Finding a new job is an understandably stressful task. Drafting a new CV and finding the right opportunities can be challenging, but it’s the interview where you need to shine brightest. Four in ten recruiters will reject a candidate if they aren’t perceived to be enthusiastic about the role. Asking questions is a great way to demonstrate your excitement.
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about asking insightful questions during interviews, why it matters, along with tips to help you succeed and stand out as a candidate.
Why asking questions matters in interviews?
In an interview, asking questions demonstrates you’ve done your homework for the role. Proper preparation, evident through your questions, can set you apart from other candidates. Through your questions, you can convey your understanding of the company’s values and the role you’re applying for.
Interviews should be a two-way conversation, not just a Q&A session. Engaging with questions allows you to evaluate the company’s culture and if they’re a good fit.
In order to prepare for interviews, there are plenty of online courses to help you get ready. Since there is a greater focus on video interviews, follow founder of Measurability, Paul Mullen’s advice:
“Video interviews can feel unfriendly and distant. Don’t panic, this feeling is quite normal. Keep smiling, be friendly, and stay positive throughout.”
Types of questions to ask
In interviews, categorise your questions into three main areas: company, team, and role-centric. Gaining insights into these areas is crucial to assess if the company aligns with your aspirations.
- Company-centric questions: Focus on the company’s growth, values, and culture. Remember to inquire about recent news and projects after doing some research.
- Team-centric questions: These are for insights into the team dynamics you could join. Ask about what collaboration looks like within the team and your future colleagues.
- Role questions: These questions are about what will be expected of you in the role. Ask about the challenges within the role and what success looks like.
Weave these questions into the interview as appropriate moments arise. Establishing a two-way dialogue makes the interaction feel more organic and showcases your effective communication skills.
Examples of effective questions
If you want to know what are some good questions to ask in an interview, you need to treat every position uniquely. Before any interview, thoroughly research both the company and the specific role. Research helps candidates calm pre-interview nerves, so always make time for this before the interview.
Neil O’Brien, psychologist and managing director of People Performance, offers this advice when studying a job spec:
“Look at each point individually and give yourself a score of one out of five. In areas where you score lower, do your research so as to shore up any gaps. If you really understand the job, you will reduce the feeling of knowledge gaps.”
Below are some examples of the best questions to ask in an interview:
- How would you describe the company’s culture and core values?
- Can you share some recent accomplishments or projects of which the company is particularly proud?
- What are the company’s most significant challenges in the next few years?
- How does the company handle innovation and adapt to industry changes?
- How does the company engage with the local community or participate in social responsibility initiatives?
- Can you explain the team’s current goals or projects?
- Are there opportunities for professional development within the team?
- How do team members typically collaborate on projects?
- What’s the communication style within the team?
- Can you describe the onboarding process for new team members?
- How would you define success for this position in the first six months or year?
- Can you describe a typical day or week in this role?
- What tools, software, or methodologies does the role entail?
- How does this role contribute to the overall objectives of the company?
- What is the growth potential or career trajectory for this position?
- How often is feedback provided, and in what format?
Before your interview, put together a list of questions tailored to each position you’re applying for. Incorporating recent company news into your questions can better highlight your enthusiasm for the position.
Crafting insightful questions
When framing questions, ask open-ended queries rather than “yes” or “no” ones. Open questions are better for creating a deeper conversation between the interviewer and the applicant. Consider it from the interviewer’s perspective; they’re using the opportunity to assess whether you’re the right fit for their company. If you can’t establish a natural dialogue, the interview might not stand out, leading them to consider other candidates.
Highlight your candidate qualifications by posing questions that showcase your expertise and knowledge. Also, focus on the company’s future and its potential challenges. Adopt a dual-focused approach: understanding your contributions to the company and their expectations from candidates.
Recruit Ireland can help during this research phase. Our platform helps job seekers find the best roles for them, and our Companies section details Irish businesses, provides updates on recent news, and links candidates straight to company social profiles. We take the pain out of research, helping job seekers to craft professional and insightful questions.
The role of questions in the interview process
Every interviewer seeks subtle cues that show you’re a good cultural fit for the open position. Asking questions allows them to look at your thought processes and how you approach situations. They’re also looking at your analytical and critical thinking capabilities.
