11 questions you should ask employers before accepting a job

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By now, job seekers should know the two cardinal rules of interview questions:

1. When the interviewer asks if you have any questions, have something to ask.

2. You should walk into the interview room prepared to answer the classic questions, such as, “What is your biggest weakness?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

But there’s an often-overlooked rule that you should remember for your own good:

3. You should ask important questions at every step of the hiring process, from the first time you speak to the hiring manager to the last conversation you have with him.

Have a list of questions ready before you start. You don’t need to ask these questions to look good to the employer; you need to ask them to learn about the employer. You are interviewing employers just as much as they’re interviewing you.

Here are 11 questions you should ask employers in the interview process:

When you receive the first call before the in-person interview:

No. 1: Whom will I be interviewing with?
The best way to adequately prepare for an interview is to know whom you’ll be speaking with. You’ll likely have different questions for the hiring manager than you would for the entire team or the department head. You’ll also want to do some research on the interviewers so you can ask them personalized, insightful questions.

Plus, if the employer can’t give you specific names, you have to wonder if they’re taking the situation seriously and are even a legitimate business. For all you know, you could end up in a room with 30 other applicants on the receiving end of a sales pitch. If a serious employer calls you for an interview, they’ll already have interviewers lined up and should have no problem sharing their names.

No. 2: Does the opportunity involve commission sales or purchase of a sales kit?
If you get a call out of the blue for a position you never expressed interest in, you have a right to be skeptical. If the position sounds confusing or the description is too vague, dig deeper. If you get the feeling the position requires you to purchase a sales kit or there is no base salary, and you’re not interested in that type of role, ask about it upfront. A reputable employer will answer directly and trust that you’ll know if the position is right for you.

No. 3: Can you tell me more about the opportunity and why you think my qualifications are a good fit?
You’ve spent a lot of time customizing your résumé so that employers know you’re serious about their specific role. You used keywords and quantified results to prove your worth. If employers can’t pinpoint what attracted them to you, then they’re probably not looking for a great worker to help grow with the role. They’re looking for anyone who will accept the offer and won’t hesitate to replace you if it doesn’t work out.

During the interview:

No. 4: What are your short- and long-term goals for the position?
Employers will probably ask about your career goals, but you should ask them what they want the person in this position to achieve. Are they concerned with increasing revenue, visibility, leads, improving morale or any number of other things? You want to know that they have a purpose for this position and aren’t just looking for a temporary solution.

No. 5: Can you tell me why the last person left this job?
They might not tell you, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. If the person got promoted or took a better job elsewhere, that’s a sign that the position is a good way to advance a career.

No. 6: Who are the primary people I’ll be working with on a daily basis?
Where does this role fit in the overall structure of the team and the business? Will you interact with people who can help your career? Will you spend most of your days in silence, typing on a computer? All that matters is that you receive an answer that appeals to you.

No. 7: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the person taking this role?
No position is perfect. In fact, some jobs are created to address a problem that needs to be solved. That could very well be what attracted you to the job. An honest employer will tell you what struggles lie ahead. That’s your opportunity to turn the answer around as a challenge you’re happy to accept and present some ideas of how you would tackle the obstacles. If the employer makes it sound too good to be true, it probably is.

No. 8: Do you have any doubts about my fit for the position? I’d be glad to clear anything up for you.
Not all interviewers ask direct questions or are even very good at interviewing, so you might have to prompt them to tell you what their concerns are. Now is the only chance you have to clarify anything, so make sure you leave no question unanswered.

No. 9: What is the timeline for filling the position?
You deserve to know when a decision might be made and what the next steps are. Hiring managers have a ballpark idea of how long the interviewing process will take, whether candidates will have to come back for another interview, and when a decision will be made. It might not be exact, but at least you have an idea of what to expect.

Read More: Questions you should ask during the interview

After the interview:

No. 10: Have you made a decision? (If the given deadline has passed)
If the hiring manager says it will be a week before you hear back, wait an extra day or two (or even three). Then follow up to see if a decision has been made. Don’t pester her and don’t show up at the office — that won’t win you any points. A quick email to ask how the process is going is enough.

No. 11: Do you have any recommendations for how I could improve my interviewing skills?
If you don’t get the position, you’ll be disappointed, but use it as an opportunity to improve your interviewing skills. Some employers won’t give you tips, but others might give you feedback that will help you on the next interview.

