Questions You Should Ask At An Interview

I can never think about what questions to ask at interviews.  I usually freeze up.  Well I was thinking about and I have come to the conclusion that the questions YOU ask are as important as the questions THEY ask for YOU, not them. I’m going to keep adding to this list as time goes on.

1. Where do you think the company will be in five years?

They ask this question of you, ask it of them.  Actually it’s more important that you ask it.  After all if things go kablooey it’s your butt on the line.

2. How was sales growth last year? In the last five years?

Are you hiring on to a dead duck or a swan. this might be important.

3. Where did the hiring manager go on vacation?

This will tell you a lot about several things. One, how overworked the hiring manager was, and by extension how the rest of the team was. Two, how confident the hiring manager was that the team could handle things without him.  If he just goes to VA beach it’s one thing, to some exotic far away location, it’s says he’s not to concerned about how well his team can handle things. Three, the financial prospects of the hiring manager and by extension, the company.  If he feels that he can take an expensive vacation that means he’s confident that things are OK.

4. How many new products were produced in the last five years?

You should have some idea already from your research, but asking this gives you insight into how hard the company is working.

5. Does the company allow time for you to pursue your own projects?   

This is important for creatives in product development and engineering.  But it’s also important for others especially as review systems seemingly revolve around pursuing your own goals.  If the company won’t provide that time it’s a bad signal.

6. What are the company’s IP practices? 

This is bigger than people might think.  My last employment contract said in essence that anything creative I did was company property regardless of where and when I did it.  I expected that everybody had that clause in their contracts.  If you make real money with something the company might come around with attorneys with their hands out even if what you did  had nothing to do with your job.

7. Does the company allow after hours shop access? 

In YouTuber Tom Lipton’s book he made a comment on how the shops he worked at allowed this practice and the advantages that both the employees and the company gained from the self training required to complete projects that the employees wouldn’t do on their own.

8. Does the company support extracurricular volunteerism?  Is there an approved list or can any activity be added?

This one’s a little tricky, but if you volunteer for something outside the usual, it might give you an idea of how flexible the thinking is at your potential employer.

9. What are the hour flexibility requirements? 

Some companies  can be dinosaurs about this.  Most of us don’t; work on assembly lines anymore and why should we live on an assembly line schedule?

10.  What was the turnover last year?

You have spotted this as an issue in your research, but follow up anyway.

11. What was the biggest issue for the company in the last year?

Again, you should be able to get this from running google search for stories, but it’s better to find out first hand.

12. What was the biggest  change the company made in the last year?

Something probably happened, how did they deal with it?

13. How big was the team that finished the last project?

This might give you an idea of bloat.  Remember, it’s last in first out, usually.

14. Is the last new hire still with the company?  When was he hired?

This will give you an idea of how stable the team is.

15. What growth opportunities are their in the company? 

You will want to know if the company sees growth coming.

16. What was the company’s biggest mistake in the last five years?

You should have found this in the Wall Street Journal or the trade papers, but you want to see if they admit to the real story.

17. What are the CEO’s hobbies?

A CEO who likes to fun and interesting stuff usually means an interesting company. And vice versa.  Though if the CEO is doing interesting stuff you won’t have to ask.  You will see the stuff in the lobby.

18. Ask about the stuff in the lobby?

Companies will usually have stuff from the business in the lobby display case.  Ask about it.  It will gain you some surprising information and brownie points at the same time. If there is no stuff in the lobby, maybe you should think twice about working there.

19. What makes the company special?

Try to get the hiring manager to sell the company to you.  If he can’t you shouldn’t buy.

20. How long have you had this job?

If the hiring manager is middle aged, is he counting the years to retirement.  Is there dust in the company.  How much disruption is going on.  this is important stuff to know and this question will give you a feel for that.


  1. Peter Hanely · March 25, 2015

    “My last employment contract said in essence that anything creative I did was company property regardless of where and when I did it.”
    You have GOT to be kidding. No way would I sign something like that. I do far to much creative stuff in my spare time.


    • jccarlton · March 25, 2015

      That’s what the contract said. And I agree with you. This was in 2009 and for a variety of reasons I didn’t want to bail. I sort of felt it was take it or leave it. I’ve learned since.


  2. Pingback: Job Search Article Aggregate – March 25, 2015 | David Hunt, PE… Mechanical Engineer on the loose!

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