It is usually the final thing you're asked in almost any serious job interview.
"Is there anything you would like to ask us?"
And you've probably been told to always say something at this point, right? But what?
Advice usually ranges along the lines of "just be yourself" to "remember, you're interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you", but in the thick of the interview, these platitudes are of very little practical use.
In my short but eventful professional life I have spent plenty of hours on both sides of the interview table and I have put together an article that is going to give you a handful of quick-fire options that will apply to almost every interview situation. These questions will help lock in that second round interview but, more importantly, they will give you information you need to know about your potential employer.
1. How's the work/life balance at the company?
Basically a nice way of asking if employees are expected to put in extra hours and, if they are, how many.
This is a crucial bit of information. The value of any salary you are offered can only be properly evaluated when it is compared against the amount of hours you will be putting in.
2. Can I see the area I'd be working in if I get the job?
Many companies will interview at a separate location to where you will end up actually working (for a variety of reasons, sometimes completely legitimate).
Asking for a tour of your potential workplace is a great question for a number of reasons:
- It will be perceived as extremely proactive and help you stand out from other candidates
- Seeing your work environment will help you gauge how to approach you first day of work, eg: dress code, kitchen facilities etc
- It will give you a small snapshot of the conditions (and to a certain extent the culture) of the company.
3. How long have you been with the company?
If the answer to this question is only a handful of months, this could be a red flag.
This is not a definitive guideline, but most companies will try and get someone in the room that is trusted and knows the business well.
If your interviewer is new to the company themselves this might point to staff retention issues.
4. Is this position a new position or am I replacing someone who has left?
This can be a question that tells you a lot about the company.
If it is a new position, this points to growth. In this case, follow up on it by asking about the company's journey over the last 1 to 2 years. A recent history of growth means opportunity, which is a good sign that you will be able to move up in a short period of time.
On the flip side if you are filling a vacant position you should try and find out why it is vacant. Did the previous employee leave the company or were promoted internally. Also try and find out how long they were in the role for. If someone left a position less than 12 months after accepting it, that could be the sign of a bad culture.
5. Does the company have a high turnover rate?
This might sound a little blunt, but if the interviewer is expecting you to walk on eggshells, then this might not be the sort of job you want anyway.
High turnover is almost always the sign of a negative work environment. Whether people are leaving because of stress, work overload, poor processes, unpleasant working relations or anything else, the bottom line is: if no one wants to be there, why would you?
If they give you an non-specific answer to this question, ask something along the lines of: "How long does the typical employee stay with the company before moving on?"
6. How would you describe the company culture?
If you are qualified enough for the role you're likely to get a similar range of offers at the same level. This is what makes company culture such an important aspect. You're going to be spending a minimum of 40 hours a week at this place for the foreseeable future and spend more time with your workmates than most of your friends and family.
Having an insight into company culture is more important than nearly any other information you could get from the interview.
7. What is your favourite thing about working here?
This is a good follow up to the previous question.
Chances are a handful of interviewers will have a canned answer to any question on company culture. If what they are saying feels fake make it specific to them and they'll find it a little harder to dodge the question.
8. What does a typical day entail in my position?
The answer to this question will tell you how focused and professional the company is.
Be wary of answers like: "There really isn't such thing as a typical day in this role". While this might be pitched as a positive or exciting aspect of the job, it could just as easily suggest that you will be walking into an unorganised mess of a position, or that the interviewer doesn't truly understand the position they are trying to fill.
Either way it is bad news, as you're either getting fed to the sharks or potentially joining a workforce full of poorly recruited employees.
9. Is there anything in particular that is giving you reservations about hiring me?
A tactical question more than anything else.
Gives you the chance to address anything that otherwise might go unsaid.
It also gives you the opportunity to show how you deal with constructive criticism and shows a self-awareness in your abilities and desire to improve.
10. Is there any question you feel like I haven't fully answered?
Another tactical question.
Helps you get a second change if you think you've flubbed a question but also helps cut down the reasons you might get cut from any second round process.
After you've left and they are narrowing the field it will be a lot harder to justify filing your resume in the trash can for failing to properly answer a question if you specifically asked if they wanted more.
And one final note:
Always remember you don't want to ask these questions to impress or show you're engaged. Ask them because you want to know the answers. You need to decide if the company is worth your professional effort.
Go in the room and hold them accountable. With this attitude you will seem calm, capable and independent. Doing this is what will really land you the offer.