The hiring manager can offer specific insight about team culture, skills, and growth potential—maximize your time together with these thoughtful questions.
In many interview processes, the hiring manager will enter the conversation after a recruiter or human resources (HR) manager has already reviewed your resume and verified your credentials during your screening interview.
So if you’ve made it to the hiring manager interview, you can feel confident that your potential employer is already impressed by your skill set and credentials and is interested in learning more about how you implement those skills to operate on a team.
Even though the hiring manager has a strong influence over the hiring decision, it’s important to remember that you also have a decision to make: is this job the right next step for you and your career?
The hiring manager is the person in charge of the team looking to fill an open role. They often hold a senior, manager, or director title on the team you are interviewing to join and will likely become your direct manager or your boss if you accept this position.
Your interview with the hiring manager is a chance to determine mutual fit, so the best questions to ask will be the ones that help you decide whether this role is the right fit for you. And because the hiring manager works directly with the team you are seeking to join, they will be your best resource to learn about the specific responsibilities and expectations of the role, as well as the overall team culture.
Before the interview, consider your workplace needs and career goals. Then, use those needs and goals to guide the questions you plan to ask the hiring manager. For example, if you know you work best with a strong team of collaborators, you may ask about the team culture. Or, if you hope to build a specific skill set, you may have some questions surrounding tools or growth opportunities.
Most hiring managers won’t be looking for you to ask specific questions, but they may take cues from your questions to further develop their idea of the type of role and workplace you are seeking. Thoughtfully approaching your questions can help you present yourself as the type of worker you are willing and able to show up as from day one on the job.
Tip: To make the most of your time with the hiring manager, it may help to approach this meeting as more of a conversation than an interview. Chances are, some of the things you are hoping to learn about the role will come up in questions that the hiring manager asks about your work style, preferences, and experiences. Keep the conversation flowing by ending your responses with a return question.
This way, you can engage throughout the interview, and by the end, when the hiring manager asks if you have any questions, you’ll have already gotten a number of your answers. Instead, you can use that time to expand into new topics or further reflect on your value to this team.
Here are some sample questions to help you determine whether this role is the right fit for you and how a hiring manager may interpret these questions.
Questions about team culture revolve around work environment, expectations, and communication styles. They can give you a better sense of how this hiring manager envisions their team operating at their best and how they currently operate. From there, you can decide whether that vision aligns with your preferred working conditions.
How do you measure success?
Under what conditions does this team operate best?
Does this team tend to focus more on individual or collaborative work?
How do you describe your management style?
What asking these questions may say about you: These questions can indicate your desire to be a team player and help move toward collective goals in a way that will be most natural to the established processes.
You already know that you meet the criteria for this role. Still, questions about skills and credentials—surrounding processes, training, and tools—allow you to go a bit deeper into the day-to-day movements you can expect. If you have direct experience with some of the areas mentioned, you can highlight that, or you can express specific interest in learning the new technical skills you’ll develop.
What tools or programs do you typically use?
What are the typical learning curves for new team members?
How do you describe your ideal candidate to fill this role?
What asking these questions may say about you: A hiring manager may interpret your interest in the technical aspects of this role as a desire to set yourself up for success. Asking these questions can show that you care about doing a good job and that you are prepared to learn what you need to know to make that happen.
Questions about growth tend to be big-picture questions, focusing on the way people learn and grow within this team and the company. These questions can help you figure out if you’ll find opportunities to move closer to your career goals in this role.
What do you envision as the growth path for this role?
What are the immediate and long-term priorities for this role?
What was your path to your current position?
What asking these questions may say about you: These questions may indicate that you have goals and are ready to approach them with intention. They can also signal that you are looking for a role with longevity, and once you join a team, you hope to stay there.
Questions about the company allow you to further develop your understanding of their mission and vision, and can help you place this role within the organization’s architecture. Be careful not to ask questions that you can find on the company’s website, social media profiles, or in the job description. You have a limited amount of time with the hiring manager and should use it to add to the pre-interview research you already did.
How does this team support the company’s mission and vision?
What do you love about working at this company?
What asking these questions may say about you: Asking questions about the company beyond the available information can show that you are interested in the company’s values and want to support the overarching aims.
Questions about flexibility tend to have to do with prioritization and work-life balance. At this stage in the interview process, you probably don’t need to get too specific about your priorities outside of work and want to be careful not to imply that you’ll be unable to fulfill your job responsibilities. However, these questions can help you envision how this role will fit your lifestyle.
Does your team primarily work in an office, remotely, or both?
How do you prioritize tasks?
How do you balance work and life responsibilities?
What asking these questions may say about you: Worded carefully, questions about flexibility can indicate that you like to plan ahead when possible and remain agile in changing circumstances.
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As long as you stay focused on your needs and goals, no questions are explicitly off-limits. You don't want any lingering hesitations when you decide to accept this position. However, remember that the hiring manager could be your future boss. Being mindful of the way you phrase tricky questions can help set the foundation for a productive working relationship.
Here are some tips for asking tough questions:
1. Show that you’ve done your research. Hiring managers want to feel like you are interested in working on their team. One way to express interest is to mention observations from your pre-interview research that stood out to you and invite the opportunity to continue that conversation. You might demonstrate that you’ve researched the company by prefacing questions with “I noticed.”
2. Lead with your desire to learn. Approaching questions from a place of curiosity can help you maintain an open tone free of judgment. It can be helpful to avoid starting questions with “why,” which can sometimes come across as combative or illicit defensiveness.
3. Focus on questions the hiring manager is best prepared to answer. Your hiring manager can answer questions about the role and team, but they may not be able to answer questions outside of their purview—like salary and benefits. Try circling each question back to the role, the team, or the hiring manager’s experience.
Putting these tips together, let’s look at a specific example. Rather than asking why the company laid off hundreds of employees a month prior, you might say something like, “I noticed the company has been undergoing some reorganization in recent times. How do you feel about this team’s positioning to succeed under this current structure?”
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