Questions you should be asking when interviewing

Focused and open-ended interview questions could help you secure the job

3 min read

November 2019

Interviewee asking a question and taking notes while being interviewed in an office

How many times have you walked away from an interview and wondered, “did I ask any questions?” Or, “did I ask the right questions?” Maybe you were uncomfortable asking a particular question, or afraid of asking the wrong questions. Will you seem too demanding or picky, and ruin your chances at landing the role?

It’s true, as Talent Advisors, we spend a significant amount of time exploring this part of the interview because it can help us gain insight into job and culture fit. Your questions can show how motivated—or not motivated—you are for the role. When preparing for your next upcoming interview, take some time to focus on questions you can ask along with those you’ll answer.

A view of the Progressive campus

So, why is it important to ask the right questions in an interview? Let’s consider the goals of any interview:

  1. 01

    Confirm your qualifications for the position

  2. 02

    Demonstrate your interest in the employer

  3. 03

    Ensure this is the right role and culture for you

Sure, you can answer all the interview questions well, but if you aren’t asking the right follow up questions, it could look like you haven’t prepared or, aren’t really that interested. You'll cover a lot of the common questions throughout the interview, such as “what’s a typical day” or “will I need to travel for this position,” so use this opportunity to ask focused, open ended questions. Remember, employers want to not only hire the person who is most qualified for the job, but also the person who most wants this job at this company.

Sample questions for your next interview

What are some of the challenges you expect someone in this role to face?

This question can dig deeper on topics that would never be answered by reading a job description. It also gives you a chance to discuss how you’ve approached similar challenges in the past.

How do you measure good performance vs. great performance in this role?

We typically coach candidates to ask questions that let the interviewer know you’ve read the job ad and are the most qualified person for the role. Hiring managers aren’t just looking for someone to perform average work, they are looking for someone who is going to excel in the role. While asking these questions does not guarantee extraordinary work, it does show that you care about the same things. Plus, the answer to this question could help give you more insight in to what it will truly take to excel in the role and if it’s something you’re able to do. Consider reviewing examples of past successes that directly align to the role in your interview prep, along with listing skills that you bring to the table that could set you apart from the competition.

What is your timeline for next steps?

This feels like a common question but reveals so much--including two important things for you. Along with clarity on when you’ll hear back about next steps or a hiring decision, it gives you permission to check in with the hiring manager if their defined timeframe passes and there’s no word. You can either follow up with a quick note or phone call to ask for an updated timeline and reaffirm your interest in the role.

Extra preparation pays off

Yes, planning questions to ask in your interview is an additional step, but could be that extra step to securing a job you enjoy. Look at it this way, this is your chance to interview a company just like they are interviewing you. This is a job that you’re considering spending 40 hours or more at each week, a job that could have a huge impact on your career and your quality of life for years to come.

Alexandra Russ is a Senior Talent Advisor at Progressive Insurance. She is a highly motivated recruiting professional with more than a decade of experience identifying the best and brightest talent to join our team.

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