One Very Important Question to Ask During an Interview

"Tell me, why do you want to work for this company?" "I want to work for a company that believes in its employees and helps them develop and learn." "I see." (Sometimes it takes all your strength not to blurt out, "So do I, damn it, so do I!")

This cartoon from 1.00 FTE reminded me of a question that I, as a candidate, was once advised to ask my interviewer:

“Why do you enjoy working here?”

Some folks answer this well, but every once in a while, you get an interviewer who stumbles on it. Maybe they weren’t expecting it, or maybe they are thinking what that poor person in the cartoon is. Whatever the reason for the flub, it’s worth making a mental note.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not telling you to automatically cross off every company where you get anything less than a “This place is amazing!” for a response.

But it happens so often that candidates are so busy trying to impress this prospective employer that they don’t take the time to do a critical evaluation of it. Heck, they don’t even do a cursory one. They do everything they can to get hired and are elated to be in this new role.

Then the honeymoon ends and they realize that they inadvertently missed the sign that reads, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.


I know the interview phase is an exciting time, but these kinds of mistakes don’t have to happen. Take some time to see if you really would like the position you have applied for by asking questions like the one above.

As a bonus, here are some other questions that will allow you to better assess your fit with a company/department. Don’t ask all of them, but 1-2 strategically placed during the interview and 1-2 more at the end will help you:

  • “How would you describe the corporate culture here?”
  • “Can you tell me about your management style?” (Use this if being interviewed by the person who would become your boss.)
  • “What would you say are the company’s top five assets?” (“Employees” should be in there somewhere, and not as an afterthought!)
  • “What does success in this position looks like to you?”
  • “Why is this position open now?” (If there has been a lot of turnover, it could be a red flag.)
  • “Not every initiative can be a success. How does the department/company deal with failure?”

What other questions do you as a candidate like to ask during a job interview to ascertain fit?

Image courtesy of Stuart Ritchie at 1.00 FTE

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  1. The best way to discern what question needs to be asked is listening to what is not being said. Attempts to understand the breadth of the position should be the priority. Melissa, you kind of hit on an crucial question already, “What are the top five results you expect from me in the first 90 days?”

    • Melissa Cooley
      Twitter: TheJobQuest

      I do agree with you, Mark, that gaining information about the position beyond the job description is important. But I do feel it is just as critical to get a sense of whether or not it would be a good fit in terms of corporate culture, the management style of the prospective boss, and so on. Two positions that look the same on paper and in how they are described by HR/hiring managers could be identical, but end up being vastly different because of other environmental factors that have nothing to do with the work itself.

  2. Enrique Ríos says:

    It is one of those few times that I see an article that really helps; short, focused, and with examples. Congratulations!!!


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