Asking good questions, while being interviewed, can make your interview more effective


Dear Joan:

I am a teacher and I share with my students many of the ideas you bring up in your columns. My son is graduating from college this Spring with a Math Major and Accounting Degree. We have read that companies like it when you come to them prepared with questions to ask them. We would like to know what kind of questions would you ask to companies that are interviewing you? What specifics or long range things would you want to know besides salary, benefits and job opportunities? Could you please direct us to areas to find questions or give us some ideas of the kinds of questions a 22-year old college graduate would or should be asking?


It always astonishes me that job hunters don’t prepare more thoroughly for interviews. While I can understand that new grads are inexperienced and don’t really know what to ask, I can’t understand why experienced candidates will go to all the trouble to get every word on the resume nailed but won’t take the time when it really matters—the interview. It’s their one shot at selling themselves, and it’s the only time they can ask questions about where they may end up spending years of their lives. Go figure.

It sounds as if your son will have a leg up on his competition. Here are some questions that are suited for young and old alike:

Prepare questions in several categories and ask them early-- and throughout-- the interview. That way, you will find out valuable information as you go. You will be able to tailor your responses and illustrate examples that fit the job.

  • Questions about the job
  • Questions about the company
  • Questions about the manager and coworkers
  • Questions about the customer (internal and/or external)

 The Job

  • How would you define success in this position after six months? (You may hit a hot button that will give you more free information that you can use to sell yourself.)
  • What are the most important skills and abilities that a person would need in this job to be       successful? (If you possess any of these skills, be ready with examples to prove it.)
  •  What is the toughest challenge in this position, in your opinion? (Listen closely for the downsides. If you have strengths that will overcome these obstacles, be ready to illustrate how you’ve used them to your advantage in the past.)
  •  What happened to the person who had this job before? (If the person was promoted, or fired, ask why.)

The Company

Check out the company online and prepare some specific questions:

  • I see that you have recently merged with ACME. How will this affect your department?
  • I noticed that the company sells widgets in South America. I speak Spanish. Would that be something that I could use in this job? (Ask questions that position you to sell yourself.)
  • How would you describe your corporate culture?

The Manager and Coworkers

  • How would you describe your management style?
  • What are your pet peeves?
  • How would you describe the coworkers this person would work with? Did anyone on the team apply for the job? Are there any problems on the team?

Internal/External Customers

  • Which departments will this person have the most interaction with?
  • Are there any issues between departments that you would like this person to work on?
  • (If you are a final candidate) Will I have an opportunity to talk with someone who does this job/or someone with whom this person interacts?

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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