How to ace a job interview: ask smart questions

December 19, 2016

To make a great impression in a job interview, you need to have solid answers to questions about your experience, education, and career goals.

But honing your answers is only half of the picture. Truly savvy job candidates know the way to stand out is by asking questions of their own.

When you ask questions, you:

  • Demonstrate genuine interest in the job.
  • Show that you’ve done your homework about the position and the company.
  • Get important information to help you evaluate the potential job opportunity.

Asking smart questions helps you decide if the position is right for you and if you’d want to work at the company. Job interviews should be a two-way street: your prospective employers are assessing you, and you’re assessing them.

What should you ask?

Focus your questions on these two areas:

  • The specific job for which you’re applying.
  • The company as a whole.

Use the general questions below as a starting point, and tailor them for the specific job and company.

  • The job
    • What would a typical day be like in this position?
    • Are the duties of this role fixed, or is there an opportunity for growth?
    • I noticed the job posting didn’t list XYZ as a responsibility, but I’m wondering if it might be part of the role?
    • Will I be working with a team? If so, can you tell me about the members?
    • What are the performance expectations for this role? How often would I have performance reviews?
    • What are the opportunities for professional development?
  • The company
    • What’s the company’s strategic vision for the next 5 to 10 years?
    • What do you like about working here? What is challenging?
    • Is there a lot of employee collaboration on projects, or do people work independently?

Prepare your questions in advance.

It’s difficult to come up with good questions during the interview when you’re under pressure. Write out your questions ahead of time.

How many questions should you ask?

Come up with at least five good questions. There may only be time to ask two or three, but it’s better to be over prepared than caught off guard.

A word about “the money question”

What are the salary and benefits of this position? You’re dying to know. But Capella Career Counselors recommend not asking about compensation during the interview. It can give the impression that money is all you care about and can put you at a disadvantage. If your interviewer doesn’t offer the information, follow up with the company’s recruiter or HR rep afterward, to ensure the salary and benefits align with your expectations.

The last question

Before you shake hands and say thank you, ask your interviewer this final question: What are the next steps in the interview process? This not only tells the person that you’re interested in the job but also gives you peace of mind. If you hear that they plan to schedule follow-up interviews in two weeks, you won’t waste energy waiting for a phone call this week.

The Capella University Career Center counselors, resources, and tools help students and alumni manage their careers at every stage and move toward the careers they want.

You may also like

4 strategies to help secure nursing advancement opportunities

November 29, 2020

How to get the most out of your career mentor

January 30, 2020

Rethinking performance management

January 24, 2020

Start learning today

Get started on your journey now by connecting with an enrollment counselor. See how Capella may be a good fit for you, and start the application process.