The questions you ask reveal a lot about you and your priorities. For example, if your queries focus on work-life balance, that may indicate you focus on personal well-being and maintaining a balanced lifestyle. On the other hand, someone who asks questions about the company’s social responsibility initiatives may be seen as someone interested in the community and working somewhere with a strong ethical and social impact.
Asking questions in an interview also helps to provide role clarity. If there’s anything you need clarification on, asking questions eliminates any potential misunderstandings. Clarify role responsibilities and company expectations so both parties can leave the interview with a clear and shared understanding of the job’s requirements.
Common mistakes to avoid when asking questions
Here are some mistakes you should avoid when asking questions in an interview:
- Asking questions that can be answered online: When you research the company before the interview, you should be able to answer many basic questions. If you ask too many questions that can be answered with a Google search, it may indicate you’ve not prepared for the role.
- Asking too many questions about the compensation package: Compensation is important, particularly if the information isn’t shared in the job advert. However, focusing too much on the material benefits of the role may lead the hiring manager to believe you lack passion for the role.
- Lacking professionalism in queries: A good interviewer should create a relaxed environment during the interview. However, you need to maintain a certain level of professionalism during the interaction. Avoid asking personal or inappropriate questions. Stick to the role, team, and company-centric questions to demonstrate professionalism.
In order to avoid common mistakes like these, think about the interviewer’s perspective. If a candidate shows interest in the company and the role, they will look better than someone who’s only asked about holiday entitlement and pay raises.
Navigating behavioural questions
Past behaviours can often be the best predictor of future performance, so interviewers may ask you to detail obstacles you’ve overcome in the past.
These questions are often phrased like “Tell me about a time when…” or “Describe an instance where….” Interviewers are looking for details on your decision-making and problem-solving skills.
You can narrate a story that underscores your professional growth, resilience, and dedication while giving them a clearer picture of how you might fit into their team and company culture. When faced with these questions, use the STAR method:
- Situation – Detail the situation you dealt with
- Task – Explain the task you were given
- Action – Describe the action you took
- Result – Discuss the result of your action and what you learned from the experience
Practise at home some examples of scenarios where you demonstrated role-appropriate skills or qualities. By being prepared, you can ensure your answers are coherent and effectively highlight your strengths.
Questions to ask at the end of the interview
It’s standard practice for the person interviewing you to save some time at the end for you to field any questions you have. Here’s your last chance to make an impression, so you should end with an impactful question. Let’s look at what questions to ask in an interview:
- What challenges has the team faced recently, and how did they overcome them?
- Can you tell me more about the team I would be working with?
- Are there opportunities for advancement within the organisation?
- What does success look like for the team in the upcoming year?
- What’s something you wish you knew before joining the company?
Make sure to ask open-ended questions to carry on the discussion. Always be prepared to ask something, even if it’s to clarify information that’s already been discussed.
Candidates who don’t ask any closing interview questions may come off as disinterested or unprepared. So, always enter the interview with a list of questions in mind, and don’t be afraid to take notes during the discussion.
Beyond the interview: Post-interview follow-up
While waiting for feedback, remember to stay patient. Companies often have multiple candidates to review, and internal discussions can take time. Refrain from bombarding them with emails or calls.
If the interviewer gave you a specific date by which they promised feedback and that date has passed without any communication, it’s appropriate to send a gentle follow-up email.
Express your continued interest in the position and inquire about the status of your application. If the feedback is not in your favour, take it in stride.
Thank the company for considering your application, express your hope for potential future opportunities, and ask for any feedback that could help you in your job search. Handling rejections with grace leaves a positive impression, ensuring that doors remain open for future engagements.
Prepare for interviews with Recruit Ireland
Ready to start researching for your next job interview?
Recruit Ireland understands interviews can be stressful, and our advice centre is full of helpful information to help you calm those pre-interview nerves. Preparation is key to success and leaving a lasting impression on the hiring manager.
Take a look around our platform, make use of our curated advice from Ireland’s leading experts, and prepare for all interviews with confidence and clarity. Every interview is a valuable learning experience, and with Recruit Ireland by your side, you’re one step closer to securing your dream job.