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Ace Your Interview: 5 Smart Questions to Stand Out from the Crowd

“That’s all our questions. Do you have any questions for us?”; That sentence is at the end of nearly every interview, and often, it’s answered with – “No, I think we’ve covered everything…”.

That is NOT what the interviewer(s) wants to hear. Asking follow-up questions shows that you're interested and that you are invested in learning more. By not asking questions, you're not only giving the impression that you aren't invested, but you are also missing a GOLDEN opportunity to showcase yourself to the employer.

Here in this article, we will equip you with valuable insights on follow-up interview questions, ensuring you have all the essential knowledge to excel in your next job interview. We'll explore a range of topics, including the types of questions to avoid, the optimal number of questions to ask, and most importantly, we will unveil five brilliant questions that will leave a lasting impression on your potential employer.

So, whether you're a seasoned professional or a fresh graduate entering the job market, read on to discover the secrets of acing your interview and securing that dream job.

A person on a wheel chair submitting their resume to the employers

Questions to Avoid

Before we go further and look at which questions to ask in an interview, let’s discuss what shouldn’t be asked in an interview. Here are four questions you MUST avoid.

  • When did this company start?

  • What is your mission statement?

  • How much are you paying?

  • How much do you offer in the way of benefits?

Essentially, we want to avoid two themes in our questions:

  1. Surface-Level Questions

  2. Self-Centred Questions

Surface-Level Questions

Surface-level questions are typically asked when someone doesn’t prepare anything else. If nerves and/or unpreparedness have left someone with no questions, rather than saying they have none, they may ask the first things that come to mind. Ex. “When did this company start?”, “What is your company mission statement?”.

These questions don’t do the interview context justice. In the interview, you have a chance for personal, conversational interaction with individuals bringing lived experience working for said company.

We should not be asking questions that can be answered by a quick Google search or skimming the company website.

Surface-level questions will give the impression that you’re not taking the job opportunity as seriously as you could be, and it’s hard for any company to hire a job seeker they don’t feel will be 100% committed to the role.

Self-Centred Questions

While no one wants to waste time and energy applying for a position that doesn’t meet their employment goals, it’s important to remember that an interview is about helping the employer feel confident in trusting you with the open position.

By asking questions that are about the rate of pay (they’ll likely have asked you your salary expectations anyways!), benefits, vacation days, etc., it risks the employer thinking you’re only interested in taking this job for what it can provide to you and not as interested in using your skills to serve the company through the role. This isn’t to say you can’t ask about these things but leave those questions for clarifying/negotiating AFTER you’ve received a job offer.

A potential candidate or employee shaking the employers hand.

Writing Questions Down:

It's essential to prepare your questions ahead of time and have them ready for the interview. Take the time to write down your questions and bring them with you. By doing so, you convey the message that these questions hold significant importance to you and that you want to ensure you don't forget any crucial points.

On the other hand, not writing them down may inadvertently convey the opposite message. So, remember to jot down your questions and demonstrate your keen interest and preparedness during the interview.

In the ebb and flow of interview conversation, there’s a high likelihood you’ll have one or more of your written questions answered before they ask you if you have any questions for them – you can still “get credit” for having the questions written down.

Example Scenario

Interviewer: Do you have any questions for us?
You: I do! In fact, I was going to ask you _______ and had written it down, but earlier you answered it with **repeat answer given earlier in the interview**

This way, you are still communicating that you had the forethought to ask the important question while having an opportunity to demonstrate your listening skills by repeating back what they said earlier in the interview.

A person writing notes in their note book during an interview

Number of Questions:

Having 5 questions prepared to ask is a good benchmark. You’re not monopolizing the interviewer’s time with too many questions. You’re showing the interviewers that you want to learn more about the open position and the company. You're allowing yourself to show your passion and enthusiasm. Finally, you're helping yourself gain a high score (many interview marking rubrics are scored out of 5 points per section), which is always a bonus!

In truth, there are a wide variety of questions to ask your interviewer, and if you’re following the above guidelines – odds are the questions you choose will be good ones. So, without further ado, here are 5 brilliant questions to ask in an interview.

