I was interviewing for my dream job, or so I thought. It checked all of my “ideal career” boxes, like flexibility, including three months off per year (woot woot!!!), decent salary (this is a significant perk given I work in education), and job stability.

Making it into the final round of interviews was something that I was pretty damn proud of. But the interview was really tough. There were at least 12 questions that I had to answer in a 40 minute time period. If I had to grade myself, I’d say I did about a solid B- / C+.

And then before I knew it, the end of the interview was suddenly upon me. It was time for the “do you have any questions for us” portion. I asked a very simple question: what do you like about working here?

And not one person on the panel gave me an honest answer. Or at least I didn’t feel like the answers were genuine.

I couldn’t help but feel like either they didn’t like me enough to give honest answers, or they didn’t like their jobs. Or maybe it was a combination of the two.

Either way, my “dream job” started looking, well, not so dreamy. Long story short, I didn’t get offered the job. But I was so turned off in the interview that I honestly felt relieved not the get the call.

Coming up with good questions to ask in an interview is incredibly important. Interviewing is a two-way street. You are trying to gauge if the position and organization are a good fit for you, as well as vice-versa.

However, many candidates don’t bother to prepare questions. Or if they do, they aren’t asking the right questions.

Read on to learn about top questions to ask in an interview, as well as what they will tell you about the job.

See related: Biggest Interview Mistakes for Moms Returning to Work

Top Interview Question #1

What do you like about working here?

As you can see from my own interview story, this question can be very telling. It’s a pretty simple question. But it’s not easy to answer.

If you ask this question in an interview, look for red flags like vague or short answers. Study facial expressions. You can tell how honest people are being based on their body language.

If you are getting mixed or short responses, this can be a major red flag.

See related: Top Virtual Interview Tips in 2020

Top Interview Question #2

What types of professional development opportunities are available?

This question can be asked in lieu of “what type of training will be available,” which can indicate that you need extra hand-holding or that you are not well prepared or adequately trained for the job.

By asking about professional development opportunities, what you are really asking is: do you value your employees? Do you take time and effort to invest in your employee’s happiness and future?

If an employer has training and development programs and opportunities already in place, this is a positive sign in that it shows they care about their employees growth and overall satisfaction. If the organization is smaller or newer and they don’t yet have programs or protocol, you might want to ask a follow up question like “are employees encouraged to attend training and professional development events?”

See related: The Ultimate Guide to Job Search

Top Interview Question #3

What are the top skills you feel are necessary for success in this role?

By asking this question in an interview, you are essentially putting the ball back into the employer’s court. You’re quickly getting at exactly what they are looking for in a future employee.

Based on the answers you are given, you can include information about how your background and skills are a match in your thank you letter, or you can even insert a quick one or two line response that reiterates how you possess their top three skills.

See related: The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Resume

Top Interview Question #4

Who will I be reporting to and what is their management style?

Your manager or supervisor will have a big impact on your success and level of satisfaction in your job. To not ask any questions related to your future boss is like heading into a storm unprepared. Okay that analogy sucked. But you know what I’m getting at.

Do I really think someone would be bold enough to say “I love micromanaging my team!” No, I don’t. But again, read between the lines. What someone says is just as important if not more important than what they don’t say.

Does your future boss talk about communication and collaboration? Do they seem easy going and like your type of people? If you get a weird feeling, don’t ignore it. I’m not saying don’t take the job, but maybe try to talk to someone already working in the company, or read some anonymous reviews on Glassdoor or Fairygodboss.

See related: The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Cover Letter

Top Interview Question #5

Are there opportunities for growth down the road?

If you are ambitious and progression is a concern, this question is essential! Even if you don’t see yourself on the fast track, it’s important to know what long-term opportunity is available in relation to the position for which you are applying.

If you get a vague answer, your position might be considered more short-term or perhaps there’s not much room for growth. If you’re okay with this, then great. But if you want to use the position to transition into something else, you might want to re-think your plan.

See related: How to Create Your Dream Job in Seven Steps

Top Interview Question #6

What is the company culture like?

If you are a parent this question is especially important. Given the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and school closures, parents are scrambling to figure out flexible work schedules.

I don’t suggest being really direct at this stage of the interview and asking point blank: can I work from home three days per week? But you can ask more indirect questions like “what is the company culture” and “are flexible work schedules offered?”

Once you’ve accepted a job offer you’ve got more room to negotiate and ask more specifically about flexibility.

See related: Top Ten LinkedIn Mistakes for Moms Returning to Work

Top Interview Question #7

What are the most challenging aspects of the job?

In other words, is there anything I should know about this job that might make me go running for the hills?

The employer is obviously not going to say the job is horrible and why are you even applying for it, etc etc. But if their response is overly negative, that’s a red flag.

See related: How to Get a Flexible Job With Kids at Home

In Conclusion

Preparing at least five or six well-though out questions for the end of your interview will put you more in control of the situation. If you have a bad gut feeling after an interview it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t take the job if it’s offered. Maybe you just need to do some more research on the company.

If you do your due diligence, you will feel confident you are making the best decision if you receive a job offer!