1. Why do you enjoy working for this company?
Go for a personal relationship right away. Show the HR person you care about his or her experience and opinion. Plus you’ll get some useful information about the company and its culture.
2. What attracted you to this organization?
Everybody likes to talk about themselves. Maybe the HR person will tell you a story about how he or she got there. That means that person trusts you.
3. Can you describe the work environment here?
This is another way of asking about how the company works.
4. How do you describe the philosophy of the company or organization?
It’s great to ask the HR interviewer’s perspective on this point.
5. What do you consider to be the organization’s strengths and weaknesses?
Again, it’s the interviewer’s opinion that is at the heart of the question.
6. Can you tell me more about my day-to-day responsibilities?
Listen for items that are emphasized or repeated. These are the hot buttons, and you will want to tailor the discussion of your skills relating to these areas.
7. How soon are you looking to fill this position?
Get a sense of the company’s time frame.
8. How do my skills compare with those of the other candidates you have interviewed?
It’s worth a shot to ask, although you probably won’t get a straight answer.
Be prepared for the counter, “Why do you ask?”
9. I have really enjoyed meeting with you and your team, and I am very interested in the opportunity. I feel my skills and experience would be a good match for this position. What is the next step in your interview process?
This is a very strong concluding question to an interview with HR. It expresses interest, reinforces confidence, and puts the ball into the interviewer’s court.
10. Before I leave, is there anything else you need to know concerning my ability to do this job?
This is another positive way to end the interview, emphasizing your commitment to action.
11. In your opinion, what is the most important contribution that this company expects from its employees?
Notice how the question solicits the interviewer’s opinion.
12. Is there a structured career path at the company?
Some large companies and government agencies have career ladders, grade levels, and other formal steps for people to advance.
13. What are my prospects for advancement? If I do a good job,what is a logical next step?
Some companies have more or less formal career progressions—for example,programmer to systems analyst to team leader to project manager to project director, in that order.
14. Assuming I was hired and performed well for a period of time, what additional opportunities might this job lead to?
This tells the interviewer that you are looking past this assignment, that you are thinking of sticking around. HR people like that, because it makes them look good when one of their hires stays for a while.
15. Do the most successful people in the company tend to come from one area of the company, such as sales or engineering, or do they rise from a cross section of functional areas?
This question immediately tells the interviewer you are sophisticated.
The culture of most companies invariably favors employees from one department or another. Technology companies frequently favor employees from engineering. The CEOs of financial companies frequently come out of finance. Most industrial CEOs come out of sales. Perhaps the interviewer will go through the five most senior officers of the company with respect to their origins. Your goal is to note whether the department you plan to join is one of the favored developing grounds for the corner offices.
16. I know that for the position for which I am interviewing, the company has decided to recruit from outside the organization. How do you decide between recruiting from within and going outside?
This question lets the interviewer talk about the relative merits of promoting from within and bringing in new ideas and talent (hopefully yours!) to meet the needs of the company. A good answer is that the company is growing too fast for internal promotions to support its challenges.
17. How does this position relate to the bottom line?
This is an inquiry into the significance of the job or department. If the job has only an indirect impact on the bottom line, when times get tough it can be considered an expense center rather than a profit center.
18. What advice would you give to someone in my position?
Don’t lay it on too thick, but this kind of question can make an HR person’s day
19. How did you get into your profession?
Remember, “profession,” not “job.”
20. What major problems are we facing right now in this department or position?
Note the use of the inclusive “we.”
21. Can you give me a formal, written description of the position? I’m interested in reviewing in detail the major activities involved and what results are expected.
This is a good question to pose to the screen interviewer. It will help you prepare to face the hiring manager.
22. Does this job usually lead to other positions in the company? Which ones?
You don’t want to find yourself in a dead-end job. But also be sure you don’t give the impression that you want to get out of the job before you are in it. Remember, the HR manager wants to see stability tempered by “long-termism.”
23. Can you please tell me a little bit about the people with whom I’ll be working most closely?
What a powerful question for finding out about your team!
24. As I understand the position, the title is ____, the duties are ______, and the department is called ________. I would report directly to _________. Is that right?
This is an exercise in getting to “yes” plus demonstrating that you have command of the facts.
25. Can you talk about the company’s commitment to equal opportunity and diversity?
Possible follow-up questions include, What’s the percentage of women or minorities in the executive ranks? Does the company have a diversity officer?
26. Who are the company’s stars, and how was their status determined?
This indicates you want to be a star, as well.
27. How are executives addressed by their subordinates?
You are asking about the formality of the organization.
28. What can you tell me about the prevailing management style?
This is an inquiry into the management style favored by the senior executives.
29. If you hired me, what would be my first assignment?
Message: Setting priorities and goals is key to you.
30. Does the company have a mission statement? May I see it?
Mission statements are an important reflection of an organization’s culture. To be fair, they are generally meaningless, but the fact that the company went to the trouble to formulate one is a positive sign, and asking for it makes you look thoughtful and introspective. Be careful, though. Don’t ask for a mission statement if it is posted on the company’s Web site. That would make you look lazy.
Memorably Bad Questions
So what is it exactly that you guys do?
If you don’t know and couldn’t be bothered to find out, it tells me you have no right to be in this culture where people are proud of what they do here.
Why do I have to fill out this job application? It’s all on my résumé.
Treat the job application as your first assignment for the company. Who needs someone who resists work even before they are hired?
What is the policy on long-term disability?
This is a self-limiting question at any point in the interview except when a written offer is in hand. The interviewer cannot inquire why you asked this question, and so will assume a scenario contrary to the candidate’s interests.
Are there any apartment complexes nearby that offer a fitness center and free wine and cheese tasting?
This sounded an alarm, because my experience is that unusual requests like this right from the beginning always lead to requests that my clients can’t fulfill in the end.
If I don’t take a lunch break, can I accumulate the time that I am forgoing and add it to my vacation time?
This candidate is already out to lunch. This question displays a fatal lack of judgment because the answer is so predictable. There is not a company in the world that would agree to such a business. As a general rule, any question with the word “lunch” in it is inappropriate.
Memorably Good Question
Can we schedule a performance review in three months?
Showing is much better than telling. Everyone says they’re going to do great work. This candidate was confident that he would quickly demonstrate the quality of his work.