The Five Best Questions A Job Candidate Can Ask

The Five Best Questions A Job Candidate Can Ask

When you’re in a job interview, the questions you ask the interviewer can matter as much as your responses. They demonstrate how forward thinking you are, and how eager you are to invest yourself in the company’s future. Here are five great questions that can set you apart from other candidates.

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

While interviewers have questions they like to ask ( like these three), more experienced interviewers can also sometimes feel it’s a waste of time when they ask the candidate, “Do you have any questions for me?”

Why? The average job candidate doesn’t actually care about how the interviewer answers their questions; instead they try to make themselves look good by asking “smart” questions. To them, what they ask is a lot more important than the answer to the question.

On the other hand, great candidates ask questions they actually want answered because they’re actively evaluating the company — they’re deciding whether they really want to work for them.

Here are five questions job candidates can ask to stand apart from the crowd:

“What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?”

The Five Best Questions A Job Candidate Can Ask

Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They don’t want to spend weeks or months “getting to know the organisation.” They want to make a difference right away.

Plus they want to know how they will be evaluated — so they definitely want to understand objectives and expectations.

“What are the common attributes of your top performers?”

Great candidates also want to be great long-term employees. Every organisation is different, and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organisations.

Maybe the top performers work longer hours. Or maybe flexibility and creativity is more important than following rigid processes. Or maybe landing new customers in new markets is more important than building long-term customer relationships. Or maybe spending the same amount of time educating an entry-level customer is as important as helping an enthusiast who wants high-end solutions.

Whatever the answer may be, great candidates want to know because 1) they want to know if they fit, and 2) if they do, they definitely want to be a top performer.

“What are the one or two things that really drive results for the company?”

Employees are investments, and every employee should generate a positive return on his or her salary. (Otherwise why are they on the payroll?)

In every job some activities make a bigger difference than others. The HR staff wants to fill job openings, but what they really need is to find the right candidates, because that results in higher retention rates, lower training costs, and better overall productivity.

For example, employers want service techs to perform effective repairs, but what they really need is for those techs to identify ways to solve problems and provide further benefits — in short, to generate additional sales.

As an interviewee, you want to know what truly makes a difference for the company, because you know helping the company succeed means you will also succeed, on multiple levels.

“What do employees do in their spare time?”

The Five Best Questions A Job Candidate Can Ask

Company “cultures” can be a controversial topic, but they are often a large factor for many employers. Happy employees 1) love the work they do, and 2) genuinely like the people they work with.

Granted this is a tough question for an interviewer to answer. Unless the company is really small, all any interviewer can do is speak in generalities.

Even so, great candidates want to make sure they have a reasonable chance of fitting in with the culture — because the strongest job candidates almost always have options.

“How do you plan to deal with…?”

Every business faces a major challenge: technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends — there’s rarely a moat protecting a small business.

So while a candidate may see a company as a stepping-stone, they still hope for growth and advancement, and if they do eventually leave, they want it to be on their terms and not because their employer was forced out of business.

Say I’m interviewing for a position at a bike shop. Another shop is opening less than a mile away. “How do you plan to deal with the new competitor?” I’d ask.

Or say you run a poultry farm (a major industry where I live): What will you do to deal with rising feed costs?

A great candidate doesn’t just want to know what the interviewer thinks; they want to know what the company plans to do — and how they will fit into those plans.

These questions can help you stand out and demonstrate to an interviewer that you mean business, and you are conscious of the company’s future and your role in it.

The 5 Best Questions a Job Candidate Can Ask [LinkedIn]

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry from forklift driver to manager of a 250-employee book plant. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest innovators and leaders he knows in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list.


  • As much as people hate this question “what is the Pay?” sometimes it has to be asked, iv sat through a 3 stage interview only to find out they were paying $26k for an engineering role which required CCNA, a Degree and a few other certs. At that stage i just left

  • I once got to the end of an interview, but I hadn’t been invited to ask any questions, so I said I had a couple of questions. The interviewer told me quite curtly that I wasn’t there to ask questions. Because there were others on the panel who I still wanted to impress, I didn’t say something like; “well, if that’s an indication of the culture you admire, we’re not doing business.”

    OTOH, questions I like interviewees to ask me are along the lines of: what are the challenges the organisation, is currently facing, what are the challenges you see for the role…etc.

    I also agree the pay is a big one. Using it as a screening question, I’d say something like: I put my worth at about $200-$250k…are we doing business on that basis?

  • A question I always ask – what are the career growth opportunities in the organisation?

    At the current job, which I started just a few days back – in the second interview I had asked what projects I will own and have control over. To be honest, there is no set rule on what questions to ask – it all depends on how well you know the industry/company, and what sort of role you are being hired for – esp if a role was created specifically for you.

    Yeah I usually discuss pay only in the (2nd or) 3rd interview stage – it needs to be discussed for sure – esp when you come to a senior level

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