Some killer questions to ask in your next job interview

Job interview

Imagine you’re in a job interview and everything is looking great – the job looks interesting, the salary and perks are about right, people seem nice.

What you really need to know now is, “Is this a nice place to work?” Are people happy at work here? Are the managers good? Are the co-workers nice? Or is this company a branch office of one of the nastier levels of hell?

You could always ask them straight out at the interview. “Say… I was wondering… Is this a good place to work?”

But you pretty much know what they’ll say, don’t you? “Why certainly, dear applicant, this company is fully committed to the well-being of its employees. We strive to maintain a high level of employee satisfaction and employees are our number one asset.”

Riiiight!

So what questions can you ask to cut through the corporate b.s. and learn whether this is an actual, honest-to-god, nice workplace?

Here’s what you can do: Ask the people interviewing you about their best experiences working for the company. Questions like:

  • What’s been your best experience working at this company?
  • When do you have the most fun at work ?
  • Who do you enjoy working with the most here? What do you like about them?
  • Which manager do you admire the most in this company? What do you admire about that person?
  • What’s the greatest thing your manager has done for his/her people?

You can ask the person interviewing you. If your future boss is at the interview, ask her. An even better option, if at all possible, is to get a chance to ask some of your potential co-workers. Some companies make this possible, and that’s the best way to learn more about the company.

What’s so great about those questions?

  1. Because you’re asking about people’s own experiences, these questions are hard to dodge or to answer with platitudes and corporate flim-flam.
  2. These are all positive questions. Even if the person interviewing you is a serial complainer, you will get some information on what’s great about this company.
  3. If they think these questions are just waaaay off base and inappropriate, that’s probably a good sign that they’re not into the whole “happy at work” thing :o)
  4. Answering positive questions like these puts people in a good mood, which means they’re more likely to like you and consequently more likely to hire you.

Care to try it?

Let me come clean here: I’ve only been to two job interviews in my life – both at the very beginning of my career! I’ve been an entrepreneur for almost 15 years, so I have never tried to use them in this way myself.

However, I have used the same type of questions in sales meetings (which are not too different from job interviews when you think about it), where they work very well.

These questions will give you a much better idea of what a company and its people are really like. If good stories and great experiences start flowing and the word “fun” comes up a lot, that’s an indication of a great workplace.

If they look at you like “That’s the weirdest question I’ve ever heard” it may not be.

So: What do you think? Would it work for you? Have you done something like this already? Write a comment!

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39 thoughts on “Some killer questions to ask in your next job interview”

  1. Very cool Alex. I have been asking “What’s cool about this company?” for which they would come up with subjective answers, which are mostly corporate b.s. (not “their” experiences).

    Hereafter, I am going to ask them “Whats been your best experience working at this company?” which, I am sure, will give a more clear hint about the reality inside.

    Thanks for discovering and emphasizing this.

  2. Questions like these are a must. Here in Iceland there is almost no unemployment at the moment and companies are going to great lenghts in hiring people. In doing so I’m sure they make the company and workplace sound much better then they actually are. If someone is trying to hire you these are definately the type of questions you should ask them.

    Great post!

  3. Hi Alex,

    Great looking site! I just subscribed.

    You’re right on with asking questions at the interview. My experience after 16 years as a recruiter is that most candidates don’t use the interview as an opportunity to interview THEM. Trying to concentrate on answering all their questions leave little room for coming up with some questions of your own, like “how cool a place is this really to work at?”

    In fact, I offer a free report entitled “29 Questions to Ask Your Interviewer”. (http://www.job444.com/Optin_QuestoAsk.html).
    It’s free and is a great way to really find out whether you want to work for this employer at all.

  4. That is a great idea. They had their turn for questions. Now it’s time to learn something from them. I guess that some wouldn’t mind being asked about their work. I’m just worried how some of the bosses will reply if you ask them,” When do you have the most fun at work ?” They might answer, working are for professionals and fun are for kids.

  5. Dave,

    In that case, I would clearly choose to have some fun in continuing the conversation. For example, when they answer “working are for professionals and fun are for kids”, I would ask them back “Assuming you are having fun also at work, what has been your best experience at work so far?”.

  6. If the answer is “We work hard and show great commitment” it most likely means “we’re too busy to have fun”. They would like to have more fun at work but the business they’re in doesn’t allow that (much of the time). How would you guys handle that one?

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  8. A question I always ask…and as a recruiter would encourge my candidates to ask was this…

    At the very end…right before you shake hands to leave…ask them these exact words…

    “Is there any reason, that you know of now, that you would NOT hire me?”