5 Smart Questions to Impress Your Interviewer

1. What is your favourite part about working for [COMPANY NAME]?

Asking this question is an excellent follow-up question after an interview for several reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates your genuine interest in the company and its work culture. By asking about the interviewer's favourite aspect, you show that you value their perspective and seek to gain insight beyond what is readily available online.

In addition, this question allows you to gather firsthand information about the company's strengths and positive attributes, helping you assess whether it aligns with your own professional goals and aspirations. Furthermore, it allows the interviewer to share personal experiences and positive memories with the company, fostering a more engaging and authentic conversation that can leave a lasting impression.

Overall, asking about their favourite part about working for their company not only showcases your enthusiasm but also provides valuable insights that can aid in your decision-making process regarding the potential job opportunity.

2. When should I expect to hear back from you? OR What are the next steps in the hiring process?

By asking this question, you are communicating to the employer that this job is important and that you want to stay on top of this hiring process, demonstrating your keen interest and enthusiasm for the position. By asking about the timeline or next steps, you show that you are invested in the process and eager to move forward.

Additionally, this question provides a clear understanding of the hiring timeline, allowing you to manage your expectations and plan accordingly. Knowing when to expect a response enables you to follow up appropriately without being overly anxious.

Overall, asking about the next steps showcases your professionalism, assertiveness, and genuine interest in moving forward in the selection process.

3. What are the biggest challenges I would face as your [Position Name]?

Posing the question, "What are the primary challenges associated with the role?" after an interview is a highly valuable follow-up query for two big reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates your desire to gain a deeper understanding of the role and its potential challenges. By asking about the obstacles you might encounter, you show that you are prepared to tackle them head-on and that you value transparency and open communication.

Secondly, this question shows your adaptability and willingness to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and development. By addressing this question, you not only gain important information but also demonstrate your proactive and forward-thinking approach, making a positive impression on the interviewer.

Overall, inquiring about the biggest challenges highlights your commitment to success and readiness to overcome obstacles in the role you are pursuing.

A potential employee having a friendly chat with the employers while showing a big smile

4. What is the office culture like at your company?

Inquiring about the office culture at the company is an outstanding follow-up interview question for a couple of compelling reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates your genuine interest in understanding the work environment and how employees interact within the organization. By asking about office culture, you convey that you value a harmonious and supportive workplace that aligns with your preferences and values.

Secondly, the response to this question provides insights into the company's values, employee dynamics, and overall atmosphere. This information is crucial for assessing whether the organization is a good fit for you regarding collaboration, growth opportunities, and work-life balance.

Overall, by inquiring about office culture, you not only demonstrate your keen interest but also gather crucial information to make an informed decision about pursuing employment with the company.

5. If I’m selected for this role, what would my top goals to focus on in the first 6-12 months be?

Asking about your top goals for the initial months as a follow-up question is highly beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates your proactive mindset and eagerness to make a significant impact from day one. By asking this question, you convey your dedication to quickly contributing to the team and delivering results.

Secondly, the response to this question provides you with valuable insights into the company's priorities and expectations for the role. It helps you understand what the organization considers essential for success and allows you to align your own objectives and strategies accordingly. Moreover, it will enable you to visualize the potential trajectory of your role and gauge the level of support and resources available to help you achieve those goals.

Overall, by inquiring about the top goals in the first 6-12 months, you demonstrate your commitment to success, readiness to hit the ground running, and desire to contribute effectively to the company's objectives.

Have More Questions about Job Interviews?

There are many things to remember to perform at your best in a job interview; asking the right questions is just one of them. Here at Nova Scotia Works: TEAM Work Cooperative, we offer some great interview skills workshops, both on Zoom and in-person, that you can attend free of charge. By attending, you’ll learn many other great tips and strategies to best showcase yourself in your next job interview!

Additionally, you may want to get some 1-1 interview practice runs in by requesting a mock interview. Mock Interviews are available for registered TEAM Work clients who’ve attended the Interview Skills Workshop, which can be done by simply asking your case manager to sign you up!

To register as a TEAM Work client, fill out the form below (at the bottom of this page, in the footer section) to get started!


A picture of Alex Hill, the author of this blog article.

About James Smith

Born in Halifax and raised in the small town of Middle Musquodoboit, James learned that neighbours are important and should stick together, and thus he decided he wanted to help people for a living. Whether critiquing a resume or helping a friend move, James is always game and always smiling.

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