How To Nail Your Job Interview: 6 Smart Questions You Should Ask

You’ve managed to get a foot in the door and land an interview for that dream job. Inevitably, at the end of the interview, you’ll be asked a common closer: “do you have any questions for me?”

How you answer can affect the hiring decision, so it’s your chance to turn the tables, become the interviewer and suss out whether you and the role have a future together. Don’t be the ninth candidate in a row to ask ‘what does a typical day look like?’ Use the opportunity to nail the interview and stand out.

#1 Is the work culture healthier than a kale smoothie?

You need to find out – subtly – whether the company is committed to providing a healthy work environment. Asking your interviewer for the top things they love and dislike about working there will give you an idea of how the company treats its employees. Alternatively, approach the question from left field and ask, ‘how do you manage employees when they make a mistake?’’ If you’re met with a blank stare or a threatening ‘want to test it out?’, the organisation likely doesn’t have much tolerance for the learning process, or has too-high expectations of employees.

Don’t ask: Am I expected to do overtime?

#2 Will I genuinely like the people I work with?

Happy business friends toasting beer glasses in restaurant

I actually don’t hate you guys, cheers!

Research has shown that having friends at work boosts productivity and job satisfaction. So it’s important to know how you’ll get along with your potential colleagues. You can come right out and ask what the team dynamic is like, or focus on the individual with, ‘what personality traits would your ideal candidate have?’ If the answer is ‘we’re looking for someone who doesn’t talk much’, when you’re an ESFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, your days on the team would clearly be numbered. Another way to check whether you’ll be sharing pints on a Friday afternoon is to ask how the company fosters team bonding.

Don’t ask: Who’s the guy on the team that everyone secretly hates?

#3 How can I climb the ladder without stepping on toes?

You don’t want to be doing the same thing for ever. ‘How do you see this role evolving as the successful candidate gains experience?’ is one way of determining the potential for growth in the company. Another is asking how the company encourages growth or if they offer training programs. Showing a desire to move up professionally indicates that you’re ambitious, committed to the organisation and value self-development.

Just remember to be tactful when you’re asking about career advancement. If you’re applying for a role at a small company with a relatively flat structure, you may sound like you’ve got designs on your manager’s job if you don’t word your question carefully.

Don’t ask: So when can I can get my first promotion?

#4 You know you guys are awesome, right?

If there’s one thing interviewers love, it’s someone who’s done their research. Prove it by scouring the company website, checking out their LinkedIn page and social media channels and asking specific questions about the company’s mission or direction. Questions like ‘I see that the organisation is looking to expand internationally, what are some of the short-term steps you’re taking to achieve this?’ show that you’re up-to-date, interested and thorough.


Let your fingers do the walking.

A compliment, followed by a question won’t hurt either. Something like, ‘I was impressed by the campaign you ran for [client name], which I saw promoted on your Facebook page. What teams were the driving force behind the concept?’ indicates that you’ve taken the effort to research, research research and to be honest, have probably got this in the bag.

Don’t ask: I’ve noticed that [competitor] has better brand awareness, what are you going to do about it?

#5 Tell me more about yourself

There’s nothing as flattering as someone showing a genuine interest in you. Be the flatterer. Ask about the interviewer’s impressive career trajectory, even if you already know all about it, having professionally stalked them through LinkedIn. (Remember what we said about research?)

You can also use their LinkedIn profile to find common ground. Have they volunteered for a cause that you’re passionate about? Studied the same major at the same university as you? Weave it into the conversation and ask about the experience, mentioning, of course, your own interest. Just make sure to say where you found the information, to avoid the creep factor. This question is all about building rapport and proving to the interviewer that you’d get along just fine, both professionally and personally.

Don’t ask: Where were those Facebook photos of you from last week taken, you know, those ones on the beach?

#6 Call me maybe?

This one is vital to your sanity and means you’re not lying in bed at midnight a month later, wondering when you’ll hear back. Before you wrap up the interview, clarify what the time frame is for a response, and whether the hiring manager has just started the recruitment process or if they’re looking to fill the role by the end of the week. Knowing the answer also means you can follow up once the time is up without feeling like you’re harassing them.

Don’t ask: So when do I start?

Catherine Mah is an editor and writer based in Sydney, but she’s lived in Spain, Taiwan and Brazil. She’s written for publications like AWOL and The Guardian Australia, but secretly dreams of creating bizarre flavours of ice cream as a full-time job.