4 Smart Questions to Ask During an Interview

End your interview on a high note by asking your prospective employer these expert-recommended questions.

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It’s the moment that you’ve been dreading. Your prospective boss leans forward and asks the question about, you know, questions. Moments before, you were chatting merrily. Now it’s crickets in the conference room. To end your interview on a high note (and to ensure that you’ve examined your future workplace as carefully as they’ve scrutinized you), stick one of these expert-recommended queries in your back pocket.

What is the most important quality I need to succeed in this position?

Your would-be boss’s response gives you an inside look at the company’s value system, says Allyson Willoughby, the senior vice president of human resources at Glassdoor.com, a career site. For example, if your interviewer says “accountability,” you know that she will expect you to take responsibility for your actions. Plus, says Willoughby, “asking this question shows that you’re thinking about the importance of your work style, not just the skill set you offer.”

Can you describe a recent stressful workday that you experienced?

Details about the not-so-great times can tell you as much, if not more, about the realities of day-to-day business as you would learn from abstract talk about the future. Your interviewer’s reply can also illuminate how she handles conflict, says Shannon King, the chief operating officer of Levo, a career forum. If you follow up by asking her what could have made that day less challenging, she’ll understand that your aim is to make her life easier.

What would you expect a star performer to accomplish in the first 30 days?

This question shows the boss that you will be results-oriented; conversely, it gives you a preview of your future to-do list. “If you're interviewed by multiple people for the same position, you would be smart to ask this of all of them,” says Priscilla Claman, the president of the Boston-based coaching firm Career Strategies Incorporated. “Then you can see if their answers differ.”

What are some of your favorite office traditions?

Office culture matters. Chances are, you’ll want to know if the company has happy hour once a month or a killer Halloween party—or if, on the other hand, employees don’t socialize at all. The answer may lighten the mood in what can be a serious conversation. It will also give your interviewer a welcome opportunity to tell you what’s fun about working for the company.