    It catches hiring managers off guard…and they give back a little honesty. It then lets you address anything in the back of their head that they were holding back.

    Its not a guarantee you will get the job…but helps by getting things out in the open.

    Regards,
    Sean Rehder

  9. I agree. I think its vital to ask the interviewer questions about the organisation too – beyond the structural basics.

    Some of my favourites are:
    What made you (the interviewer) choose to work here? (especially good if they are a recent hire themselves)
    What does the organisation do to actively support team building and integration?
    What does it take to be successful in this organisation?
    What would make someone fail at this organisation? (provides important clues to the culture)
    How do you monitor and manage the expression of your corporate values?

    Depending on how the interview goes, I may also ask questions like:
    In comparison to the others you have interviewed so far, how does my experience rank against what you are really looking for?
    What, if any, areas of concern might you have over my work experience to date?

  10. This is great advise. My company is actually being bought out at this time and I have to reinterview for my position. I love my current company but will I like my new one? I read these questions and will definately be asking them tomorrow in my interview.

  11. Great advice Alex. I ve got an interview next Tuesday, and was struggling a bit with what questions to ask.

    This article has definitely put that to rest.

    Cheers

  12. This DID help a LOT!

    I asked the following question in my most recent job interview (because of this article!): “What’s your favorite thing about working here?”

    And the answers were very helpful, and helped me get a feel for the office — and for the people I would be working with.

    And maybe it’s true that getting people talking about happy things makes them more eager to hire you — cuz I got a job offer the next day!

    I highly recommend you ask some of these questions — or whatever question matters most to you.

  13. SeanG: I’m really happy using these questions worked so well for you – thanks for telling me this.

    Did you take the job? Is it a good place to work?

  14. Yes, I agree that these questions are reasonable. Remember, you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you!

  15. I have to interview people that will be my future employers for a report and these questions have been most helpful. Thankyou very much.

  16. “Which manager do you admire the most in this company? What do you admire about that person?”. This question did help me change my managers view about my seriousness of moving up the ladder.

    I also asked him questions as to what is feels is missing in the process that needs immediate attentation and good to change in the next 6 months

  17. I’m teaching an English Conversation course at University to grad students in Milan. Our next chapter is about jobs. I found this article very real and refreshing. I will pass it on to all my students. It’s a positive point of view. I’m also looking forward to reading your book “Happy hour is 9 to 5″!

  18. Always prepare questions, but those that are not answered in the company’s website or those you have not discussed. Asking questions shows you are interested to know more about the company or the job.

  19. I left job in feb 2009 after that i m not working any where if they ask about 8months what should i tell them?

  20. I asked the interviewer “What is the atmosphere like in this company?”
    … well the interviewer ended the interview immediately, apparently it was not a good question to ask. But I agree that it is a great idea to interview the interviewer so that you can find out if there is good person-company fit.

  21. I always make sure to ask interested questions at my interviews (namely “what is your favorite part of working here”) but I am intrigued by these and will have to try them in my impending job hunt.

    Can I ask for some advice?

    I am 22-years-old and already on my 2nd job. I worked one place for almost 1 year before leaving because I wanted to relocate to a different city closer to friends and where my boyfriend got a killer job (350 miles away from my job at the time). I already felt iffy about changing jobs so soon, but now, less than 3 months into my next job, I realize this is not the job for me at all and I need to switch ASAP. I don’t want to list this job on my resume, but I am concerned about what to say when interviewing about the large gap. Admitting to leaving my job quickly makes me look unreliable, but saying I was unemployed for that long looks like I am inadequate. If it helps, I am a software engineer. Advice?

    Thanks,
    Sara

  22. Candidate have a right to ask question from interviewer. He should have to know about company where he is going to join is this suitable for him. And your post help the candidate to know what question ask that help him to know about the company is this company good place for him or not.

  23. I will definitely add those questions to my list of corporate culture questions. I think those kind of questions would be the equivalent of buying signals in a sales conversation. It will let the employer know that you are genuinely interested. Because I didn’t do that during a job interview, I wound up sitting in a room of computer geeks who did everything online, which meant the room was quieter than a library and I was making lots of phone calls, talk about uncomfortable! I eventually moved, but into a cube in a sales area, but they didn’t talk on the phone either and when they did, they went into a phone room which faced my cubicle, so I was constantly having a door closed in my face. Talk about bad Feng Shui! It was, I got laid off–never again.

  24. I have an upcoming interview, and my most important priority is to find out if there are any jerks and determine if it’s a nice place to work. I was at a loss for the right questions to ask and I’ve been scouring the internet. This article with suggested questions nailed it for me. I appreciate the article…it ended my search and armed me with the right angles to take.

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