When you’re interviewing for a new job, the hiring manager shouldn’t be the only one asking questions. In fact, engaging with a potential employer is critical: Being inquisitive can set you apart from other candidates by demonstrating your interest in the position and the company. It can also help you learn more about the job responsibilities, the company culture and the potential for advancement.

But what kinds of questions are appropriate? Here are some of the best questions job candidates can ask during interviews, based on an OfficeTeam survey of 609 HR managers in Canada and the U.S. You won’t have time to ask all of them, but reviewing them can kick-start your thought process as you prepare for interview day.

Show your interest in the position

Can you tell me more about why you’re trying to fill this position?

Review the job posting carefully and go in explaining that you know the specific skills listed, but you want to know more, especially how the skills relate to the role. Asking this question will give you a fuller understanding of the expectations associated with the job and what need(s) it fills for the employer. 

Is this a new position or am I replacing someone?

The answer to this question can help you either way the interviewer responds. If the position is new, you can ask whether you might be responsible for defining the role and it gives you a chance to talk about how exciting that is to you. On the other hand, if the position is a replacement, it gives you an opening for asking about potential turnover issues, which could be a red flag.

What colleagues will I be working with?

You can use this question to learn more about how responsibilities are shared among team members. You can even ask to meet a few of your potential new coworkers, but this may be a more appropriate request for a second or third interview, when it’s clear you’re a serious candidate for the job.

What’s the biggest challenge the team has faced in the past year?

No job is perfect. Ask the interviewer to talk a little bit about the barriers you’ll face. Will you be dealing with long approval cycles, difficult clients or tight budgets? If you’ve experienced similar challenges in a previous role, you can share your experiences working through difficult situations. Make sure you have a realistic but positive attitude when discussing your previous experiences. You don’t want to come across as a complainer, but as a problem-solver. 

We can help you prepare for the next stage of the job interview process – negotiating a salary. Our Salary Guides offer salary comparisons by city in each industry.

Discover how to do your best work

What does it take for someone to be successful in this job?

It will be very telling to hear what the manager feels are prerequisites for being a high performer in the position. Is it regular communication? Bringing new ideas to the table? This information will be helpful not only if you’re offered the job but also in deciding whether the role is the right fit for you to begin with.

What would I be expected to accomplish in my first year?

Ask about any goals or benchmarks established for the role. Will you be tasked with launching a new project or initiative? Do you need to improve internal processes? Taking time to ask this type of question clues you in to the level of work expected, and it also shows the employer you’re already formulating ways to be successful in the job.

How will you evaluate my performance?

Performance reviews are standard procedure in virtually any job. How will your manager evaluate your contributions? Ask this ahead of time so expectations are clear from the start. However, this is also a question that may be more appropriate for a second or third interview. Use your best judgement to determine when to ask.

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Learn more about the company

What do you enjoy most about working here?

Gain inside information about the company by asking the interviewer’s experiences working there. Are the people friendly? Is the work rewarding? Sometimes, asking directly may be the only way to get this sort of information.

How would you describe the workplace culture?

If you’ve done your research on the company, you may already know the answer to this question. Still, ask about it and listen carefully for the qualities most important to you: employee appreciation, company-paid employee development opportunities, casual dress, and so on. This question is probably the best of all to help you determine how well you’ll fit into the organization.

Where would the company like to be in five years?

Learn more about the key objectives of the organization and try to determine how you may be able to play a part in achieving them. Asking about goals can also help you get a feel for the company’s performance and any struggles it may be facing.

Do employees have work-life balance?

This question is related to the one about workplace culture. Does your potential employer help people balance personal and professional responsibilities? Are there flexible hours and telecommuting options when situations arise, for example? 

Find out about growth potential

What are the advancement opportunities in this organization?

Show potential employers that you’re interested in finding a future at their company by asking about growth opportunities. If you are offered the job, this information can help you decide whether or not to accept.

What types of professional development opportunities are offered?

More and more companies want to invest in their workers and improve retention rates. As an employee of the company, will you be able to attend conferences or register for online courses related to your profession? How will the company help you stay on top of the latest news and best practices in your industry?

Can you tell me about your history with the company?

It’s a nice way of asking, “How did you get to where you are?” The answer will give you a glimpse into what it took for the interviewer to get to their current position, and you’ll find out about the skills, personal attributes and other factors that can lead to advancement within the company.

Don’t be afraid to speak up

Whatever you do, don’t stay quiet during your interview. It’s supposed to be a conversation that shows a hiring manager your genuine interest in the position. But not everybody does it. Coming in with a few questions in mind can help you set yourself apart from the competition.