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7 Questions Senior-Level Candidates Should Ask in a Job Interview

Posted by Emily Moore

Last Updated December 17, 2021

If you’re interviewing for a senior-level position, odds are that you’re fairly familiar with the interview process. You know how to walk a recruiter through your resume, describe your strengths and weaknesses and articulate what makes you interested in the opportunity. But remember, an interview isn’t just about answering questions. It’s also about asking questions, especially at a senior level.

Asking questions in an interview not only helps you determine whether or not the opportunity is right for you — it also allows you to prove that you’re a passionate, thoughtful candidate who deserves the job.

“Senior-level positions may require a deeper level of problem solving and leadership, even as an individual contributor,” explains Melissa Wallace, Talent Acquisition Business Partner at Northrop Grumman, who focuses mainly on engineering and other technical positions. “By putting thought and insight into the questions you ask in an interview, it can convey to the interviewer that you have what it takes to function at the expected level.”

Furthermore, “Asking pertinent questions throughout the interview shows a high level of interest and engagement,” adds Kortnie Sullivan, also a Talent Acquisition Business Partner at Northrop Grumman, who primarily recruits information technology professionals. “If a candidate doesn’t ask questions during the interview, I interpret that as a lack of enthusiasm for the position and the company.”

So, which questions should you ask in an interview? The Northrop Grumman Talent Acquisition team shared their thoughts.

1. What brought you to this company/role? What keeps you here?

When a company is truly a great place to work, the person you’re interviewing shouldn’t have any trouble answering this question. Their answer “gives you so much insight into the culture, organization and your future leader. This is one that I always recommend candidates ask,” says Jessica DeVilbiss, Talent Acquisition Business Partner focusing on aerospace systems.

As an added bonus, asking questions like this that aim to uncover what the interviewer likes about their job and company can endear you to them.

“I love it when candidates ask me that question because it allows me to speak more personally of my experience,” shares Albrenna Richardson, Talent Acquisition IT Recruiter. “It gives me the opportunity to describe the many benefits of working for Northrop Grumman and why they should join the organization.”

2. What does a typical day look like?

It’s all well and good for a company to talk about what a certain position entails in broad strokes, but you should also push them to share what the day-to-day grind would look like. After all, “it may uncover an aspect of the job that is really not of interest to you,” Wallace points out. “And you’d rather know this in the interview phase than in your first month on the job.”

Of course, every job will probably require a few tasks you aren’t crazy about, but if those don’t make up the bulk of the daily work and are balanced with responsibilities you do like, then you have good reason to believe you’d enjoy the work overall.

3. What are some of the biggest challenges within the department currently?

Job seekers sometimes worry about sounding negative in a job interview, so they might be inclined to avoid questions like this. But the truth is, running a company is never a complete cakewalk — there are always obstacles to overcome and problems to solve, so it’s worth digging into them.

“This allows you take a peek behind the curtain and to understand the company’s challenges,” DeVilbiss explains. What’s more, it allows you to describe how you would attempt to solve those problems.

“Once the interviewer has outlined current challenges, the candidate has the perfect opportunity to discuss why and how their background and accomplishments/experiences can be put to immediate use in dealing with those challenges,” Sullivan says.

4. What sort of person would be successful in this role?

In an interview, you’re probably already wondering whether you’re the type of person the company is looking for. Asking this question allows you to know for sure (and it sure sounds a lot more diplomatic than “Do you want to hire me?”). Plus, it provides you with more information than what’s in the job description alone.

“It helps give the candidate some color as to what the team is looking for,” Wallace shares. And again, it gives you the chance to show how you’re the right fit — “[it] also may give them an additional opportunity to showcase how they meet those characteristics that they may not have realized were valuable,” Wallace adds.

5. How would I be evaluated in this role?

Don't just look for a job you can do — you should look for one you can do well. This question “tells you how success is measured and what the expectations for success are in this role,” so you can determine exactly what would be expected of you and whether or not you can meet it. Beware the companies with outrageous expectations, or those that can’t even articulate how to define success.

When you get a clear idea of what the objectives and key accomplishments for the role are, you can not only make sure they’re realistic — you can also keep them in mind from day one should you accept the role, which will help you hit the ground running and find success quickly. Can you say performance bonus?

6. In regards to my background and experience, is there anything that concerns you about my performance for this position?

This question might make you feel uncomfortable or vulnerable, but it’s well worth asking.

“It allows the interviewer to tell you some of your weak points and gives you the opening to further explain why you would perform well in these areas of opportunity,” Richardson says.

If there’s a weakness in your application — say, the position calls for eight years of experience and you only have six — the recruiter will think about it regardless. This way, at least you can be proactive and address why you’re still the right person for the job. Who knows? That could be exactly what you need to push your application over the edge.

7. What is your leadership style, and who have you developed recently into the next level in their career?

Lots of job seekers are initially attracted to new opportunities because of a high salary or impressive benefits package, but it’s important to keep in mind what will keep you happy in the long run. According to Glassdoor research, the quality of senior leadership and career opportunities are two of the top three factors that matter most in determining employee satisfaction. By asking this question, you can tackle both subjects in one.

“This questions allows you to gauge the culture of the team and what kind of manager that you will be working for. It also gives insight [into] if this position will be a good stepping stone for your career,” Richardson says.

It also shows that you’re not just a job hopper — you’re committed to the company.

“I had a candidate ask about what our company does for employee development. They went into the question stating that personal growth is important to them in their career and then asked what we offer to foster this,” Wallace shares. “I liked being able to tell them about the great development opportunities we offer as well as hear their commitment to growth as an individual and employee.”

Asking questions may not seem like the most important part of an interview, but it truly is a gift to the job seeker. When done right, asking intelligent, informed questions can serve the dual purpose of giving you more information about the opportunity while also highlighting why you’re the best person for the job. So the next time an interviewer asks you if you have any questions for them, don’t squander it — keep these seven questions in mind to prove you’re the candidate they’ve been waiting for.

Want to learn more about Northrop Grumman and the opportunities available at their company? Check out their open jobs here!

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