Interview Communication: When to Ask Your Questions


As you answer a number of the interviewer’s questions, a comfort level starts to develop.  The interviewer gets to a point where she is at ease with the way things are happening in the meeting and with the answers you are giving (due to your outstanding preparation).  You won’t need anyone to tell you when the interviewer is comfortable with the conversation flow.  Your antennae signal you.

As the interviewer’s comfort rises, windows of opportunity will begin to appear for you to generate questions about what the company needs.  In a question and answer format these opportunities usually occur at the end of one of your answers.  You know when your answer is going to end.  The interviewer doesn’t.  If you end your answer by completing your thoughts on the information requested, then you will be asked another question and the pattern continues.  But if you ask a question it may lead to an answer and then an interaction about the topic before the interviewer asks another question.  At the end of answering a question about the challenges you faced in successfully achieving one of your accomplishments you might ask, “Can you tell me the kinds of challenges I would face if I’m the successful candidate?”

As the interviewer’s comfort with you rises, he may take the time to answer one or more of your questions.  Asking questions is one of the best opportunities you will have to learn about the company, the position and the people and to express your communication skills. It is an opportunity for you to assess:

  • Intellectual honesty
  • Maturity, values, integrity
  • The quality of the management team
  • The challenge of the potential assignment
  • Consistency from interviewer to interviewer
  • Flaws in the “company’s story”.

The amount of time that you will have to ask your questions will depend upon a number of factors.  In the screening interview you may get little or no time to ask questions, but as you progress in the interview process your leverage will increase.

A few potential interview questions you may want to ask are:


  • How do you measure success?
  • What are your company’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your company’s “Wow” factors?
  • How are you perceived in the marketplace?
  • What are the major issues facing your company in the next several years?
  • Does your culture allow for disagreement?  Could you give me an example?
  • How would you describe the company’s culture?
  • How does your company show that what is said and what is practiced about mission, vision and values are in alignment?
  • If I had an offer to work for an outstanding competitor of yours why should I choose your company?
  • Why do people leave the organization?
  • What is the average tenure at the firm?
  • When you lose a candidate where do they go?  Why?


  • Can you describe the position I would fill?  (if unknown)
  • What would you expect me to accomplish in the first year?
  • What would be the major challenges for me in the first 12 months?
  • Can you describe a situation that I might face and be expected to address?
  • How do successful people gain the resources they need to perform successfully?
  • What skills would I learn in the first 12-18 months?
  • How would I be evaluated?
  • Is there a chance to make a contribution to the overall effectiveness of the company and to have some visibility within a year or two?  How?
  • Does the company support a rotational process?
  • Could you describe a realistic career path as to how one’s career path is managed?
  • Can you give me an example of the type of developmental assignment I might be offered after my initial assignment?
  • Can you give me a feel for the compensation system and tell me why it is structured the way that it is?

Performance Review

  • Would you describe the performance review process?
  • How are performance expectations determined and is mutual agreement important?
  • To what degree will my bonus be tied to the performance review?  How?
  • Would you tell me about the talent review process that the company undertakes?
  • Would the talent review include my level?
  • What is the relationship between the talent review process and the performance evaluation?
  • Will my compensation be tied to the talent review process?


  • How does the company show people that they are respected and valued?
  • Please describe your orientation program.
  • Can you give me an example that illustrates how your people exhibit the highest business ethics?
  • How would you define the personal and professional characteristics of a successful person at your company?
  • How do people have fun at work?
  • Can you tell me about your formal and informal mentoring programs?
  • Is effective coaching a mandatory requirement for supervisors?
  • Will my boss encourage me to network?
  • Will there be specific networking activities for new hires?  Cross-department and cross-divisional as well?
  • Do you believe in continuous learning?  If so, what kind of training could I expect?
  • What types of training programs have been most successful?
  • How would you help me to develop my leadership skills?
  • Is the supervisor’s promotion dependent, to some degree, on their hiring and promotion record?  Can you give me an example?
  • Is it important to you to see your people promoted to “stretch” assignments, even if it means moving to a new area?  Can you give me an example of where that happened?

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