9 Questions to Ask on an Interview

February 2, 2018

Whether you’ve been to one or a dozen job interviews over the course of your engineering career, you’re probably used to a certain natural order in format and execution.  Your interviewer will review your resume, describe the open position and then ask a few relevant questions to help flush out how you may fit into the given role.

While this is certainly an accepted format that may lead to a callback or job offer, the savviest of candidates know that turning the tables and becoming the question asker is an essential element to standing out among a sea of applicants.  Savvy and well-crafted questions not only make the interview run more smoothly, they can also demonstrate a more nuanced or knowledgeable understanding of the subject matter. Showcasing these skills is vital to impressing hiring managers and a key element to job offer success.  

To that end, we’ve come up with nine killer questions interviewees should be asking, grouped handily into three general categories.  Consider these questions a guide and use them to help prep for your next interview in the engineering world.

Investigate the Job

Asking pointed and direct questions about the position you are applying for serves multiple goals.  First, you’ll be able to uncover any potential red flags or other critical information that may see you reconsidering whether the role is as great a fit as it initially appeared.  From the hiring manager’s perspective, asking questions about the position helps to evaluate your interest and can help demonstrate your enthusiasm and dedication to the potential opening.  For specific questions, consider the following:

  1. What would my first priority be in this role?

Setting up a list of priorities in the position will help you make a greater impact starting on day one.  The interviewer’s answer to the question can also provide additional insights into the company’s immediate needs.  Having this knowledge can help you pitch yourself as a solution

  1. What are my goals for the first 30 days in this position? For the first year?

In addition to the immediate priority concerns, asking your potential employer about what you’ll be expected to accomplish in the first year is a great way of assessing workload.  This is especially important if the position is new or has experienced a great deal of turnover, which can be a red flag that points towards unreasonable expectations or expectations that are out of line given the compensation that is being offered.

  1. What metrics gauge success?

This question can be phrased in a variety of ways.  However, you choose to ask, be sure you fully understand how and why you’ll be receiving positive reviews or critical feedback.  Maybe you’re coming from a background of hard sales numbers setting the bar and the company instead will look towards client satisfaction ratings.  Be sure you are both speaking the same language when it comes to achievements and how they will be judged.

Learn More About the Company

Whether it be the corporate culture, plans for expansion and growth or overall business model, learning about the company during your interview is a must for savvy candidates.  Even if you’ve done your research prior to taking the interview, confirmation of the results of your sleuthing certainly won’t hurt. Here are a few ideas to help get your prospective employer to spill the beans.

  1. Is this a newly created position? If not, where is my predecessor?

A difficult but essential question of any job candidate, learning about the how’s and why’s of your open position will often necessitate enquiring about what happened to the person or persons that came before you.  If your position is brand new, this is equally as important a fact as it will clue you in that there may be hurdles or challenges that often accompany developing a brand new role.

  1. Tell me about the performance review process.

Sure, we may all hate them, but performance reviews are an inevitable part of any job, regardless of whether you’re changing positions.  How your new company tackles this essential task, however, can tell you a great deal about corporate culture as well as management style of those above you in the pecking order.  Speaking of the performance review process now may also be a good time to ask if those annual reviews count towards promotions or other incentives such as pay raises or bonuses.

  1. Is there a formal mentoring or training program for new hires?

Every company has its own tools, processes, and procedures. The amount of specialized knowledge required to fill almost any given engineering role is such that serious firms typically place new hires in mentor relationships or formal training programs. If such measures are in place, learn as much about them as you can. If not… the lack of such measures is certainly interesting, though not necessarily disqualifying. Their reasoning for avoiding such formal development programs will prove informative, in any case.

Who Will You Be Working With?

After you’ve discovered the what and why it’s time to ask a few questions about the who.  In this case, we’re referring to discovering information about your potential future coworkers, managers and department team.

  1. What can you tell me about the team?

Nearly every job role will fit within a specific hierarchical structure, department or group at the new company.  Delving into the details of your potential workmates and direct reports will help prep you for day one. Who is your immediate supervisor and will you have a few or numerous support staff to help you accomplish your daily goals.  Bonus points for asking this question as your interviewer will understand that you have the big picture of your role in mind.

  1. Which engineers stand out as worth emulating? Why?

If you want to be the best, learn from the best.  As the tried and true saying goes, becoming your new company’s model engineer will often require emulating their current star employees.  Find out what it is that your hiring manager finds worthy of praise in the person and strive towards that in your own performance or, better yet, point out areas where those same skills shine in yourself.

  1. How long have you worked here? Are you happy with your position?

As is the case with many of these types of “listicles”, we’ve saved the best and most informative question to ask during an interview, for last.  Asking a direct question of the interviewer’s own personal and professional experience with the company is a novel but useful approach. Since it’s not something that comes up often, your conversation counterparty may be prompted to an off the cuff reply, leading to an honest conversation about the pluses and potential minuses of your taking on the new job title.

Close Strong, Not Hard

If we can offer a bit of final wrap up guidance for your interview questions, it would center around being sure to end and begin for that matter, in a professional manner.  The purpose of a candidate asking questions during the interview process isn’t to grill the other side but to start a meaningful dialog that allows both participants to get to know each other better.  Remember the no one, yourself included, likes to be put on the spot and keep your grilling friendly for the best chance at landing the engineering job you have your sights set on.

What questions do you always ask in an interview? Why not share it with your fellow engineers? Comment below or tweet us @EngineerJobs to join the conversation.


Article Updated from the Original on February 2, 2018


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