filled the silence, my mind was racing and reaching for any scrap of a question I could find. I realized then that I had not adequately prepared myself. Fortunately, reporters are good at improvising, so I still got the job.

Now that I am preparing for the job hunt again, I want to do better than my 22-year-old self did. I want to know: What are the questions you should ask a potential employer? Contributor Jeff Haden offers five examples in his article “5 Questions Great Job Candidates Ask.” He writes from the perspective of an employer, which makes his suggestions even more relevant and important. These are the questions that let the potential employer know that you’re serious about the job. Here’s just a few of them:

“What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?” Someone who is ambitious and ready to work will ask this question:

Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They don’t want to spend weeks or months ‘getting to know the organization.’ They want to make a difference–right away.”

You can’t be afraid to come right out and ask what is expected of you. If you’re someone who is just out of college, this can be daunting, but at the end of the day, it really helps you to know what is expected. If you know up front, then you can better prepare yourself for your first few months on the job.

“What do employees do in their spare time?”  I really like this question, and it is a much better way of asking what I usually ask: “Do your employees get along and work well together?” It’s important to know the personalities and styles of potential coworkers, and asking shows that you care about how you will function within the group:

What’s important is that the candidate wants to make sure they have a reasonable chance of fitting in — because great job candidates usually have options.”

Even if you might not have many options in this job market, this shows the potential employer that you are being selective, and care about which company you end up working with.

“How do you plan to deal with . . . ?” Most industries today are facing major challenges, and it’s good to know how your potential employer plans to handle those challenges. Is the company looking ahead and taking steps now, or is it hanging back and waiting to see what happens? Ultimately, you want to work with a company that still stands a chance in a tough economy:

A great candidate doesn’t just want to know what you think; they want to know what you plan to do–and how they will fit into those plans.”

You won’t move forward unless your company does, so ask how the company plans to handle any future challenges.

Now that you know a few good questions to ask, don’t just go in to your next job interview with the same basic, bland questions — and don’t just wing it. What you ask is an indicator of who you are. You want the interviewer to see that you are ambitious and care about the kind of work you do. Leave them with the right, lasting impression by being prepared for every part of your interview.

Check out Haden’s article for more good questions.

About the Author

Marcy Farrey

Marcy Farrey is a videographer, writer, and editor. In her previous life, she worked as a broadcast news reporter and producer in Lincoln, Nebraska and as a writer and producer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has a Master of Arts in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University and a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University. Learn more about Marcy on her website


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