Watch: Employers talk about interview tips

17 Comments
  1. Great post Anthony! These are all great questions to ask.
     
    I have a couple more.
     
    (1) During the interview it can be effective to ask, “what are the characteristics of someone who is successful at this position?” This can lead the interviewer to tell you what they are looking for and then you can tailor your answers to the characteristics they bring up.
     
    (2) Before the interview, ask yourself what points you want to get across to the interviewer. Most of us see interviewing as a more defensive thing (the interviewer asks questions and I answer) as opposed to you actively saying to yourself, “here is what I want to communicate about myself to this interviewer.”
     
    What do you think?
     
    -Aaron

    •  @abm1282 I would be glad to have the f****n job. I wouldnt be giving a thousand questions. If they didnt offer those things I would still take the job. Yall are talking like there’s thousands of jobs out there. Shit, go hungry and homeless, then see what your attitude is. Bottom line is, if a company likes you, or the person doing the interviewing likes you, he’ll hire you. It doesnt matter if you slip up, say the wrong thing, wore the wrong color, or your resume wasn’t formatted just right.
       
      You can say all the right things, say all the right buzz words, look just right, have the qualifications etc. but if the interviewer isnt friendly, says rude things to you, and tries to pose the interview as anything but a friendly conversation to see if there is a fit in personality and qualifications, which is what the interview should be, then it  isnt worth staying and applying for.
       
      Ive had some real rude things said to me in an interview; an interviewer wanted to know if I was related to a porno star while a woman co-worker was there, then he said “well we’ll kick you around a little bit”, I took that to mean he’ll give the resume some consideration.
       
      Another interviewer on another interview accused me of  “hopping around” on jobs, not taking into account that were in a recession and its not uncommon to have had more than one job within a particular time frame, again in front of a female co-worker. I backed away from the table, took my resume and left. I might have said thank you, but I got the hell out of there.
       
      On another interview for a water pipe and fitting supply company the owner came into the interview room. I have 16 years experience in the industry in field installation. He came in and was rude and curt. he started asking me if I knew what a basic fitting was after he displayed rudeness. I just looked off to the side, looked back at him and gave him the correct answer. Then he wanted me to take a test to see if I was a match for the job. What a dumbass this guy was.
       
      I dont need a computer program to tell me if im a match for a job. If I didnt want the job, or didnt like the work, I wouldnt apply. This guy was a f*****g idiot. He couldnt see he had someone with 16 years experience sitting in front of him, who payed a compliment to his company by applying for a position there, showered and shaved, ironed a shirt, and put on a suit and dress shoes
      and drove 20 plus miles to the interview. He wouldnt even talk to me after the test.
       
      When I go into an interview now, I put my best foot forward, I look as neat as I can, Im polite, strive to give good answers, am friendly and want to make a good impression. But I dont take any s**t from a f****n a*****e interviewer. Thats for gd sure. I give it right back to them. While they are interviewing me, Im interviewing them. What kind of company would put someone like these people in charge? And if these people would talk to somone like that, whom they dont even know, how will they be once you start working for them.
       
      Their first impression to me is just as important as my first impression to them. While they are asking themselves “Why would I want this person to work for us” Im asking myself  “Why would I want to work for this company?” There is gratefulness for a job thats offered to me, if its offered, but I dont let myself get mistreated in an interview to be considered for it. F**k that.
       
      Recently I got cleaned up, put on slacks, business casual shirt and shoes and picked up an application for a dishwasher position at a well known restaurant with several stores. I got cleaned up on another day, put on the same attire and returned to turn in the application, I was told there would be an interview. The general manager came to the counter, he didn’t even give me a smile, a greeting, a handshake, or a thank you. He reached out, took the application and said “If we have any openings we’ll call you”.
       
      I went to the second store to drop off the application and decided that I didnt want to work for the company. I asked the manager of the second store for the number to the corporate office. I shared with him what had happened, he said he was sorry and that I could stay for an interview with him. I told him thank you, but after having complained it was not likely I would be considered for a position. I was aware of that. But that was fine, after having been treated like that I didnt want to work for a piece of s**t company like that.
       
      I returned to the first restaurant and the manager asked me if I was ready for an interview. We went and sat down and I was aware that if he treated me like that when he took the application he surely wouldnt consider me for a position.
       
