Interview due diligence: What to ask the hiring manager

Posted by Amanda Augustine

03:11 PM

How to properly assess a potential opportunity during the interview process.


Interviews can be nerve-racking affairs. It’s easy to get so caught up in crafting the perfect responses to your interviewer’s questions that you forget to ask questions of your own.

Remember, an interview is a two-way street. As a candidate, you’re not there to simply answer the hiring manager’s inquiries. It’s important to take a consultative approach and ask questions that help you understand how the company operates, whether the position is a good fit for you and your goals, and if the organization is stable. 

This is even more important if you’re job hunting while employed. No matter how miserable your current position may be, focus on finding the right opportunity rather than simply escaping your current situation.

Here are some questions you can ask to get a deeper understanding of an organization and position yourself as the right candidate for the job.

What would the perfect candidate for this position look like?

(Translation: How should I position my skills and experience? Am I qualified for the job?)

It’s much easier to pitch your skills and experience when you understand what matters most to the hiring manager. Use the interviewer’s response to this question to identify the role’s core requirements and tailor your responses to demonstrate your qualifications.

Ask this question to each interviewer you speak with to further clarify the role and its responsibilities. If the responses vary greatly, proceed with caution. When the stakeholders are not in agreement, this could spell trouble for the person who accepts the position.

Why is this position open (or created)? If hired, what are the three most important things you’d like me to accomplish in the first year?

(Translation: What problem are you trying to solve? What’s your pain point?)

If an employer is filling a position, it means there’s an unmet need or a challenge they want to address with this role. Your goal is to determine what the hiring manager wants the successful candidate to accomplish. Use the STAR method to develop succinct stories that position your abilities as the answer to the employer’s current pain point.

How would you describe your company culture? What kinds of people are successful here?

(Translation: Will I fit in with the team? Will I enjoy working here?)

You can have the best skill set in the world but if you don’t mesh well within the organization, it will never work out. Use questions like the ones above to get a better understanding of the company’s values and work style. Also pay attention to your surroundings as you’re led to and from the interview room. Does the office have cubicles or an open-floor layout? What does the break room look like? These little details will clue you into the company culture and help you determine if it’s the right environment for you.

What is your timeline for making a decision? May I call or email you to follow up on my candidacy?

(Translation: What are the next steps?)

Ask this question towards the end of your interview round to determine your next steps. If the interviewer would prefer you to follow up via email, make sure you jot down the person’s name and email address or ask for a business card.

Carefully research the organization before your next interview, and make a list of questions to ask each interviewer. Your preparation will demonstrate your genuine interest in the role and help you properly evaluate the position.

Looking for more interview help? Click on the following link to read TheLadders’ Founder Marc Cenedella’s list of top interview questions.

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Amanda Augustine is the Job Search Expert for TheLadders. She provides job search and career guidance for professionals looking to make their next career move. Have a question for Amanda? Submit your question here for a chance to have it answered in her weekly column, and be sure to follow her at @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter and “Like” her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute job-search advice.

Topics: Ask Amanda, Interview