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13 of the Smartest Questions to Ask a Hiring Manager

Whether you are looking for your first job or are a seasoned professional, a positive impression during the interview is key to getting an offer.

Great questions during the interview are a powerful way to showcase your professionalism, thoughtfulness and commitment. [TWEET] Unfortunately, many candidates trail off when it comes to questions to ask a hiring manager.

In my experience, that blunder is due to either lack of preparation, or the stress of the interview. How do you set yourself up for success? Keep in mind that the best questions are ones that emerge naturally from the conversation. You may find it helpful to jot down notes that can prompt your questions to ask in an interview. Brainstorming beforehand and coming in with a few prepared questions can be effective, as well.

I want you to end the interview in a powerful and impactful way. Here are some questions to inspire your own brainstorming session.

1. What is the history of this position?

This is an important question to ask in an interview, because if you are offered the job, you will have to work in the environment affected and shaped by your predecessor.

Perhaps this opening was recently created to support company growth. If that is the case, ask a follow up question about who owned the responsibilities up to this point, and how the duties will be transitioned.

If you are interviewing for a position left vacant by someone’s departure, get a sense for what happened. Why did the predecessor leave the job? Was he or she promoted or internally transferred? If the predecessor left the company, ask about the circumstances.

On the same note, it is usually fair game to clarify whether the company is considering internal candidates for the position.

2. What about this position is most important? How does it support management and serve direct reports?

This is an important question to ask in an interview because it can help you get insight into the position, and how it fits into the network of the company. Who will you support? Who will you supervise and guide? What skills are critical for success?

3. What would you want to see the candidate accomplish in the first 6 months?

All too often, job descriptions present routine tasks and responsibilities. Asking about specific expectations and accomplishments can allow you to tailor the conversation to demonstrate your fit for the position. It also shows your commitment to adding value.

4. How would you measure my success, and what could I do to exceed your expectations?

I like this question, because it addresses expectations in concrete terms. Beyond stock descriptions of good communication and analytical skills, what does excellence look like for that position?

5. Which part of the position has the steepest learning curve? What can a candidate do in order to get up to speed quickly?

For some jobs, learning the technology or the internal company procedures is the most challenging aspect of coming on board. For others, it is about understanding the human network. Any guidance on how to speed up the learning process and make you effective and productive quicker can give you a significant advantage.

6. What are the expectations about managing workflow?

Virtually every company has enough work to keep everyone busy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In practice, everyone gets to go home at the end of the day. How do you know when you are done for the day? What are the expectations around working on weekends, and responding to emails outside the normal working hours?

7. How is the feedback process structured?

Asking this question in an interview has been critical for me as a candidate. Feedback is how humans get better. Excellence and mastery have always been important to me, and I am aware that they are impossible without regular feedback. Does this company limit its feedback cycle to the annual reviews? Does the hiring manager make it a priority to deliver just-in-time acknowledgment and suggestions for improvement?

8. What opportunities will I have to learn and grow?

Does the company offer formal or informal mentoring and coaching? Does it invest in continued education or professional training? Great companies want to hire people who are dedicated to personal and professional growth. Show your hiring manager that continued development is important to you.

9. What is the most challenging part of your job? What is your favorite part of your job?

Your hiring manager’s job is different from the one you are interviewing for. However, insight into his or her challenges and favorites can offer a glance into the support and assistance you can offer.

10. How did you get to your role?

Asking deeply personal or intrusive questions won’t get you high marks on the interview. However, most professionals enjoy sharing their career journey. Ask what first attracted the hiring manager to this company, and what the career progression has been like.

11. Do you have the tools and resources to do your job well?

Asking this question in an interview can give you insight into the challenges the hiring manager has in doing his or her job. Resources trickle down, so if the hiring manager is pressed for time, dealing with an unusually tight budget, or is short on human capital, you will be affected as well.

12. Do you feel that your opinions count?

Having an opportunity to contribute is one of the key indicators of job satisfaction and team performance. If your hiring manager feels heard, appreciated, and valued for his or her input, chances are the same will translate into your position.

13. Is there anything I have said that makes you doubt I would be a great fit for this position?

Asking this question at the close of the interview can feel terrifying. After all, you are asking whether there is any reason why the hiring manager wouldn’t want to extend you an offer. However, if you have the courage to ask this, you stand to gain a better sense for the next steps in the process, and an opportunity to address any reservations that the hiring manager might have about your candidacy – while you still have his or her attention.

Having considered some of the questions that can put you in the best light and close the interview on a high note, here is a short list of questions that you should never ask in an interview.

  1. Anything that can be found through a simple Google search. “What does your company do?” or “Who is your competition?” make you look like you did not do your research, and are not serious about your candidacy.

  2. Gossip. If you have heard something through the grapevine that makes you doubt the company’s financial strength, ask your question in a non-confrontational way. Instead of “Why are you about to lay off 1,000 employees next month?” ask the hiring manager for his or her opinion about how well positioned the company is for the future.

  3. Pay, raises, promotions. All of that will be discussed as part of the offer process. It’s best to avoid questions that make you look too cocky, or paint the picture of someone who makes the decision based primarily on money.

  4. Background checks. Assume that the company will go through the background checks as part of the pre-offer due diligence. Asking this question makes you look like you are nervous because you have something to hide.

  5. Email or social media monitoring. Assume that the company monitors network usage in some way. The Internet has a long memory, and written comments have a way of getting around. Play it safe and don’t use the company’s network in ways that can make you look unprofessional.  

  6. Deeply personal or invasive questions. You don’t want to make the interviewer feel uncomfortable or defensive.

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!