The 5 Most Important Questions to Ask in an Interview

Asking these power-packed questions will give you a decided edge in winning the job
By: Donald J. Strankowski

Above all, interviewing skills are the single most critical part of the job search process.

To win the job you have to ace the interview.  It’s as simple as that.  As a former corporate recruiter, I have interviewed countless people who appeared to be the perfect fit for a position only to find out that upon meeting them, they looked much better on paper.  They were not a good fit regarding their soft or “people” skills or their personality was not a good match for the position.  Still others came in jaded and some were very unprepared.  A few even asked me for a piece of paper so they could take notes!

In the interview, the questions you ask are just as important as the answers you give.  The interviewer will interpret your motivations and work ethic by the types of questions you ask.  Put some thought into them.  You want relevant information but also want to portray yourself as someone who is a top performer.  Asking certain questions can assist you with this.  You also need to ask closing questions.  The entire job search model, and especially interviewing, is a selling process so you need to ask for the order—and the order is hiring you!

Keep your list to 5-7 questions total; time is usually limited in an interview situation.  If the interviewer doesn’t appear to be pressed for time—great—ask more questions if you’re invited to.  Otherwise, you can always follow up via phone or email if you need more information.  Regardless, always make sure you are 100 percent clear and have the information you need before moving to the next level or accepting any offer.

Here are the Top Five questions you should be asking in every interview situation.  These questions will help you gain valuable information about the position and also establish you as a high-achiever, someone who is success-oriented, and assist you in closing the deal:

1 – What are the characteristics of your top _______________ (fill in job title)? / What are the common denominators to success in this position?

Why Ask: You’re positioning yourself as someone who is serious about their success and also shows humility.  You want to do the best job you can and the best learn from the best.  You want to learn what the best are doing right and follow their lead.  You also want to hear directly from the interviewer, and/or possibly your future supervisor, what they perceive the top qualities to be.  The written job description may say one thing, but the hiring manager’s idea of key traits and qualities may be something else.  You can then use the buzzwords and traits they describe throughout the rest of the interview.

2- What are the biggest rewards of the position?  Biggest challenges?

Why Ask: You are stating that you are up to challenges and are goal-oriented.  You are driven by accomplishment.  Sometimes, interviewers will paint a rosy picture as to what the job will entail.  By asking what the challenges are, you’re also gaining an understanding as to what the “down and dirty” elements of the job will be.  Remember, as great as the job sounds, there are two sides to every coin.

3- How will my performance be measured?

Why Ask: This question allows you to gauge what determines doing a good job from doing a fair job and so that you are clear on expectations.  Are there any gray areas?  What are the measurable criteria?  Are they clear to you?  What are the factors that will determine doing a good job from doing a great job?  How often will you be offered a formal employee review?  Eliminate any chance for a misunderstanding when measuring your work performance.  Where possible, all performance should be quantifiable.

4- Why do you feel that I would be a good fit for the position?

Why Ask: You are asking what is known in sales as a soft close question.  You are getting the employer to state in their own words why they should hire you.  By doing this, you are programming them to do just that—hire you.  Getting prospects to verbalize why and how they can use your product is one of the most effective techniques in selling.  This situation is no different.  You are the product, they are the buyer.  You are getting them to verbalize the benefits of having you on board.

***The most important question you can ask during the interview is: ***

5- Is there anything that I have said or didn’t discuss that would disqualify me from
further consideration?   

Why Ask: This is essentially your “closing the deal” question.  Ask this question when you feel things are winding down.  As mentioned, the job interview is about selling yourself as an ideal fit for the position.  Most salespeople fail to close deals because surprisingly, they never ask for the sale.  By asking this question, you are basically giving them another chance to address any concerns they may have with you and/or anything else they need further clarification on.  This is the single most vital question you can ask in the interview.  It must be asked towards the end of each interview and at each different level of the interview process.  This one question will address any concerns and then erase any uncertainty the interviewer has about hiring you.  Surprisingly enough, when I asked this question during interview sessions, in about 50 percent of the cases, the interviewer did want to go back and reinvestigate something.  Had I never asked, I may have been bumped from consideration because they were misled or unclear about something I said.


The job search model, especially the interview phase, is a selling model.  You are the product and also the salesperson.  You need to sell the client, in this case the employer, on them hiring you over the competition.  You’re being hired or not will depend on how well you can sell your “product”— you!  It is imperative that you ask for the business.

Develop the belief that you are the best candidate for the position!  Present your case with passion and enthusiasm, providing validation that you can do the job and drawing a correlation to past experiences along the way.  Above all, you need to sell them on the fact that you are the best candidate for the position and tell them you want the job.

If you would like a free TIP sheet on how to handle Curveball Questions and ideas for Introspective Questions of your own, send an email to [email protected].

Donald J. Strankowski Jr. is founder and president of Ascend Career and Life Strategies, a career training and management firm for businesses, professionals and executives.  He works out of Boulder, Colorado and can be contacted at 303-245-7049, via email at [email protected], or on the web at

Just Published!  Get Hired!  10 Simple Steps for Winning the Job You Desire—in Any Economy by Donald J. Strankowski
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