The interview process is a two-way street. The hiring manager is trying to figure out if you’re a good fit for the role, and you’re trying to figure out if the job and company are a good fit for you. While the interviewer asks most of the questions, at the very end, you’re often in the driver’s seat and get a chance to ask a few questions of your own.
But what are the right (and wrong) questions to ask a hiring manager?
This guide will help you understand why you should ask hiring managers questions at the end of your interview, which questions you should consider asking, and what to do if you don’t have a chance to ask any questions:
Why You Should Ask the Hiring Manager Questions
You might be concerned that asking the hiring manager questions is a little forward. After all, they’re interviewing you for a job opening. But it’s critical to remember that the interview is also about figuring out if you’d be happy at that company doing that job! Though you can never truly know how you’ll feel about the role until you’re in it, the interview helps you form an impression of what it will probably be like to work there.
And it’s equally crucial to understand that the hiring manager expects you to ask questions. “If a candidate does not ask questions, it conveys to an employer that the candidate is not truly interested in the position or did not do their research prior to the interview,” says Jamie Guilford, associate director of employer relations at York College of Pennsylvania. “Asking questions demonstrates that you want to learn and know more about the opportunity.”
Not asking the hiring manager any questions could mean if it comes down to you and one other candidate, the person who asked questions is more likely to get the job.
How to Prepare Questions to Ask the Hiring Manager
Your interview prep should include composing several questions to ask the hiring manager. While you’ll take notes during the interview and can create some questions on the fly, it’s best to have a few questions ready to go. This demonstrates that you’re prepared and gave some thought as to what you want to ask.
What’s more, preparing questions in advance helps you track which ones were answered and which were not. This prevents you from asking questions the interviewer already addressed.
However, it’s important to ask thoughtful questions that aren’t easily answered by the first page of search results.
“Applicants should do research that digs deeper than just a five-minute scan of a company’s website. Know the mission statement, Google the company to see what’s being promoted in newsfeeds, look up your interviewer(s) and other employees at the company on LinkedIn to get a sense of their backgrounds and experience,” advises Guilford. “Focus on asking questions that you can’t find answers to online.”
Asking questions that don’t have readily available answers demonstrates your deep interest in the job and that you’re taking the interview (and hiring manager’s time) seriously.
15 Questions to Ask the Hiring Manager
While you may have a zillion questions to ask the hiring manager, you probably won’t be able to ask them all. So, focus on the questions that can help you understand what it’s like to work at that company, in that role, and (possibly) for that person. You may want to ask questions about the company’s culture, how your boss will figure out how well you’re performing in the role, or what the opportunities for advancement are.
While your specific questions depend on what you’re looking for in your next job, here are some sample questions to get you started.
- Why is the position open?
- Why did the last person who held the job leave?
- Thinking about people who’ve done this work before, how do the people who are good in the role differ from those who are great in it?
- What will success in the position look like? How will you measure my performance?
- What are some of the biggest challenges I would face?
- What are some of the biggest challenges the company is facing right now?
- What do you like and dislike about working for the company?
- What would you expect me to accomplish in the first 90 days? Six months?
- How does this role support the company’s overall mission?
- Can you describe the company’s culture?
- I know X, Y, and Z are your competitors, but which one do you think is your top competitor and why?
- What is a typical day like?
- How has your role changed during your time here?
- How long do people typically stay in this role?
- Why did you decide to work here?
While these are fairly straightforward, some questions require careful phrasing to ensure you’re being respectful and still get a helpful answer. For example, if you’re looking for a company that prioritizes work-life balance, asking what a typical day is like is far more likely to result in an answer that helps you understand if people are encouraged to disconnect from work after 5:00 p.m. or if they’re expected to answer emails at all hours. Asking, “Do I have to work after hours?” will still get an answer, but could make it seem like you aren’t willing to pitch in when necessary.
What the Hiring Manager’s Answers Reveal
Just like your answers help an employer understand who you are as a candidate and potential employee, the interviewer’s answers to your questions help you understand what the company is like as a potential employer.
For example, asking what someone likes and dislikes about working at the company could give you some insight into how people feel about working there. If someone says they love everything and dislike nothing, that may be their truth. However, it could also be a red flag that this person isn’t being completely honest. Likewise, if the interviewer lists a bunch of things they hate and doesn’t like a single thing about the job, that’s another red flag.
Another crucial thing to listen for is how the hiring manager answers the question. If you ask how the company measures performance and the answer is, “I don’t know,” be cautious. If it’s an early phone interview, that particular person may not know the specifics. But if it’s your potential new boss and they don’t know, that’s a red flag.
Also, if the hiring manager struggles to answer your question, take note. For example, asking about the kind of professional development the company offers indicates you want to know how the company will support your career plans. If the hiring manager isn’t sure because they’re new, that’s one thing. But if the hiring manager has been there for years and isn’t sure, that could indicate the company lacks professional development opportunities.
Questions You Shouldn’t Ask Hiring Managers
Technically no question is off limits, but there are some questions you probably shouldn’t ask a hiring manager. Certain questions could make it look like you’re more interested in the perks and benefits than the actual job, others probably don’t have a place in an interview, and some make it look like you haven’t prepared for the interview at all.
The exception might be if something is an absolute deal-breaker for you. In that case, it’s better to get the answers early on so neither you nor the hiring manager is wasting time.
Here are some questions you should not ask a hiring manager:
- What does the company do?
- Are you going to check references?
- Do I have to take a drug test?
- What is your disciplinary policy like?
- I heard X rumor. What do you know about it?
You will notice that questions about salary, benefits, and perks do not appear on either list. While traditionally, job seekers have been advised not to ask about these topics during the interview, times are changing. More employers are sharing salary and other benefit information in the job posting and during the initial interview phases. While some of this is due to changes in laws, some of it is also due to a change in attitudes.
Questions around these (and other) topics might fall into the “deal breaker” category for you, and you may feel it’s necessary to ask them during the interview process. If that’s the case, ask away, as long as you phrase them appropriately. For example, if you want to know about the company’s paid parental leave policy, you could ask, “How does the company support new parents?” instead of asking, “How soon can I take vacation days?”
How Many Questions Can You Ask?
Most interviews have a time limit, meaning you may only get a chance to ask two or three questions. However, Guilford suggests preparing six to eight questions. Why?
It’s not uncommon for the interviewer to answer your prepared questions. But if you have six or more questions, it’s unlikely the interviewer will answer all of them, so you’ll probably have one or two questions ready to go when it’s your turn instead of having to flip through your notes to create new questions. Plus, it shows a level of preparedness and depth that could impress the hiring manager.
What if You Don’t Get a Chance to Ask Questions?
You may not have time at the end of the interview to ask any questions. If that happens, the one question you ask is, “What are the next steps?” so you know what to expect from the hiring manager and when you should follow up on the interview.
Then ask the interviewer if you can email them your questions. If they say no, that tells you a lot about the company culture. If they say yes, send them within 48 hours as part of your thank you note.
Get prepped for your next interview:
- How to Answer ‘What Are Your Reasons for Leaving a Job?’
- How to Use the STAR Method for Interview Questions
- How to Answer, ‘Tell Me About Yourself’
- What Is a ‘Good’ Weakness for a Job Interview?
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