      I told him I was going to pass on applying for the job but I had something I wanted to say. I shared with him I got cleaned up, ironed a shirt, put on slacks and came down to pick up an application. I shared that I then filled it out neatly, got cleaned up again, ironed a shirt, put on slacks and returned to turn it  in. I told him I have never been treated more rude than how I was treated when he took the application and that he showed a complete lack of manners and tact.I told him that I didnt want to work for the company.
       
      He apologized and thanked me for coming back and telling him so he knows what he’s doing. I thought during all this that something might have been going on or I might have caught him off guard when I returned to turn in the application. I accepted his apology as genuine, but I ask myself how much of it was sincere and how much was because he didnt want his a** to get turned in to the corporate office.
       
      I dont pay a whole lot of attention to tips for a good interview. If the interviewer is polite, has tact and is friendly and you have the skills close to what they are looking for, and you give a reasonably good interview, you’ll possibly get the job. If they like you, they’ll hire you.
       
      If you a rude interviewer and I come in for an interview and your rude to me I’ll climb right down your throat right there in the interview, and I wont miss words and I’ll tell you where to get off. I will have already passed on wanting to work for your company.
       
      R Holmes
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       

  2. Those are pretty good questions if you are applying for a sales or marketing position, but what if you are applying for an entry level position or a receptionist spot?  How about asking the most basic questions about the firm?  Sometimes we get excited about the possibility of a position because, in this economy, jobs are difficult to find, and you get to an interview, and you think to yourself, “I really want this.”  Do not assume anything about a company.  Ask and secure firm  answers before you accept the job.  Some of these issues can be addressed in a second interview so the first question to be asked is whether or not this interview will be the only interview.  If it is, ask:  1)  What benefits does the company offer, and what is the waiting period before an employee is eligible for them; 2) what holidays does the company observe; 3) what is the vacation policy of the company ( if you get two weeks of vacation, how long before you get three weeks?); 4)  are regular employee reviews done and do employees get increases based on performance at that time or how does that system work? 5) Is there any education assistance provided in the event that you would like to further your education in the field?. 
    If your prospective employer gives satisfactory answers to most of the questions you have asked, you can be comfortable hiring on, but if all of the answers are evasive or policies are “see how it goes”, then give employment with the company serious thought, especially if this is a move from a current employer.  If the employer says an exception will be made for you in any one area that is contrary to the prevailing policy, ask if you could have that in writing when you accept the position.  That might be hard to ask for, but if they are uncomfortable with giving it, they might not intend to uphold their end of the bargain.
    Remember that the confidence which you bring to your interview and the value you place on your skills comes across to your interviewer.  Do not be afraid to ask the questions.  While you don’t want to demand too much, you have to remember that the person who doesn’t ask, doesn’t receive.

    •  @CassandraRichardson
       I feel like a lot of these things are found on employer websites. It makes it look as though you did not research the company to ask some of these questions. If it is a smaller employer, I would ask before I signed an employment contract, or maybe in a follow up email after being offered the job.

    • In response to Cassandra’s comments, as someone who has done a lot of interviewing and hiring for everything from interns and entry-level positions to upper management, I would be extremely turned off by a candidate who, particularly in a first interview, had a barrage of questions about benefits, holidays, vacations and pay increases. While these are obviously important considerations, asking a lot of questions about them in an interview is a red flag that someone cares more about compensation than making sure the company and role is a good fit overall, and that they may have an overly “what’s in it for me” attitude, which is not someone I want on my team.
       
      A better approach would be to start with some independent research either before or after the initial interview. Many companies will provide informaiton about benefits and such on their employment websites, and even a simple Google search can unearth feedback about a company from current and previous employees. If all else fails, you can call the HR department to ask some of these questions (anonymously, if possible) of someone who is not as close to the position as the hiring manager is. After doing your homework, you will be better prepared to discuss and even negotiate a compensation package - including benefits – when you get to the point when the hiring manager has decided they want you and is ready to get down to brass tacks.

