Questions to ask the interviewer in a job interview: Tips for newcomersFebruary 10, 202210 min read
As a newcomer, landing your first job in Canada requires a lot of preparation and patience. Before you start applying to job openings, you’ll need to invest time in crafting a Canadian-style resume, perfecting your elevator pitch, and building your professional network. Even with all this work, it can sometimes take newcomers several months to get their first job interview in Canada.
However, when that inevitable call does come, you want to be thoroughly prepared to ace your job interview. Typically, this means researching the company, practising your responses in advance, and having a ready list of questions to ask the interviewer to position yourself as a suitable candidate for the job.
Why is it important to ask questions at the end of a job interview?
At the end of job interviews in Canada, an interviewer usually asks if you have any questions for them. Many newcomers hesitate when it comes to asking the recruiter or hiring manager questions, or worry that it may make them seem unprepared or overenthusiastic. On the contrary, it’s completely acceptable—and even expected—that you’ll have questions for the recruiter.
In Canada, interviewers will assess you not only based on how well you answer the interviewer's questions, but also on the questions you ask them. Having questions for the interviewer shows them you’re interested in the role. Well-researched, intelligent questions demonstrate that you’ve done your research about the organization and want to learn more about working there.
A job interview isn’t meant to be one-sided. As a newcomer, asking questions is also an opportunity for you to gather information that’ll help you assess whether an organization, team, or the role are a good fit for you.
Top questions to ask the interviewer in a job interview
It’s always good to have a prepared list of questions to ask at the end of an interview. One rule of thumb to keep in mind while preparing for interviews is to steer clear of obvious questions that can easily be answered with a little bit of online research. In this section, we’ll share some indicative questions you can use or build upon, based on the role you’re applying for and your own interview discussions.
Questions to ask about the job
What will the person in this position be responsible for?
This is a good question to ask if the job description doesn’t have a lot of information about the role and if the job responsibilities haven’t been discussed during the interview. Usually, you’ll have some information about what the job will entail to begin with, so phrase the question in a way that shows what you know. For instance, if you already know that the position is for a social media manager, you might want to ask what social media platforms you’ll be responsible for, or whether you’ll also be required to create video content.
What are the qualities you’re looking for in a candidate?
While a job description typically mentions some of the skills and qualities a role requires, this question allows you to assess how well your expertise and personality match what the hiring manager is looking for. It will also give you an idea of the qualities or soft skills valued by the organization, such as teamwork or being self-driven. This could be a good opportunity to showcase these same qualities through a well-chosen example. If you’re looking for your first job in Canada, this question can also give you insight into the qualities Canadian employers in a particular industry typically seek in applicants.
What would my typical day in this role look like?
This question serves a dual purpose. One, it subtly positions you as an insider and shows that you’re truly interested in the position and are already thinking about what working there will be like. Secondly, the response will give you additional information about the job, the stakeholders you’ll engage with, and the things you’ll be responsible for on a daily basis.
What are the biggest challenges someone in this position will face?
Questions like these are a great way to learn more about the role, potential roadblocks, or dealbreakers. Depending on the interviewer’s response, you may also get an opportunity to elaborate on ways in which you’ve dealt with that particular challenge in your prior roles, helping you to stand out as the ideal candidate. For instance, if managing tight timelines is a challenge you’ll be expected to deal with, sharing how you’ve used your organizational or delegation skills to deliver quality output ahead of time could give you an advantage.
What will my immediate priorities or projects be in this role?
In addition to giving you more insight into the work you’ll do, this question demonstrates your eagerness to get started. Even more, it allows the interviewer to imagine you in the role and think of you as part of the team. If, during your research, you uncover some exciting new projects the company is planning, such as a product launch, this can also be a good time to ask if you’ll be involved in those or express your interest in doing so.
Questions to ask about the organization
Can you tell me about the company’s growth plans over the next few years?
Showing you’re interested in the organization’s future gives the interviewer confidence that you intend to stick around and aren’t looking at this job as a short-term arrangement. If you’ve read about an upcoming partnership the company is exploring or about the industry being impacted by economic changes, don’t forget to mention it. The recruiter’s response will also give you some idea about where the business is headed, possible team expansions, or new projects in the future.
How does this team support the company’s overall objectives?
If the job description doesn’t provide a lot of information, this question is a good way to learn both about the organization’s goals and your future team’s responsibilities. If the answer is obvious, like if you’re joining the accounting team, rephrase the question and ask about the team’s key performance indicators instead. This will also give you some insight on the metrics on which your individual performance will be evaluated in the role.
How would you describe the company’s values?
A company’s values are essentially the traits or beliefs that guide the organization and its people towards their ultimate goal. If you can relate to these values, you’ll be more likely to fit in and work well with others on your team. For instance, if humility is a core company value, it’ll be best not to boast about your achievements in front of your team. Refrain from asking this question if the company values are openly stated on the company website.
What do you like the most about working with [company name]?
