Conquering the reverse interview: a simple list of Do’s and Don’ts

You are seated in an interview for your dream job.  You have smiled and charmed your way into the hiring manager’s heart with your excellent credentials and winning personality.  You have answered every question with thought and pizzazz, but then the tables turn.  The interviewer asks his final question- “Do you have any questions for me?”

We have all been told that it is important to prepare insightful and thought-provoking questions for each interview, but this is easier said than done.  Lucky for me (and you) I have an incredible team of ten recruiters in my office that can tell us exactly what all of this means!  Let’s talk about some Do’s and Don’ts.


  • Ask questions about the corporate culture. By questions about corporate culture, I do not mean “where is the nearest bar and do we meet there at quitting time?”  Instead, consider asking questions such as, “If you had to describe the culture of your company in three adjectives, which ones would you pick?”  Ultimately, you are asking “what’s it like to work here,” but instead of just spitting it out you should add a certain touch of eloquence and class.
  • Ask about the scope of the position. Most job postings come with a detailed list of responsibilities and qualifications associated with the role.  However, there is usually more to the story.  A job can seem simple and one-dimensional on paper; you must ask insightful questions about the position and your manager’s expectations in order to truly get a feel for the role.  Recruiter Beth Gupta suggests including a time frame in your question about responsibilities.  For example you may ask, “What duties do you expect me to be comfortable with after 1 week, 1 month, and 1 year working in this role?”  This shows the hiring manager that you are interested and lets you know exactly what is expected should you enter the position!
  • Ask about other team members’ work style. A position may seem like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but unless you are being hired as the sole member of your team you will be expected to work closely with other employees in the department.  Creating a positive work relationship is crucial to you and your team’s success!  Of course it will take time to settle in and get to know your co-workers, but it helps to know a bit about the team’s dynamic before stepping on board.  Consider asking a question such as, “Who would I be working with most closely, and can you describe those members’ work styles?”  The question is thoughtful and hopefully the answer will give you the information you need to begin your transition.
  • Ask about what you can do for them. Yes, a job interview is all about telling a manager how you will make their company better.  However, you cannot possibly anticipate all of these needs.  To make matters worse, we (millennials in particular) have developed a nasty reputation for job-hopping.  Growth is important to your career, and sometimes growing means moving on to new firms, better titles, and bigger pay days.  However, an employer wants to know that the time and energy that they invest in teaching and training will come back to benefit the firm.  Use your interview as an opportunity to not only ask about what actions will make you a more successful employee, but to also reassure the employer that you plan on sticking around.  Try framing your questions in a way that will elicit concrete examples in the response.  For example you may ask, “Have you seen someone start in this role and have quick success, and if so, what advice do you think that person would give me on my first day?” or “Have you seen someone struggle in this role, and if so, what advice do you think that person would give me to have an easier transition?”  These questions will provide you with helpful advice should you become a part of the team, plus you let the interviewer know that you view the company’s success as a priority- it’s a win-win.


  • Ask questions about salary, benefits, paid time off, or the work/life balance.  Yes, I know that these questions are at the top of your mind!  However, recruiter Gupta points out that questions about these topics make it seem as though you are more interested in what the company can do for you than what you can do for the company.  Maybe you are, but that is not the way to score the position of your dreams.  The good news is that a hiring manager is likely to bring these up at the end of the interview if they are interested in moving forward.
  • Over-rehearse questions and responses.  Yes, I know that the whole point of this post is to encourage that you formulate excellent questions prior to your interview.   However, questions that are over-rehearsed sound rigid and leave the hiring manager wondering “Did they listen to anything I just said?”  What makes a question sound rehearsed?  Recruiter Colleen Robson told me that candidates often ask her “What do you like about working here?” That is a great question- if you are interviewing for a specific job at a specific firm, not for multiple placements at a recruiting agency.  More than likely these candidates have heard that this is a good question to ask.  Unfortunately it is pretty one-dimensional and is likely to receive a mono-syllabic answer to match the bland, canned tone.  If you over-rehearse your questions the interviewer will know that you were standing in front of your mirror repeating the words all morning.  Instead, formulate a thesis- what is the main idea of the information that you’d like to know and be prepared to tailor your questions to fit your need for knowledge and the information you have already collected from the hiring manager.

No method is full proof, but with this advice you will be in much better shape at the end of your interview.  Keep up your confidence and remember- you would not have received an interview if your credentials did not catch someone’s eye!  You have gotten your foot in the door, now it is time for you to use your charm, knowledge, and whit to pull the other foot in and take a seat at your new desk.