      •  @Amy Allen You can’t always find out what these policies are on-line.  I’m not discussing Microsoft, here.  What planet are you from?  Not all firms put their policies on-line.  When the prospective employer says “Do you have any questions?” in your second interview, you should be asking the questions.  Isn’t this article about what you should ask BEFORE you accept a position.  Well, this should be asked before you accept a position.  If you find yourself hired into a company that doesn’t pay you for the 4th of July, then it’s your own fault.  You only have 30 days to file a grievance, and if you quit after you are hired, you can’t get unemployment.  I think an employer respects a person who asks questions that affect the rest of their life.  If they don’t respect the questions, they might have something to hide.  I would seriously question an employer like you who objects to a savy candidate who wants to know the facts rather than just what you can do for them.  I am not about exacting five minute breaks, but I am about policies.  If employers don’t have written policies and don’t review employees’ work, then stay away.

  3. don’t forget to turn the table and ask the interviewer about where they started in the company and their favorite part of the job. Opening up to get to know each other is the best way to know if you are are good fit.

  4. A very nice list, Anthony. I usually make it practice to ask all of these questions, but my favorite one to ask is number 8. It gives you a sense of how the employer views your performance, and if they are on the fence about you, it gives you the opportunity to bring them to your side.

  5. I find this a highly helpful article with great information and thoughts to ponder.  I have also found value in many of the comments.  I did have something to add.  Knowing how to conduct the perfect interview is great, but if we are not dressed correctly, it could all matter nought.  When you get that call for an interview, one of the questions you should ask other than where and what time is what is appropriate dress for this position?  (I also ask where there is parking available for interviewees as getting there on time can often be sabatoged by no parking).  You want to arrive fresh, calm, and ready to interview as well as be interviewed; not frazzled from driving around frantically searching for parking, and then having to walk several blocks, uphill, in heels!

  6. You all want to know how I know to tell you to ask these questions?  because I didn’t ask.   I love my position, and I really like my employer; However, the company does not observe most national holidays, does not give performance reviews, does not give you a raise unless you ask for one, etc.  Now at my age, I can’t just find another job, so these policies are something I might have negotiated  when I was hired except that I didn’t know these things until I had already hired on. So, while you people are discussing company that can elaborate websites, I am trying to give common sense advice to regular people looking for work.  This article is about questions you should ask before ACCEPTING A POSITION.  Think about it.  Don’t assume anything.  If you don’t have access to the information, ask.  You can’t call up every company and ask anonymously the questions you don’t know the answers to.  Many times you think that a position might be transitional, and it ends up to be a company that you stay with for many years.  Know the facts.  Questions about benefits are not proper for a first interview, but they should be addressed before you accept a position, and although you should not have to ask some of the questions I addressed in my original comment about holidays observed and performance reviews, if the company does not have human resources policies written down, you should ask these questions, otherwise you might be hiring on to a company that has unorthodox policies that really surprise you.  After you accept a job is too late to negotiate.
     

  7. How about using correct grammer?  Item 1 shows a common error:  The line should properly read WITH WHOM… and not end the with the preposition!  (ha ha ha,, hire me as a proofreader!)

  8. Good read, this is some of the better advice I’ve seen online in sometime!! Can’t say how many interviews I’ve had where the person interviewing me was at least 10 years younger and read the questions straight from a book. Some key issues to be sure you do… is be on time, dress right and ask those questions… Many times I’ve interviewed with 3 or more managers at one time, talk about nerve wracking…. all of them coming at you…lol

  9. I’ve asked employers several of the questions presented in Mr. Balderrama’s article and after I accepted these positions, I found out their answers were complete lies and/or total fabrications. I wasted years in positions I never would have accepted had the employer been forthright and honest in their answers during the interview.  How does one handle this situation if the employer has lied to you?  We certainly know what can happen to an employee who lies about his or her background to the employer.

  10. Good article, with a couple of questions I hadn’t considered. However, one that I’ve asked for years in order to give me an idea of immediate expections is:  “What are your top 2 or 3 priorities for a new person coming into this job to have to hit the ground running with and work on?” or a variation of that. It’s worked well, and gives me a good idea of immediate tasks I’d have to focus on and accomplish within the first month or so of taking a new job. It also has given me a bit more insight into responsibilities that may not be listed on the job description — and whether or not the hiring supervisor has given thought to what the ‘new person’ will have to start off with. I want to know if they’re being realistic, as well.
     
    In the meantime, I’ve been looking to find a different/better job for more than a year and get out of one that no longer fits my personal and professional goals — yes, it’s the economy and the competition — more than 100 applicants for 1 job in most cases, in my experience, and even one that had 150 applicants. Forget the questions — just give me the job!

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