You’ve answered all the questions with ease and remembered to talk about your skills and experience. And then comes that final moment in every job interview.
“Do you have any questions for us?”
Whether it’s your first interview or you’ve been in your field for a decade, this can be a challenging question to answer.
You want to learn about the culture of the organization, how employees are treated, what success may look like for this particular role, and maybe even get a sense of the benefits. But you don’t want to ask anything that may harm your chances of getting hired.
Read on for some tips from independent career coach and author Heather Krasna about the best questions to ask, and which one to leave off the list.
"What do you like most about working here, and what are some of the challenges?"
Krasna says that asking this question can give you insight into the culture of the organization. If your interviewers say they love being part of a team and enjoy their coworkers, it’s a good sign. On the other hand, if they throw out a stock answer, like: “the benefits are great,” then you may want to think twice.
She also suggests paying attention to an interviewer’s facial expressions and body language. If she looks uncomfortable or nervous, this may speak volumes. But if she smiles and answer positively, then not only do you know that the organization has a good culture but you’ve also made your interviewer feel happy, and you can never go wrong with that.
"If you hired me and I did a great job, what would my main project be six months from now?"
This question forces your interviewers to imagine you in the role.
The more specific answer, the more your interviewer has thought about all of the important details. You want an answer that shows you they understand why the job is open as well as what goals they plan to put in place for you if you’re hired.
If your interviewer doesn’t know how to answer the question, it could mean that they don’t fully understand what the job is.
"Can you tell me about a typical day and are there times of the year that are busier than others?"
If you want to find out about the work-life balance, this is a nice way to investigate. Questioning interviewers about a typical day will not only give you an idea of what the job entails, it will also let you know the pace of the work. If your interview answers with things like “fast-paced environment,” or “work hard and play hard,” those are clues that the job won’t be your standard 9 to 5.
How and when you ask this question also depends on where you are in your career, Krasna says. If you’re an entry-level applicant and interviewing for your first job you may want to wait and ask this during follow up interviews. But if you’re a seasoned professional, you have more leverage.
Pro Tip: Remember that if you’re just entering the field, you will have to pay your dues at first, which could mean working longer hours or weekends. Regardless of your career level, you should always aim to go above and beyond in order to make a good impression.
"How is this position funded?"
If you’re interviewing at a nonprofit or government organization, this is a great second-interview question. This may tell you how stable both the position, and the organization are. If the position is grant funded, you may want to inquire about the lifespan of the grant
After asking this question, you may find out that the organization has only one major funder. A healthy funding model should include a combination of grants and personal donations. Without diverse funding, it is hard to gauge the longevity and stability of the organization.
"What is the pay and/or benefits?"
Krasna advises that you skip questions about pay and benefits until you get a job offer. If you are asked questions about what you would like the salary to be, she suggests avoiding those as well because it might hinder your ability to negotiate pay once you’re hired.
There are other ways to find out about what the potential pay is. You can usually find out what the executive director’s salary is by looking up the 990. If it’s a smaller organization, this can help give you an idea of what a range might be. You’ll know at least that your salary won’t be higher than the director.
There are only two exceptions to asking about pay, Krasna says. If you are a high-level professional who was recruited in the position, you can feel comfortable asking. Or, you’re coming in for your interview from out of state or even out of country and are expected to foot your own travel bill. It’s reasonable to ask about a potential salary range before you decide whether or not to splurge on a plane ticket to get to the interview.
These questions are a starting point. You may also want to do some research on the organization you’re interviewing with and come up with some specific questions. Whatever you decide to ask, just make sure you do ask questions when given the opportunity.
For more advice about preparing for a job interview, be sure to check out Krasna’s article on Idealist Careers, 5 Clever Ways To Prepare For A Job Interview. You can also read 175 Questions To Ask During A Job Interview and 5 Questions To Ask Your Potential Boss During A Job Interview.
About the Author | Samantha Fredrickson has worked in communications and nonprofit advocacy for more than a decade. She has spent much of her career advocating for the rights of vulnerable populations. She has degrees from the University of Nevada, Reno and New York Law School.