Nothing is more important than the interview. It is where we put our best selves out into the world and meet another person. It's a chance to show your skills in a live setting, answer questions that you might not have considered beforehand, and make connections. But it's also hard to know what to do with yourself on the day of an interview — or even what questions to ask at one!

General questions like those below help the interviewer open up and share more about themselves and the company they work for.

So here's a list of important questions that you should ask your interviewer.

Ask About the Company Culture

  1. What can you tell me about the company culture?
  2. What are some things that might be different from other companies in this industry?
  3. Is there a culture at your company that I should be aware of to help me fit in and advance my career?
  4. Can you tell me some of the ways the company is involved in the local community?
  5. What are some of your company's values? How do they support the female employees here? Do you have a mentoring program for women who want to advance their careers?

Understanding whether or not the company is a good fit for you is important because it can affect your career in the long run. The intention here is help your interviewer open up and then to seek his/her opinion - to get an honest picture of what the company culture is truly like.

Ask About Business Goals & The Company's Plans

  1. What are some of the company goals for this fiscal year? What are some of the individual goals for me for this position?
  2. What are some of the larger initiatives that the company is working on? What do you see as the top three priorities for the company this year? What are those priorities and how will those be met?
  3. How is your company positioned to stay competitive with other companies in the industry? What about the larger market?
  4. How has your company grown and been developed over the past 10 years, or how would you describe its trajectory over those years?
  5. Will the company be going through any major changes in the next five years? If so, what are some of those changes?
Knowing what your employer considers to be important and how you can adapt will help you see how your role fits into that plan. That way, you can begin to understand the vision of the company and why it is important for you to be part of it.

You will want to know if your goals are in line with the company's plans. If they aren't but you still (somewhat) believe in what they are doing, help them see that your goal is what will help their goals become reality. This is goal alignment.

Having a clear idea of what is planned for the company and what you can do to help then prepares you. You know what to expect of your bosses and of yourself in this role.

When asking these prickly questions, look them in the eye & maintain composure. (Look the part!)
Maintaining Eye Contact in An Interview: Proper Body Language
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Ask About Work-Life Expectations

  1. How often would you like to see me come in early or stay late?
  2. What are the expectations for vacation time and sick time?
  3. Do you have an office dress code and if so, what does it entail? Is it important to wear a suit to work, for example?
  4. Are they flexible about working from home, and if so will you support those decisions or would you prefer them to be in the office?
  5. What are the policies for email? Are there certain times that you cannot respond to them?

Your existence is a balance - all work no play, makes Jack a dull, dull boy. Pose one or at most two questions from the list to get a sense of whether the company and its people treats the employees as PEOPLE (not slaves or paid mercenaries).

Understanding your employer's expectations of you helps you prepare for what your role would be like, and how to develop in it. It's important to understand which days you would be expected to come in and how you should act or react to events that come up.

Ask About Career Development

  1. Who will be managing my career development? How often should I expect to meet with them?
  2. Is there a process in place for me to see how I am doing and how my performance is reviewed? What is your policy on raises and promotions?
  3. Does this position have room for growth or advancement in the future? In other words, are there different levels within the organization, and how are employees expected to react to both vertical and lateral reporting?
  4. Will there be opportunities to get different job titles in the future? Will I ever have the opportunity to be a director? (Be bold.)
  5. How do you support the training that employees need in order to improve their skills? Will the company pay for their attendance at a conference, or will they reimburse them for taking a class or certification test?

Knowing what your employer considers to be important and how you can adapt will help you grow and improve in the long run. It's just as important to know where you can go with this role as it is to know where you start.

All companies should have a way for employees to be developed and grow in their roles. Find out what the expectations are within your company so you can make sure you fit its needs.

Ask About Perks and Benefits

  1. How many paid holidays do you provide to employees?
  2. How much vacation does the company offer? Is there a schedule set for when employees can use their vacation time?
  3. Would you be able to share more about informal activities like lunches with other employees, team building outings, etc. that are a regular part of the culture?
  4. If I were to move into this role, what are the benefits like in terms of health care and insurance coverage?
  5. Do you provide your employees with a 401k retirement plan? If so, how much are they offered, how does it work, and when is the last time your company offered a bonus to employees in part of their 401k contributions? Do you provide your employees with life insurance and if so, how much coverage do they receive?

Little perks go a long way to help employees feel that they are valued. Perks matter to most people, so knowing what the company offers (and is willing to offer) is important.

When you have an idea of what the company provides you as an employee, it helps you know what to expect and how to plan for that. Maybe you will react positively?Maybe you will like working there better? The more information that is available upfront, the better you can plan for any eventualities.

Ask About Decision-Making Process

  1. How would the company make decisions? Is it a collaborative process or one that is more controlled? What types of people do you think are best to work with to reach decisions?
  2. Who are the key stakeholders in this position and how will they be involved in making decisions? Which stakeholders are involved and who typically makes the final decision?
  3. Who are the customers for this position, and how do you make decisions about what products or services to offer them?
  4. Will I have input into what products or services we offer to our customers? For the larger scale direction of the organization, does the CEO solicit input and feedback from all employees?
  5. What is the process of how and when change happens? What are the steps involved in making such a change?

Knowing how decisions are made is very important. It can be very revealing to you with this information. Not only will you know when changes or new things are happening, but you will also be able to see where some major changes have been made in the history of the company. Being realistic and concerned for the company shows that you have a vested interest in how the company is doing.

In the next article linked below, you can pierce through their iron-clad armor and find out things they really don't want knowing too much about. But the fact is - a discussion is a two way street. You should be entitled to know as much as possible from the other side, as they've already put you long enough on the hotseat.
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