What questions should you ask at a job interview?

Flickr user bpsusf

(MoneyWatch) Every hiring manager saves some time during your interview so you can ask some questions. After all, an interview is supposed to work both ways; it's a chance for you to size up the company while they're evaluating you. Yet for many people, this is one of the hardest parts of the interview experience. What to ask?

Often, the stock advice you'll hear includes recommendations to ask about the company's corporate culture, competitive positioning, and other aspects of the business that have little or no bearing on your actual job satisfaction. I've got a different angle for you to consider: Ask questions about those aspects of employment that are unlikely to come up during the interview, but can materially affect how you feel about the role. Here are some questions to ask that will help you gauge how happy you'll be at the company over the long haul and how much opportunity there is for you to grow and be promoted into new roles.

What is the performance review system like? Asking your hiring manager to explain the performance review system can be very illuminating. Do they have a well-designed, fair and transparent review process? Does the hiring manager understand it? Are employees "stack ranked?" Is there a bonus system? This is how you'll be evaluated and rewarded, so it's only reasonable that you know about it before starting to work here.

Is there a formal training program for managers? Many companies "promote" knowledge workers to management by assigning them a direct report or two, without making any effort to ensure they're suitable or ready for management. Other companies have management training or coaching programs. Whether a company equips new managers for success tells you a lot about how thoughtful they are about all aspects of employee relations and performance management.

Is there an employee mentor program? Mentoring programs, both formal and informal, show a lot of respect for employees and a willingness to invest in their success. Watch for an enthusiastic story about how employees are mentored or coached by peers on their team -- and beware a blank stare.

What other important questions would you ask on a job interview? Share your experience in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user bpsusf