Nearly every job interview ends the same way: “Do you have any questions for me?” Of course, one of the worst possible interview answers is simply “no”. But there are a whole bunch of other frequently asked questions that aren’t much better.
These bad questions aren’t offensive. They are simply being asked at the wrong time. The interview process is a time for you to demonstrate your interest in the company and its culture. It’s a time to show that you’re a great team member and a hard worker. You want the company to buy into one basic premise: you’re the best person for the job and they’ve got to have you.
Like it or not, it’s not a time to ask about the logistics of the job. In my years working as an executive recruiter, I’ve seen far too many great candidates lose out by being unaware what not to say in an interview. Here are my top seven questions not to ask in an interview:
How much does the job pay?
Although it can be incredibly frustrating for job seekers, it’s simply not good form to ask about salary during the interview process. This tops the list of hiring manager pet peeves. It makes the interviewer think you care more about money than their fantastic company. Save the salary talk for the negotiations once you get the offer. In fact, if the interviewer asks what salary you’re looking for, try to deflect the question. You’re in the strongest position to talk money after the offer has been extended.
What benefits do you offer? What kind of heath coverage do you have? How many vacation days do I get?
The same thing applies to all of these questions. Benefits are a great thing to discuss during salary negotiations but not during the interview. In the negotiation period, everything is on the table.
What are the hours?
Employers want to hire people who do whatever needs to be done to get the job done. In today’s world that often means being available 24/7. Asking about hours makes it appear you lack commitment. Maybe you simply have a legitimate concern like whether you’ll be able to pick up your kids but save these questions for later. Once the company wants to hire you, they’ll find a way to work with you on things like that.
Can I telecommute?
Yikes, you haven’t even gotten the job yet and you want special treatment? Telecommuting or any other type of flexible schedule is something that you usually earn by working hard and making yourself invaluable. You’re also implying you have a difficult schedule or don’t work well with others.
What kind of support staff or help will I have?
This question can come across as presumptuous and arrogant while also implying that you may not be up to the job without assistance. You can probably get the same information framed more positively by asking, “How are your teams structured?” or “What is the structure of this department?”
When can I expect to be promoted?
By asking this you’re saying that you’re not that interested in the position you’re applying for but are actually eying a bigger role. Instead, emphasize you’re looking for a long term role with future growth opportunities – key word being “future” – and ask about the company’s history with internal promotions or what the career trajectory has been for people in this role.
Am I allowed to freelance on the side?
This isn’t a concern in the Accounting and Finance industries where I work but it is in some (usually creative) industries like graphic design and journalism. If this applies to you, don’t ask the question during the interview. You want the company to feel certain that they’re getting your complete attention and your best work.
There is a time and a place for all of these questions but it’s not during the interview. Stay focused on getting the job and leave the details for later.
What other questions do you consider inappropriate in an interview? Share them in the comments.
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