Everyone expects a job candidate to prepare for an interview. Most of the time, we tend to think of a prepared candidate as one who answers questions well. While that’s important, it’s only part of the equation.
After all, the candidate isn’t the only one being interviewed – they’re also interviewing your company to see if it’s somewhere they’d like to work.
As a result, the questions a candidate asks during an interview can be as telling as their answers to your questions. Prospective employees who come to the table with relevant, well-though-out questions offer greater insight into their understanding of the role (and ability to perform well at it).
As the labor market tightens, it’s more important than ever that managers who interview prospective talent represent your company well and know what to look for in a candidate. They’ll need to know how to listen and come prepared to answer questions about the company, its culture, and the nuts and bolts of the position.
Here are some examples of the types of questions a hiring manager might expect from candidates who’ve done their homework.
Questions specific to the job or the company
Good candidates usually come with their questions prepared ahead of time. Although there’s no magic number, the best prospects will usually ask at least three questions – and sometimes more, depending on the complexity of the role. Even if you’ve already covered the information they’re asking about, candidates may benefit from additional clarification or need you to expand on an earlier conversation.
Typically, candidates will start by asking general questions that may pertain to the company as a whole or the specific role you’re trying to fill. Some of the more common ones include:
- What are the challenges that most people face in this position?
- What type of training or onboarding is typical for this position?
- What is my ramp-up time before I’m expected to start hitting goals?
- What is the main reason for turnover in this position?
- What is the long-term vision for this position?
- What is a typical timeline to advance from this position to the next level?
- What is your management approach to working with employees?
- What are the top skills or traits you look for in your employees?
- Can I meet some of the people I’d be working with?
The type of position someone is interviewing for will determine which of these questions might be most relevant. Some of them are applicable for any job at any level, while others may be most appropriate for higher-level roles.
For instance, questions about the training and onboarding provided apply to all jobs, from grocery sacker to CEO, because that’s the basis for success, regardless of rank.
Technical and industry-related questions
A whole host of different questions is appropriate for technical positions, or positions that require specific industry knowledge and professional certifications. In these instances, you should be prepared to field candidate questions about:
- What types of software your company uses
- How often your company updates, adds to or changes its technology
- Whether your company pays for employees to gain professional certifications
Technical professionals are likely to judge a prospective employer by the company’s efforts to stay up to date, whether they’re asking about the latest content management system or gas well safety protocols.
Talking about money
As with most things in life, when it comes to money matters, timing is everything. After you’ve discussed the position, the company, your management style, and any other relevant topic, it’s okay for the candidate to ask questions related to the total compensation package.
But a word of warning: If a candidate asks about salary and benefits before first learning all they can about the job, it could be an indication that compensation is their most important consideration. In comparison, when a candidate asks about it later in the interview, it shows a genuine interest in the job and the company (while still acknowledging the importance of compensation).
What candidate questions can reveal
As the interviewer, you’re not only looking for questions specific to your company, the job or industry – you’re also looking for questions that indicate the candidate conducted basic research on your company.
This line of questioning might include things like recent news coverage where your company was featured. Maybe they saw a corporate press release announcing the launch of your newest product or service. Or, perhaps they found a YouTube video with an innovative technique relevant to your industry.
Questions about training, ramp-up and how their role complements the rest of the team suggest the candidate is concerned about being successful in the position. It shows that they want to be a good fit for the job and your company, as much as you want them to be.
Other good questions you should be prepared to answer include:
- How long have you been in your position?
- What has your career trajectory been with the company?
- What do you like most about working here?
- What do you like least about working here?
It’s also a good idea to log onto Glassdoor.com and other sites where your company is reviewed by employees or customers. You want to be familiar with what’s being said, so you can address negative reviews thoughtfully without undue emotion. Again, questions based on online reviews demonstrate thorough preparation on the part of the candidate.
Remember how your mom always said, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it?” You can apply that same logic to the interview setting. How a candidate asks questions and interacts with you is just as important as the questions themselves.
Are they interrupting you, talking nonstop or high-jacking the conversation? Are they giving you their full attention, or are they playing with their phone instead of listening to your answers? Do they seem evasive or look away frequently when speaking with you?
You can gain important clues about a candidate’s suitability for your culture by paying attention to body language and other subtle signs. For instance, a well-prepared candidate should be able to talk about their job history without looking at their résumé. Likewise, a socially adept prospect will let you retain control of the interview, maintain eye contract and ask appropriate questions at the appropriate time. Knowing what to listen for in a candidate’s questions (and look for in their demeanor) can help you identify the best person for the job.
Find even more tips to improve your chances of attracting the best job candidates in your market. Download our free e-book, Talent Acquisition: 13 Secrets to Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent.