Best Questions to Ask (and Avoid) During a Job Interview

In previous writings I have talked about how to answer the most common questions asked by a hiring manager. These blogs have led some to ask: “What are the best questions to ask during an interview?” So today I am going to help clarify the best questions to ask during a job interview.



We have grown up learning that there is no such thing as a “dumb” question. Although still true, in certain situations there are questions we can ask that reveal our level of competence on a specific subject. Therefore, it is important that when you ask a question you do so in a way that allows you to come across as well informed. Otherwise, you can easily be disqualified from consideration for not showing the right level of knowledge.



Remember, you might be the very top professional in your current position, but the interviewer does not know you. So every aspect of your interview is being dissected for clues into your skill level, personality and overall aptitude.

Experienced interviewers who have interviewed thousands of candidates can easily learn about what a person brings to the table by the questions they ask. As a result, I am going to show you how to formulate the best questions so you don’t lose a job opportunity for not knowing the difference between a good and not so good question.

There two types of questions that you will need to formulate and deliver during your job interview.

1) Predetermined questions that you bring with you to the interview

2) Questions that come to mind during an interview.

You should prepare between 4 and 8 predetermined questions to ask. You don’t want to have too few because the answers might naturally come up during the interview before you get a chance to ask them. If this happens, then you might as well have shown up to the interview without questions in the first place and this could be the end of your candidacy.

Another benefit to this preparation: good predetermined questions will open up dialogue and lead you to other topics of interest. The objective of all of this is to create a conversational tone between two professionals who understand each other.

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Here are some examples of quality questions that you can ask:

1) How much entrepreneurial latitude will I have to meet the goals and objectives of the position?

A question such as the one above shows that you are thinking a few steps ahead. You are demonstrating that you are eager to contribute and may already have some ideas on how to do so. Using the word entrepreneurial will show that you see the position as your own business and are likely to be more passionate about than another candidate who sees it as just a “job”. This is also a good question to find out if this company is very narrow in how they want things done and don’t want someone who is willing to try unconventional methods.

2) What are the top two challenges that the selected candidate will need to overcome to succeed in this position?

When you take a consultative approach to the interview, it really sets you up for developing the 2nd type of questions that you need to as (“Questions that come up during the interview”). Consultative type questions help you uncover the x-factors that only surface once you drill down beyond the job description and really learn what the true needs are for this position.

Keep in mind every role has specific needs that don’t always show up clearly on the job description. It could be that the department already has a talented team, but is looking for someone with leadership and development skills. Perhaps they are looking for someone who is really strong in program design? These types of things are the x-factors that really can help differentiate you from equally experienced candidates and land that job if you hit the nail right on the head.

3) If the pending CFATS (Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards) legislation is passed, then what, if any impact do you think it will have on this organization and this position?

When you are a security professional who is aware of external factors impacting your work such as laws, regulations, competitor, etc… Then you demonstrate that you are a different caliber of professional. It takes someone with true passion about what they do to actually care about something like this.

You also demonstrate that you understand the industry well enough to know that certain regulatory measures can truly alter the scope of a position, department and company, so they need to be planned for.

This concept is not limited to a top level corporate security leader. Today we are seeing a significant increase in complex regulations and legislation being passed. This means that all industries and all levels of positions within the security industry are going to be affected. Learn what bills impact your position and find out how that might change the scope of the business and your role.

Keep in mind, when you are being interviewed; you are also interviewing the company. If they don’t show they have it all together, you might not want to work there. The deal is that you do your job as long as they do theirs. You need to make sure that they are as good at doing their job as you are at yours. Don’t ever feel hesitant to ask questions that help you learn if this is the right fit for you. Just don’t be brash or arrogant because no one likes that in any setting.

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Let’s quickly look at some bad interview questions. I won’t elaborate too much because you should be able to see the stark contrast between the quality examples above vs. the low quality examples here:

1) How much training will I receive to help me do this job?



There are very few occasions where this question is valid. A question like this might work if you are recruited right out of college. Outside of that, just assume that there is some support system put in place to help you succeed. But for the most part, companies are hiring you to do a job you already know how to do. Hopefully you can do it better than they expect of you.

Very few companies want to train you to do your job beyond the basics of how they do business. They might train you once you are hired to do a more complex job as you grow into your career. But don’t go into a job hoping to be trained. Have confidence in what you can do and avoid asking this question during an interview.

It does nothing to demonstrate your strengths and record of achievement.

2) What are the advancement opportunities in this job / company?

A great professional who takes their career seriously knows that they will advance just on the merits of their accomplishments and track record of results. If they don’t advance in due time, they will change jobs.

When you ask then you might get a corporate sales pitch on advancement opportunities, but this question does not show the hiring manager that you can do the job. It shows that you are interested only in yourself, but have you proven you can do the job yet? Should they hire you because you are interested in a promotion before you even shown you are good at what you do?

When you ask questions, you want to raise eyebrows and draw attention to your greatest strengths. You want to take control of the interview and turn it into a conversation about what you can deliver to this organization. Not a Q & A session that is right out of a job interview text book.

3) What is the most important skill you are looking for?

When you ask a very direct question that may have an obvious answer, then you risk putting yourself in a bad spot. This sort of conversation is too elementary to win the intellectual chess match in an interview. Remember skill is needed to solve a problem. If you show that you can solve the problem and the interviewer will automatically assume you have the skill to do it.

Remember the earlier example: “What are the top two challenges that the selected candidate will need to overcome in order to succeed?” Once the interviewer answers and you respond with a potential solution, then you have shown you have the skills without ever needing to ask what they are. You are also communicating at a much higher level which is always a plus in an ideal candidate.

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Hopefully these examples help identify the guidelines you can follow in composing your interview questions. Your questions are a window into your abilities, so only open the windows that you want the manager to look through.

If you get stumped and are going on an interview soon, then don’t hesitate to reach out to me and I will gladly help you.

Good Luck to you!

David Lammert

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