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Questions to Ask Interviewer

Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding the Questions to Ask an Interviewer

Last Updated June 7, 2023

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Questions to Ask Interviewer

How to Answer, “Do You Have Any Questions for Me?”

Just as first impressions are critical in job interviews, ending the interview well is another influential moment in the interview that can determine whether a candidate receives an offer.

Interviewers tend to retain the earlier and ending parts of a conversation the most, therefore the two points in the interview that are essential to get right are:

  1. The interviewer’s initial impression of when you first introduced yourself and the “small talk” at the beginning of the interview.
  2. The manner in which the interview wrapped up, where the final question is typically “Do you have any questions for me?”

View the question as an opportunity, and do not let it go to waste by asking generic questions. Rather, view it as a chance to have a less formal yet personal discussion with the interviewer, even if the interview was subpar up to that point.

Categories of Questions to Ask an Interviewer

Each question must be phrased in polite ways to get the interviewer to open up more and bring up a sense of nostalgia (or pride) in their accomplishments, but without coming across as disingenuous.

Further, another rule to keep in mind is to ask open-ended questions (i.e. cannot be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No”).

We can broadly organize examples of open-ended questions to ask an interviewer into four main categories:

  1. Background Questions
  2. Experience Questions
  3. Industry and Firm-Specific Questions
  4. Career Advice Questions

Background Questions (“Story”)

Background questions should get the interviewer to discuss their career path and how their experiences at the firm have been thus far.

However, background questions should not be asked without some sort of preface that shows you were paying attention to the interviewer.

For instance, if you ask for more details about the interviewer’s experience on its own, the broad question can come across as too generic, especially if the interviewer had already shared some background information earlier in the interview.

Prior to asking for someone to expand upon their career path, it’s best practice to repeat some of the details that were mentioned earlier in the interview.

Examples of Background Questions

  • “Could you tell me more about your career path?”
  • “How has your time in [Industry] been to date?”
  • “Which specific tasks or responsibilities of your job do you enjoy the most?”
  • “What are some goals you hope to achieve while working at this firm?”

To reiterate, these questions should not be asked as standalone questions without context, so remember to keep your questions “conversational” and avoid asking questions in a seemingly disrespectful manner.

For example, instead of simply asking “What are some personal goals of yours?”, it’s much better to say something on the lines of “Since you mentioned earlier your desire to move up the ranks at [Investment Bank], do you mind if I ask which factors solidified that goal for you?”

Experience Questions (“Past Experiences”)

The next category of questions is to ask about the past experiences of the interviewer.

The objective here is to show genuine interest in the interviewer’s past experiences, beyond just “How did you get your job?”

Examples of Past Experience Questions

  • “Could you tell me about the first deal you were staffed on?’
  • “Of the past deals that you were tasked on, which deal is the most memorable to you?”
  • “Coming into this role, which one of your past experiences do you feel directly prepared you the most?”

Industry and Firm-Specific Questions

Industry and firm-specific questions should reflect your interest in the industry specialization of the firm.

In other words, it should focus on why your interests match up with the firm’s focus, which is typically the interests of the interviewer, as well.

At the very least, you’ll appear as someone with some background knowledge of the industry and/or product group focus of the firm, which aids in learning and getting up to speed on the job quickly.

Examples of Industry and Firm-Specific Questions

  • “For which reasons did the [Industry / Product Group] appeal to you when recruiting?”
  • “Which specific trends in the [Industry] are you most excited about, or feel there is too much optimism in the market?”
  • “Do you have any unique predictions on the outlook of the [Industry] that not everyone shares?”
  • “How has deal flow been recently for the [Firm]?”

Career Advice Questions (“Guidance”)

Here, you should ask questions related to the interviewer’s unique experiences but that still applies to your own development, which again brings back the importance of making each question open-ended.

Examples of Career Advice Questions

  • “If you could go back to when you were still getting your undergraduate degree, which advice would you give yourself?”
  • “Since joining the firm, what is the most valuable lesson you have learned since joining this firm?”
  • “What do you credit your past achievements to?”
  • “Given my past experiences, which areas would you recommend that I spend more time on improving upon?”

Types of Questions to Avoid Asking – Common Mistakes (“Red Flags”)

Understanding the questions NOT to ask is just as important as knowing the right types of question to ask.

To start, avoid any generic, non-personal questions such as “What qualities do you look for in a potential hire?”, as the answer is likely to be very bland, causing it to be difficult to ask follow-up questions and initiate an ongoing conversation.

You should also avoid asking the interviewer questions about the role that could either be easily Googled or was listed in the internship/job posting, such as “How many hours am I expected to work?”

Asking those sorts of questions indicates the candidate performed inadequate research on the firm and the role.

Instead, view the interview question as an opportunity to have an informal chat with the person sitting across from you and learn more about who they are on a more personal level.

Our final piece of advice is to make sure to ask thoughtful follow-up questions to demonstrate that you actually paid attention to the interviewer’s answers.

How to End the Interview on a Positive Note?

In summary, the strategy behind each question should be to show:

  • Genuine Interest in the Interviewer’s Background and Perspectives
  • Sufficient Time Spent Researching the Firm/Role
  • Attention-to-Detail During the Interview Itself

If the dialogue during this final portion of the interview is brief, or if the interviewer cuts you off, this may be indicative of a negative result.

There are exceptions to this rule – e.g. the interviewer might have another call coming up or a busy schedule that specific day – but you can usually gauge how your interview went based on this final “Q&A” portion of the interview.

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