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December 16th, 2010,

By Noël Rozny
Web Editor & Content Manager

As you prepare for an upcoming job interview, you’re probably practicing your answers to the standard interview questions, like “What is your greatest strength?” and “What is a challenge you’ve worked to overcome?”

But what about the questions you should be asking during a job interview? Most of us are so excited about the possibility of a new job that we forget one very important thing: job interviews are meant to be a two-way street. This is just a much a chance for you to interview a future employer as it is a chance for them to interview you.

So what kind of questions is it ok for you to ask during an interview, and when can you ask them? I sat down with Ruthanne Liagre, Vice President, Healthcare at Harvey Hohauser & Associates and 20+ year HR veteran, to get her insights on the questions you can (and can’t) ask during an interview.

Questions Job Seekers Should Be Asking in Job Interviews

Q: What kind of questions do hiring managers expect applicants to ask? In other words, what’s standard?

A: Questions that show the interviewee has done some homework and understands the business are pretty standard.

Also, questions like:

  • What would you expect this position to accomplish in the first 30, 60, and 90 days?
  • What are some of the projects assigned to this position in the past?
  • Who are the customers served in this position?

Q:  When is it ok to ask questions about vacation time, working hours, and other questions related to workplace culture? Is it ever ok to ask these questions?

A: I think these questions are better asked after a second interview when it looks like an offer may be coming.  It is always ok to ask if the position is full time, part time or contractual.  Again, the interviewee is in the position of demonstrating what he/she can do for the organization. The risk of asking too many “me” questions right off the bat is that the interviewer may question your true interest in the position or role.

Q: What’s a good way to ask about workplace culture (do you expect me to work 80 hours a week? is there flextime? What’s your overtime policy?) without sounding like a total slacker?

A: These questions are the same as the ones listed above and again, asking about whether it’s full time, part time, contractual is reasonable at the beginning but lots of “me” focused questions may send the wrong message.  You can ask workplace culture questions by asking what it’s like to work there, “describe a typical day here” and ”Are employees happy here?” The flex time and other workplace privileges will naturally be discussed as you get closer to getting an offer.

Q:  What questions do you wish applicants would ask that they don’t?

A: I always like applicants to ask why I work at the company, what keeps me motivated and things like that. I like to hear questions that show genuine interest in the organization and the work. Hiring managers have their pick of the crop in candidates these days, so you can’t afford to get lazy.

Q: What’s the craziest question you’ve ever been asked?

A: I can’t think of any really crazy questions.  The ones that make me think twice are the ones that indicate the person just wants a job anywhere, not a career at my organization – the “it’s all about me” questions.

Q: What’s one last piece of advice you’d give to job seekers as they head off to interviews?

A: The caveat on all of the answers above is that they all have to do with the level of position, how many interviews have you had, and the like. Be cognizant of the position you’re applying for and the company you’re interviewing with, and adjust your questions accordingly. (If you’re applying for a job as a nurse, for example, don’t ask if you can have nights and weekends off.)

  • http://att Christine

    Oh this was so helpful. I just had my first interview this week with a company and am now feel more prepared for the second interview. great questions and answers.

  • John D. Harvey

    Been a couple of decades since I’ve interviewed for a job or interviewed others for the same (I’ve been on both sides) and will probably never go through that again. Always thought it was kind of a shallow process. Stumbled across the site the other day and would like to start interviewing again just to try it out. Would be interested in your take.

  • myFootpath Advisor

    Although I can’t speak to this specific website, video resumes are absolutely becoming more common and a way to make yourself stand out from other candidates. It shows that you’re not only tech-savvy, but that you’re comfortable presenting yourself to others, willing to try new things, and up-to-date on interview techniques. For more information on video resumes and how to make on, check out this blog post.

  • Matthew T. Forrest

    Wouldn’t you say that it is always best to save your benefits-related questions until after theu00a0positionu00a0has been offered to you?

  • Anonymous

    Not necessarily. If you’re in the later stages of the interview process, or if you’re going through an interview process that’s taking a period of several months (which some do), and if it seems like there’s a natural opening, asking some very general questions about benefits can really give you a sense of whether or not the position is right for you. And having that information can keep you from waiting around for an offer that might not be the right fit for you.