Phrasing some of your questions in a way that asks for the interviewer’s opinion makes them feel that you value their personal insight. You’ll also be more likely to get more relatable answers that may not have been included in the job description. An alternative question along similar lines could be, “What do you find most challenging about working with [company name]?”
What is the company culture like? OR How would you describe the company’s management/leadership style?
When looking for your first job in Canada, it can be easy to focus on immediate priorities, such as salary, working hours, and travel time. However, it’s also important to keep in mind things that keep you motivated over the long run, such as a company’s culture and leadership style. Asking about these will give you a sense of your future work environment and help you adapt to the culture within your team.
Questions to ask about growth and team
What opportunities does the company offer for professional development?
This question can help you assess if and how the company invests in the success of its people. As a newcomer, access to professional development resources, whether it’s a mentor, personalized training, or online courses, can help you bridge skill gaps, expand your areas of expertise, or prepare for the next step in your career path. Be careful how you phrase this question—it shouldn’t seem like you’re only interested in your own development and not in the position or company!
What metrics, goals, or KPIs will be used to evaluate my performance?
For most Canadian companies, success needs to be measurable and quantifiable. Asking how your success will be measured shows the interviewer that you’re serious and results-oriented. It also gives you insights about what your performance focus will be. For instance, if you’ll be assessed based on the number of new business prospects you bring in, you may have follow up questions about the average value per prospect. You may also be able to share some of your business development achievements from previous roles.
What does the career path look like for someone in this position?
When you interview with a company, you’ll likely do some research beforehand to get a glimpse into what your future in the company could be like. For instance, you may look up the interviewer or other team members on LinkedIn and track their career growth. In case this information is unclear or hard to find, it’s also perfectly acceptable to ask the interviewer about your potential career path in the organization. Try not to ask probing questions about lateral growth opportunities or the possibility of moving to another department, as it could lead them to question your interest in the role you’re actually interviewing for.
Other questions for the interviewer during a job interview
What are the next steps in the hiring process?
The hiring process in Canada often involves multiple rounds of interviews to assess if you’re a technical and cultural fit. Once all your other questions are answered, ask what the next round will look like. If possible, get the names and designations of people you’ll meet next so you can research them in advance. If the next step is an assignment or test, ask about timelines so you can plan your week accordingly.
When can I expect to hear from you on the next steps/decision?
While asking whether you got the job is a big no-no, it’s perfectly okay to ask when you can expect to hear about the outcome of the interview. First, this will show the interviewer that you understand that the decision process takes time, but also that you’re excited to know if you’ve made it to the next step. Second, you may be able to get a subtle hint about how the interview went. If the interviewer seems eager to connect with you again, you likely have a good chance of being selected for the next round. However, these hints aren’t foolproof, so until you hear from the recruiter with a definite yes or no, don’t lose hope and keep up with your preparation.
Do you have any concerns or final questions for me?
Asking the interviewer if they have any concerns about your candidature gives you a final chance to address points that may negatively impact your chances. If the interviewer brings up a weak spot in your application, use this opportunity to give specific examples about your experience or transferable skills that’ll help you succeed in the role.
Additional questions based on conversations during the interview
While the list of questions we’ve shared is a good starting point, it’s also very important to listen to what the interviewer says during the interview and ask questions based on that. There’s nothing wrong with asking an occasional follow up question during the conversation to gather more information, as long as you’re not interrupting them or using up too much of the interview time. However, it’s usually best to save your questions for the end. It’s acceptable to take notes during an interview (although you’ll still want to prioritise making eye contact), and this can help you keep track of questions you may want to ask later on.
Asking relevant questions based on your conversation is a great way to showcase that you’re an active listener, can think on your feet, and grasp key points on the fly. For instance, if the interviewer indicated that they’ve tried something in the past and it didn’t work, you may want to ask why they think it didn’t succeed or if they’re considering alternative approaches. These questions give you an opportunity to demonstrate what you already know about the company, the business environment, or the latest tools and technology. If you have experience with something similar, you may also want to talk about how you overcame challenges and solved the problem.
A job interview isn’t just an opportunity for a potential employer to assess whether your skills are in line with what they are looking for. It’s also a chance for you to learn more about the company and decide whether it is the right fit for you. Towards the end of the interview, most hiring managers will ask if you have any questions for them. Going in prepared with intelligent questions is a great way to stand out as an ideal candidate and will help you land your first job in Canada.
Arrive is powered by RBC Ventures Inc, a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada. In collaboration with RBC, Arrive is dedicated to helping newcomers achieve their life, career, and financial goals in Canada. An important part of establishing your financial life in Canada is finding the right partner to invest in your financial success. RBC is the largest bank in Canada* and here to be your partner in all of your financial needs. RBC supports Arrive, and with a 150-year commitment to newcomer success in Canada, RBC goes the extra mile in support and funding to ensure that the Arrive newcomer platform is FREE to all.
* Based on market capitalization
Shikha Bhuchar Co-Founder, Arrive | Director, RBC Ventures
Shikha Bhuchar is a proactive, purpose-driven leader who is passionate about solving complex customer and community-based challenges.