Questions not to ask in an interview (and some good ones)

Most job interviews end with an employer asking a candidate if they have any questions. This is your chance to...

Andy Bristow
Andy Bristow
4 min read Reading Time
30 January 2019 Date Created

Most job interviews end with an employer asking a candidate if they have any questions. This is your chance to really close off an interview that has gone well or potentially rescue one that has not gone so well. Whilst it’s always advisable to have some questions prepared – if only to show you’re engaged or interested in the advertised role – asking no questions can be better than asking bad ones. With that in mind, here are some of the best and worst questions you can ask an employer at the end of an interview.

What you shouldn’t ask 

Is there sick pay? What is the holiday allowance? When is pay reviewed? Will I get a parking space? Will I be expected to work overtime and will I get paid?

These are all terrible questions because they are focused on you and what you can get out of an employer, as opposed to what you can give them. There are also some implicit suggestions – e.g. sick pay – which will give some employers legitimate reason for pause. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with seeking this information, an interview isn’t the place to do it. The aim of a candidate at interview is to secure an offer; you can discuss the finer details around pay and benefits afterwards.

What you should ask

There are several questions you can ask during an interview that will help you make an informed decision about a role’s suitability while at the same time impressing your potential employer. These are just a handful.

How does the organisation make its money?

It may seem an obvious point, but do you properly understand how the company interviewing you makes money, or if it’s a not-for-profit, what its measure of success is? It’s only by understanding this that you can conceptualise how your role will fit into that organisation and what your work will be contributing towards. It also demonstrates that you are commercially- minded and focused on the bigger picture, which will go down well with most employers.

Once you’ve established the commercial goals of the organisation, it’s important that you understand how the role you are interviewing for contributes to achieving those goals.  Demonstrating an awareness of your wider responsibility is music to an interviewer’s ear.

Are there opportunities for career development?

“If I’m a success in this role, what opportunities exist within the organisation to further enhance my skills and develop my career. Can you tell me about someone who has joined you in a similar capacity and grown with the business?”

This is a great question to ask. Not only does it demonstrate that you expect to be successful in the post, but it also shows that you are ambitious and looking beyond this role. At the same time, you’re simultaneously challenging the interviewer to provide some solid examples of people who have grown their career with the company. This should be an easy question to answer for an employer, so be wary if they have difficulty answering it.

Do you believe I’m a good match for the role?

By this stage you should have an understanding of what the role is, how suited you are to it, along with an idea of whether you could do it successfully – and hopefully a bit of rapport with your interviewer.

I’m an advocate of asking your interviewer if you have answered all the questions to their satisfaction and, if so, whether they feel you are well matched for the role or not. Good, confident interviewers will not shy away from giving you this information and offering some honest feedback. It may well be that your skills aren’t at the level needed, which is fine. You can shake hands and get on with your day. However, if they have missed something or drawn an incorrect conclusion, you’ll have a final chance to address this and turn things back in your favour.