Most of us tend to think that an interview is all about fielding the many volleys and questions thrown at us, but that’s not so. In these times, asking questions is as important as answering them. However, this brings up the question – what does one ask?

Interviews are a challenge at any stage in one’s career, but as a new entrant into the job market, questioning a potential employer can pose a major conundrum.

According to the My First Job Survey we conducted recently, the biggest interview mistake that the young talent polled thinks they made was not asking questions in the interview.

Asking the right questions can help you stand apart from the crowd. It also gives you an opportunity to find out more about the role and the company you’re applying to.

So the next time you head into an interview, consider asking any of these six key questions:

  1. How could I impress you in the first 3 months?

This question shows you’re thinking ahead and are keen to plan and do what’s best for the company and you. It demonstrates your commitment to make a positive contribution and focus on being a team player.

  1. What kind of challenges could I face in the first 3 months?

Employers tend to ask freshers about the toughest challenge they faced in college and how they dealt with it. Asking about the challenges you may face shows that you are prepared to work through or around challenges.

  1. What have you enjoyed most about working here?

A variation of the “what’s the work environment like” query, this question lets the hiring manager connect with you on a personal level. The answer will offer unique insight into how satisfied s/he is with the job. If they take their time answering, consider it a red flag.

  1. Do you offer continuing education & professional training?

This is a great question; it shows that you aren’t content to rest on past laurels/degrees and are interested in expanding your knowledge. If you grow, so does your employer, and working on your skills is an important step towards growth.

  1. Who previously held this position?

There may seem to be better questions than this one, but this innocuous poser will tell you whether the person was promoted, fired or if s/he quit or retired. That should clue you in on many things – chances for advancement, employee engagement and team dynamics.

  1. When can I expect to hear from you & what are the next steps?

This should ideally be your last question – and one that you shouldn’t hesitate to ask. Hiring managers often take time to come to a decision, so knowing the steps in the hiring process makes things easier for you.

Other questions you could work around are:

  • Can people develop quickly here?
  • What skills and experiences make an ideal candidate?
  • What constitutes success at this position and this firm?
  • What is the work environment and culture like?
  • What kind of people do you find are the right fit for your firm?
  • Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?
  • Can you tell me about your new products or plans for growth?

The answers to these questions are as important as the questions, so listen up. Your interviewer is showing you the path ahead in clear words – what you should be focusing on and how they would like to see you perform.

As a thumb rule, avoid asking “me” questions, questions that put you ahead of the employer. An interview is the time to convey to the employer how you can benefit the company, not how the company can benefit you. Keep the queries about salary, work hours, vacation time, health insurance and other details for later – when you get the job offer.

Ask only one question at a time so that you don’t overwhelm the employer. Overtly personal questions are a no-no. And make sure you don’t end up interviewing the interviewer: No more than three questions should be your note to yourself.

Asking questions when you are invited to indicate that you’re interested in moving the process along. If you’re lucky, you may just hear: No other step, you’re hired!

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