SmartRecruiters Blog

Don’t Be Afraid to Grill Hiring Managers. Chances Are, They’re Hoping You Will.

This column originally appeared on Here are the 8 questions every candidate should ask during job interviews. Photo Credit flickr David Silverman.

Earlier this month, I was interviewing a prospective designer for my company. The candidate asked, “Who does wireframing for your app, the product team or design team?”

A simple question. But it kicked off a great discussion about our processes and how he could contribute to the team. I remember thinking, “Hey, we are already working together…”

This candidate is now an employee and a mutual fit for our company. His simple question opened the doors for us to have a genuine conversation about each other’s motivations, needs, passions and work philosophies. In my 20+ years in the recruitment industry, it still surprises me by how rare this crucial conversation is in a job interview.

There’s no doubt candidates who ask questions have a better chance at landing their dream job. Here are eight of the best questions I’ve heard from candidates:

  1. What role will I fill? When it comes to an employee’s role in a business’ strategy, the job title only explains so much. You are filling a void in the living, breathing team. Is this company hoping for an ideas person, a mentor to other employees, a creative, a rule-follower, a rule breaker? Get to the specifics of “who” your position is supposed to be.
  2. Why does this role matter to the growth of the company?  Use this question to explore the expected level of engagement. Are you more comfortable being in a low- or high-impact role? Do you want to be in a role that is universally respected within the company or are you OK being the undercover hero?
  3. Who would my colleagues be? The best interviews include three to four team members. If that is not the case in your interview, use this question to gain insight into team dynamics and personalities. These are the people you will spend everyday with so they need to pass what Tom Gimbel calls “the airplane test”—someone you would enjoy sitting next to on a long flight.
  4. What would I be doing that makes your job easier? This question has two benefits—you will find out who is going to lean on you the heaviest and what you will need to do to keep the other teammates happy. You get a sneak-peek into the immediate problems each team member is hoping you will solve.
  5. What are additional important skills I will need to do this job well? What are the soft skills needed for this particular job? Find out if the company needs someone who is also a self-starter or works well in teams.  This is also an excellent time to bring up any additional skills you have that are appropriate for position.
  6. How does the company measure success? Identifying how your work progress will be measured will give you a better idea of whether or not you will be successful in this position. Get specifics on what your deliverables will be per project.
  7. What would you expect from me this month, in three months and in a year? Chances are that your employer has a trajectory for your role in mind. Find out what you will need to deliver in the next coming months. Ask yourself if this pace feels doable for the way you work.
  8. What is your mission? This is one of the most important questions you can ask. Research shows that employees are most happy when their goals align with those of their employers. Get philosophical here and find out why you are both here in this room and if you want the same things.

Repeat your questions for each hiring manager you meet, because you will get different responses from different people. As a CEO, I am often the last person in the round of interviews. It happens time and time again that I will say, “Do you have any questions for me?” and get a polite “No, I got a lot of my questions answered.”

I didn’t get my questions answered though. Keep the conversation going. If you want to work for my company, you have to ask for it.

Jerome Ternynck

Jerome Ternynck is the Founder & CEO of SmartRecruiters, the industry's premier talent acquisition suite to find and hire great people.