An interview is an opportunity for you to decide whether you want to work for a company – not just whether they want to hire you. When the interviewer asks if you have questions, make sure you’ve prepared something to say.

Asking intelligent questions can help you stand out from the competition, as well as helping you decide whether the job is right for you. Here are five possible questions to pose and why you should ask them…

1. What are the main challenges someone in this role is likely to face?
Depending on the candour of the interviewer, their answer may give you an indication of what the role will be like. Take care, though. If you ask this question, you must follow it up with a positive statement – otherwise it can look like you’re not willing to do the tough stuff.

Take the opportunity to explain how your skills and experience equip you to deal with the problem or how you have overcome a similar issue in the past.

Ideally, you want to demonstrate that you are aware of the challenges currently facing the team/company/industry – while at the same time showing you are enthusiastic about getting stuck in and making a difference.

No role is without challenges, and if the interviewer denies any downsides to the job you have to wonder what else they might be lying about.

2. How do you measure success in the first three months and beyond?
Knowing what’s expected of you in the first three months of the job should give you an idea of the employer’s priorities and what you should focus on.

Sometimes there can be a mismatch between the job description and what a manager actually expects you to accomplish. If the answer you get is vague or seems lifted straight from the job description, don’t be afraid to drill down and ask for more detail.

How an employer measures success can also reveal the company’s values – are you expected to innovate and find new ways of doing things or follow existing processes, for example? Is the company focused on hitting sales targets, or concerned about improving communication within the team?

Ask yourself if the employer’s expectations are realistic. If not, you may want to reconsider your application or ask what support they offer employees.

3. How does the company develop its employees?
Following on from the previous point, will you be expected to hit the ground running or is there a training scheme in place? The company might have an induction programme, but what about on-going training? Do they offer courses in-house? What’s their budget for external training? Will you be paired up with a mentor to help you develop your career?

If there is no formal training scheme, ask the interviewer if they can give you an example of how they have developed another employee in a similar role. Or ask how many people have been promoted within the team in the last few years. If you are ambitious and keen to develop but their answer is vague, you may want to think twice about whether you want to work there.

4. What’s one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on?
Most people like talking about themselves, and this question is designed to get your potential manager talking about something they feel passionate about.

Asking about a particular project rather than a vague, “what do you like best about working here?” is likely to result in a more revealing response. Listen carefully and ask follow up questions, and you may pick up some interesting clues about what the job involves, how people function in particular roles, and the company’s values and culture.

5. Do you have any reservations about my suitability for the role?
The end of the meeting can be an opportunity to check in with the interviewer and gauge how well you are doing. For example, you might ask, “I’d like to make sure I’ve answered all your questions sufficiently. Is there anything you’d like me to explain in more detail?”

This question gives you the opportunity to put the interviewer’s mind at ease. Another approach is to ask, “Do you have any reservations about my suitability for the role?”

This question is not for the faint-hearted and has the potential to leave you vulnerable, but if you feel you haven’t performed well, it gives you a chance to salvage things.

Give the interviewer time to express their concerns and don’t immediately go on the defensive. If necessary, ask further questions to get a clear idea of how and why they have formed a particular perception of you.

If you decide to put forward a defence, back up your points with evidence. If the interviewer’s concerns are legitimate, don’t try to gloss over them. Instead, suggest how you plan to improve, by taking a course, or working with a mentor, for example. This will show that you are self-aware and keen to develop.

Looking for your next role? We can help match you to the right employer and even coach you through your interview. Email us to find out more or call Natasha on: 020 3865 3854.