Questions to ask your interviewer in a job interview

You might think that all you have to do in your interview is answer questions, but answering questions is only part of the equation. You need to ask questions too.

Questions to ask in interviews.png

When you ask questions, you’re showing you care about doing the job well and about deciding if the job's a good fit for you.

If you don’t ask questions you’ll seem like you’re not interested enough to want to know more and no one wants to give a job to someone who seems like they're not that interested in it.

How many questions should you ask during your interview?

I recommend asking a total of 10 questions during and after the interview.

Isn’t that a lot of questions? Yes, but if you’re talking to someone for an hour 10 questions isn't really that many. Plus, some of them can be short and simple.

Still, 10 seems like a lot.

Okay, yes, 10 is a lot but the key is to ask some during the interview, because that turns the interview into a conversation and shows your interest. If you ask a question here and there during the interview, you’ll only need to ask a few at the end.

And if you prepare 10, some of them will probably be answered as you talk to the interviewer. You don’t want to ask about the team culture if she’s already talked about the team culture at length, for example, so you’ll have to cross it off your list.

Questions you can ask during your interview, divided by topic

You can use these questions for ideas, but if there’s something you’re interested in learning you should definitely use your own idea instead, because it will sound more personalized to you.

The Position

What is a typical day like for the person in this job?

Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities for this job?

Can you give me some examples of projects I’d be working on?

Do you expect the main responsibilities for this position to change in the next 6 months to a year?

Is this a new role that’s been created?

What are the 3 most important leadership principles for this job?

How do you define success for this position? What metrics will you use to measure my accomplishments?

Do you have any concerns about my qualifications for this job?

Training and Development

How will I be trained?

Where is the last person who held this role moving on to?

What is the typical career path for someone in this role?

Review Process

What is the performance review process like here? Can you walk me through a typical one?

What would your expectation for me be for the first 90 days?

The Interviewer

These questions are personal so you don’t want to ask them if your interviewer seems like they might have a problem with personal questions. They’re not too personal though so you can definitely ask them if it seems like a good time to do so.

How long have you been working here?

Why did you choose this company?

What’s your favorite part about working here?

The Team

How would you describe the team culture?

Can you tell me about the members of the team?

What are the team’s strengths and weaknesses?

What have been the biggest challenges for the team this year?

Whom will I report to directly?

Which other departments work closely with this one?

Do you expect the department/team to grow?

The Company

How does this service or product fit into the larger picture?

How do you measure customer service?

What important initiatives are you working on for the next 6-12 months?

How does this role contribute to larger company goals?

What do you like the most about working here?

Can you tell me a little bit about the company culture?

Where do you think the company is headed in the next 5 years?

Whom do you consider your top competitor and why?

What are the biggest opportunities facing the company right now?

Next steps

Is there anything else I can provide you with that would be helpful?

Can I answer any final questions for you?

What are the next steps in the interview process?

Topics to avoid during your interview

If you ask about these you'll seem selfish and impatient and like you don’t care about the job. These are questions you should save for the recruiter or HR manager after they offer you the job.

Salary

Benefits

Working hours/your schedule

Vacation time

Did I get the job?

From senior VP to entry-level candidates, my clients have nailed the interview and landed the job. Let's work together preparing for your interview and improve your career. Email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a consultation.

Interview Genie is an interview prep company. I specialize in coaching non-native English speakers.

Answers for the top 5 "Customer Obsession" Amazon interview questions

If you're about to interview at Amazon you should learn the 14 Leadership Principles because they ask interview questions based on them. 

Amazon Customer Obsession Questions

Amazon Leadership Principle #1: Customer Obsession

Everyone, no matter what role they're interviewing for, should prepare answers for the customer obsession questions because it’s the company’s favorite principle. 

This is how Amazon explains the principle:

Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

In other words, customers are #1. 

There are a lot of ways they can ask you about your interest in customers. Here are the top 5.

Top 5 Amazon interview questions asking about your customer obsession

  1. How do you show your customer obsession?

  2. Tell me about a time you handled a difficult customer.

  3. How do you wow your customers?

  4. How do you develop client relationships?

  5. How do you understand your customer’s needs?

Answer the interview questions by telling a story

All 5 questions need to be answered with a story about a time in your past work experience.

Even if you get asked "How do you wow your customers?" — which seems like it wants a general answer like "I work really hard” — they are actually asking for a story about something specific. You should answer general questions like this with something like, "I try to go above and beyond to serve my customers [first you give a general statement about your work habits]. For example, once last year I had to…[then you tell a specific story that supports the statement]" 

Use the STAR technique to structure your stories

How do you tell your story so that it's clear and not too short or too long? Use the STAR technique. 

The STAR technique is a common system used to answer interview questions. It provides a structure for you to remember so that you include the correct data in your answers. 

These are the 4 steps of STAR:

S – Situation - background info

T – Task - what you had to do 

A – Activity - what you did - this should be the longest part of the answer

R – Result - positive; quantifiable; what you learned; what you would do differently next time

If you get asked a behavioral question, answer by going through the letters in order.

First give the S part (explain the basic situation). Then give the T (what was your job/task in this situation) .Then A (show what you did). Last, give the R (outcome).

This is the basic STAR method. You can read this post for more about STAR, including sample answers to some possible questions, if you feel like you need more information before you start using it. 

Sample answers for customer obsession questions

How do you show customer obsession?

A senior digital marketer's answer:

“An example of how I regard customers is from when I had just become the Regional Manager at X bank in India in 2015. We were having problems retaining customers because our online services, in particular the online banking app, weren't as sophisticated as our in person services were even though more of our customers were wanting to bank online. I realized this couldn't continue and began a push to revamp the app along with the IT department. It took us a year of product development but in the end we rolled out the new online banking app and service plan and it was well received. This and effort from other departments helped the organization notch customer engagement of 75% from 55% earlier over the next 2 years. We improved the region’s profitability by 15%."

