INT. OFFICE – DAY.
Hiring leader and highly-competent, motivated candidate (hey, that’s you!)
HIRING LEADER: “So, what questions do you have for me?”

Every recruiter and hiring leader knows that when a candidate’s interviewing for an open position, they’re usually on their best behavior. What may come as a surprise is that the interviewer is usually trying to impress you just as hard! Like a first date, both parties are showing off their finest qualities, hoping they’ve found The One. Every detail that comes out of the hiring manager’s mouth makes the potential job sound absolutely perfect – that is, if ‘perfect’ existed (remember how ‘perfect’ your crazy ex once seemed?). So how do you get to know the real job before you dive head first into accepting an offer? Flip the script: While you prepare for the interview, make sure to have questions of your own ready to ask. This is your chance to ask the tough questions, and make sure this dream job isn’t just a mirage.

So where to start? First, take a look at the questions you’ve typically asked a recruiter or hiring leader in an interview. Are you asking generic questions like “what’s the company culture like?”; “how’s the work/life balance?”; “what’s the career path for this role?”

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Open-ended questions like these will churn equally generic answers from your interviewer. If you expect insightful answers, ask unconventional questions.

Let’s take a closer look.

Evaluating company culture

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Company culture plays an integral part in your overall job satisfaction and success. And while hiring leaders love to hear about your flexibility and adaptability, a company’s values should align with your own. The best way to figure out the company culture is to understand the people, and more specifically, their ideas. Instead ask:

1) How are innovative ideas received and implemented at this company?

2) Can you give me a recent example?

The answers to these questions will provide insight into how well your fresh perspective will be received, and they’ll allow you to gauge whether you’ll be able to make a legitimate impact.

Figuring out work life balance

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You’re enticed by the appeal of unlimited vacation, but don’t focus solely on the type of benefit that baits and switches. Instead, determine the true quality of the work/life balance by understanding the group dynamics and attitudes of the leadership team. Ask:

3) On a personal level, what initiatives are of interest to the leaders and team members at this firm? Volunteerism? Coaching sports?

4) What sort of activities have colleagues participated in as a team, in and outside the office?

By connecting with your interviewer on a personal level, you’ll identify their underlying drive and purpose. When it comes time to cash-in on those vacation days, you’re going to want to know if you have a colleague that you can count on to cover for you. And it’s wise to gain your teammates’ trust, and lending hand, by first supporting their goals and initiatives.

Determining if employees are engaged

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You want to know if you’re going to be happy and engaged in your future role, but what’s the best way to gauge that in an interview? Asking about tenure is an obvious first choice, but years of service stats can be tricky. On the one hand, happy employees are loyal to their company. The happier they are, the longer they stay – right? Yes… and no. On the other hand, a long-tenured employee may be motivated by other factors, and willing to prioritize a steady paycheck/benefits/flexible work schedule over genuine job satisfaction. (Hint: don’t let this ever be you.) Instead of focusing on tenure, ask your interviewer:

5) How have your career goals been met while working here?

6) How do you feel this role will meet my career goal of {enter career aspiration here}?

7) What has been your greatest challenge working here?”

Bear in mind, the latter question isn’t a set-up: the greatest career opportunities arise from challenges. But if your interviewer can’t describe the opportunities he or she has been given to achieve his or her goals, you can guess how your own engagement will fare. The best companies challenge and develop their staff; passionate and engaged employees are invaluable resources. Find a company that values and invests in what you have to offer.


Career progression; skills development; goal-orientation. Cut the buzzwords if your hope is for your interviewer to cut the BS. Asking targeted questions during the interview process will help to foretell if this career move is right for you. If culture, balance, and engagement aren’t atop your list, formulate a list of values that are important to you, and then develop specific questions to garner insight before you walk into New Employee Orientation. You already have the skills for the job of your dreams, now it’s time to make that dream into your reality.

Curious to learn more insider tips to scoring your next job? Sign-up on Planted, and receive expert career and interviewing advice you won’t find anywhere else.


​Amanda Wowk is a writer, entrepreneur and human resources professional. Combining her 8+ years’ HR experience with her passion for writing, she founded Amanda Wowk Creative to offer career and creative writing services directly to clients, including partnering with individuals and businesses for editorial, personal and digital branding, and corporate storytelling projects. In her spare time, Amanda researches her next international travel destination and almost single-handedly keeps her local wine shop afloat.