6 great questions to ask on a job interview

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At the end of most job interviews, you're asked a seemingly innocuous, open-ended question: "Do you have any questions for me?" That may seem straightforward enough, but in fact there are many ways to go astray.

One obvious mistake is not asking anything at all, which shows that you haven't given any serious thought to the possibility of employment at this particular organization. The second is asking questions that can be answered with a simple Internet search. That's a sure sign of laziness and inattention to detail -- two qualities that don't exactly scream "A+ candidate."

By contrast, asking good questions will leave the interviewer with a positive impression of you. It also allows you to figure out if this company and possible manager is a good fit (because job interviews are fact-finding missions for both parties).

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Here are some key questions to trot out in your next interview. Notice that "Can I take 'Summer Fridays'?" is not included.

Who's in charge? Ask who you'd be reporting to and how success will be measured, suggests executive coach Meg Montford. "It tells them that you are ambitious and not just a time-clock puncher." If you're hired, knowing how achievement is measured will help you get off on the right foot.

What's your management style? If you determine that the interviewer is also your potential manager, try to get a feel for what he or she might be like on the job by asking, "How would you define or describe your own management style?" advises Ford Myers, author of Get The Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring. Doing basic research on the company is great, but you need to figure out what daily life would be like in the trenches.

What's your biggest problem right now? "This question tells the company that you're already processing how you may contribute value to them," Montford says. Showing that you're already thinking about the job's challenges makes it easier for hiring managers to picture you in that position. Listen closely, and mention some possible solutions on the spot or in a follow up "thank you" note. On the other hand, if the problem seems like something you can't or have no interest in solving, the job might not be a great fit.

Why are YOU here? Asking why this person has joined the company and why they've stayed will give you instant insight into its corporate culture, Myers says. If their reasons align with with your own motives for wanting to come aboard, that may bode well for your happiness at the organization. If they have trouble coming up with anything better than, "hey, it's a job," that may be a red flag.

Why is this position open? It's important to determine if the job is new or if it already existed. Did the previous person leave, and is there an internal candidate? "If it's a new position, then you may have some input into how the job is defined, if you're hired," Montford says. "If there's an internal candidate, then that opens up many more questions in your mind, such as will the internal person have an edge among the competition."

What next? Two helpful questions at the end of an interview are "where are you in the hiring process?" and "when and how should I follow up?" Myers says. These show that you're genuinely interested in the job, while also providing essential information for your job search plan.

What questions do you ask in a job interview?

  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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