This is a good answer because he gives a specific problem and shows specifically how he handled it and then gives the results. 

Tell me about a time you handled a difficult customer.

This is the answer given by a salesperson:

"When I was a Sales Manager at X we had a group of unhappy customers. We'd sold them a weed killer that hadn't worked well. As farmers, this was important to them and they were threatening to take their business to our competitor. I had to try to keep them as customers. I knew this would be hard because our product had been defective and had cost them money. I had a meeting with all of them where I listened to them complain about what had happened. I tried to listen to each of them and respond calmly. I explained to them what had happened, which was definitely our fault, and apologized. In the end, they agreed to give us one more chance even though I couldn't offer them a refund (I didn't have the ability to do that.)"

This answer is good. Why?

• It talks about skills that will be relevant in the job she is applying for — dealing with unhappy clients, client communication, conflict management

• It follows the STAR structure so it's easy to follow

• It keeps to the details that are needed but doesn't add more — not too short or too long

• It references the Amazon principle "customer obsession" although you'll notice she doesn't use those words

This is her answer broken down with STAR:

S: When I was a Sales Manager at X we had a group of unhappy customers. We'd sold them a weed killer that hadn't worked well. As farmers, this was important to them and they were threatening to take their business to our competitor.

T: I had to try to keep them as customers. I knew this would be hard because our product had been defective and had cost them money.

A: I had a meeting with all of them where I listened to them complain about what had happened. I tried to listen to each of them and respond calmly. I explained to them what had happened, which was definitely our fault, and apologized.

R: In the end, they agreed to give us one more chance even though I couldn't offer them a refund (I didn't have the ability to do that).

Length: Each section has only two to four sentences in it. The Action step can have more than this, but the other sections should stick to this number. If you're using more sentences, your answer is too long.

How do you wow your customers?

A Customer Service Manager's answer:

"I wow the customer by helping them with their problems as far as its in my power because I feel like that is a win-win for both us and the customer. Last week I made a customer happy because he wrote to say that he couldn’t use our service because he couldn’t afford it because he was in between school and a job, so I gave him four months of access for free. The reason I did that is that because I felt like once he did get a job I felt like he was more likely to pay for our product. He said he had a tear in his eye when he read my email, and so I'm sure that he will definitely be a loyal customer."

How do you develop client relationships?

A Product Manager's answer:

"The key to client relationships is listening to their needs and showing that you take them seriously. For example, one of our biggest enterprise customers wanted to migrate to our newest product but they were anxious because they had a lot of time invested into the old product and they were worried it wouldn’t be as good. I brought in senior people, not just the customer manager, to talk to them and speak to their concerns."

The problem with this answer is that it doesn't have the result but otherwise it's good. You could add more details about what you said to them to allay their concerns as well as how they reacted and what happened later.

How do you understand the customer’s needs?

This is the answer given by a Senior Digital Product Manager:

"I use quantitative and qualitative approaches. Quantitative is looking at data to derive insights. Data can be what customers are doing when they use your product and if you're using a digital product you could use an approach like web analytics. Qualitative approaches you can simply ask them about their needs about how they use your product, but a better way is to immerse yourself into their problem space and ask where does the product fit into their daily life today? For example, in looking at my top customers, in terms of the customers most engaged on my platform, I can see that content about IT certification is very popular. As a result we started doing online trainings and certifications. So instead of just a course or video, we do live trainings now. Those turned out to be really popular. So it seems that anything we give them in terms of IT certifcation is really popular. So I've started to talk to customers about the role of certification in their workplace. It turns out that it's important because it's tied to promotions." 

This isn't a bad answer, but it isn't great. How could you make it better? Let's break it down into S-T-A-R first. 

The first part is not actually the Situation, but rather what I call "general stuff" and "extra stuff we don't need" — it's typical to see this at the start of answers — but do you see how it isn't actually "S" stuff?

"I use quantitative and qualitative approaches. Quantitative is looking at data to derive insights. Data can be what are customers doing when they use your product and if you're using a digital product you could use an approach like web analytics. Qualitative approaches you can simply ask them about their needs about how they use your product, but a better way is to immerse yourself into their problem space and ask where does the product fit into their daily life today?"

How could you use the same info but fix the structure? Move it around this way.

S — I use both quantitative and qualitative methods to find out what my customers need. [I kept one sentence of the general stuff as a lead in.] For example, last month I wanted to find out what type of content was most popular on our site so we could do more of it. 

T — I looked at data on my top customers, in terms of the customers most engaged on my platform, and I could see that content about IT certification is very popular.  So I started to talk to customers about the role of certification in their workplace. It turns out that it's important because it's tied to promotions." 

A — As a result we started doing online trainings for the certifications. So instead of just a course or video, we do live trainings now as part of the educational product line up.

R — Those turned out to be really popular. So it seems that anything we give them in terms of IT certification is really popular.

This is a much clearer answer. It uses a specific example to explain how he finds out what his customers want. 

If you’d like more info about answering customer obsession questions and a list of more possible questions you might get asked about it, read the longer version of the article. The article you just read is the quick rundown of a few of the potential questions. 

How to answer Amazon ownership principle questions

How to answer Amazon behavioral interview questions

I’m happy to say that my clients, who range from senior VP level to entry level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted at Amazon. If you’d like to work together on your interview prep, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free consultation or an interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an interview prep company. I specialize in coaching non-native English speakers but I also work with native speakers.