There comes a time in every interview when the interviewer will ask you whether you have any questions for them. The tables have turned, but make no mistake—it's still an opportunity to impress, and the questions you ask say a lot about you as a candidate. A good rule of thumb is to prepare enough questions (keep in mind that some might be answered earlier in the interview) that you don't end the interview early. Here are some things to think about to help you come up with smart questions to bring to your next interview.
Think About The Must-Haves
While we all might be looking for different things in our first jobs, there are some criteria that should be must-haves for junior talent. One is a clear understanding of who you'll be reporting to, and who will be responsible for your growth. Whether it's one person or several, get a clear picture of who will be overseeing your projects, evaluating your performance, and making decisions on whether you get promoted. Along with who they are, how do you feel about them? Do you respect them? Are they inspiring? What can they teach you? Our first managers and bosses play a huge role in our entry-level experiences, so make sure you know who's who.
Another must-have that's often overlooked is how feedback is structured and delivered. As jr. talent, it's crucial to keep tabs on your strengths and the areas that you need to work on. Ask about how performance reviews are conducted and how often. The more regularly you're able to get (and give) feedback, the more opportunities there will be for growth.
Think About What You Want
Sometimes the pressure to get a job causes us to forget to think about what we really want out of our first jobs. An interview is one of your best chances to get a clearer picture of what it's like to work at a company, so ask questions that determine whether the experience lines up with what will be best for you. What this looks like will vary from person to person, and can get as granular as asking when people begin or end their days, or as broad as what the company's core values are. Don't be afraid to grill your interviewer on things you care about, including the company's Diversity & Inclusion initiatives or pay equity policies. A company might not meet all your expectations, but at least you'll have the facts you need to make an informed decision.
Think About The Big Picture
It's easy to ask questions about things that will immediately affect you—what your day-to-day will be like, what the expectations are for this role, etc. But don't forget about the bigger picture forces that can also influence your career in the long-run. Ask about the biggest challenges that the company faces, whether external or internal. How will the company remain competitive as the industry continues to evolve? Where does the head of the department see the team going? What type of work are clients coming to the company for, and how is that shaping how the company staffs project teams? These type of questions show the interviewer that you understand the larger company and industry context for your role.
Think About Your Interviewer as a Person
Your interviewer has given up some of their time to see whether you're right for this job. And while sometimes intimidating, they're really just a person who works at the company you want to work at. Use your time with them to hear about their own experience—how did they get their start? What drew them to this company? What do they personally find most challenging about working there? How have they grown since they've been there? Not only does your interviewer have a wealth of knowledge to share, but giving them time to talk about themselves during the interview will make it a more balanced conversation.
The person interviewing you won't remember that you asked about the company's culture (not that you shouldn't ask this, it's an important thing to know. But because of that, everyone asks it.). It's the questions that make the interviewer say or think, "Wow, that's a really good question," or, "I've never thought of that before..." that will make you stand out. You don't have to come up with outrageous, totally irrelevant questions, but being thoughtful about what you want to know, and the unique perspective your interviewer can share, will be a positive reflection of what you'll be like as a coworker.
You got this,