10 Questions Not to Ask in an Interview
At the end of virtually every job interview, the tables will turn, and you’ll get to ask the interviewer your questions. This is an opportunity to learn more about the job and demonstrate that you are a qualified, thoughtful, and savvy candidate.
While smart queries can impress the hiring manager, bad ones can seriously hurt your chances of getting the job. That’s why it’s so important you know what questions not to ask in an interview, no matter how tempted you are to ask them. Here are topics to avoid.
10 Questions Not to Ask During an Interview
1. Broad Company Questions
Before the interview, you should already know a lot about the company. And by the end of the interview, you should know even more. Asking a general question about the company (“What exactly does this company do?”) makes it seem like you haven’t been paying attention and didn’t do any research into the company before the interview.
Instead of something general, ask specific questions about the company. You can ask the hiring manager to tell you about the company’s culture, team building programs, or professional development opportunities to learn more about the inner workings of the company.
2. General Information About the Job
Though you should know almost everything you need to know about the role by the end of the interview, it’s entirely plausible you still have some lingering questions.
Asking something like, “What else can you tell me about the role?” is definitely on the no-ask list, though. It’s too general, too vague, and, once again, makes it seem like you weren’t paying attention. Instead, try asking a specific question about the job:
- “How does this role interact with other departments?”
- “What types of problems do you hope the person hired for this job will solve for you?”
- “What will success look like in this position?”
Salary is, of course, an important aspect of any job. And, unfortunately, employers aren’t in the habit of talking about salary in the job description. But when it comes to questions not to ask during an interview, salary is definitely one subject to avoid.
If nothing else, bringing up money matters in the first few interviews could signal that you’re pursuing the job for the wrong reasons or that you’ll turn it down if the salary isn’t high enough. It’s better to wait until you’ve received the job offer to ask about the salary. However, if the employer brings up salary during the interview, then it’s OK to have the discussion.
4. Rumor Has It
It’s fine to ask the hiring manager about things you may have read in the news or heard within the industry about the state of the company.
When it comes to questions not to ask in an interview, asking about something from the rumor mill could come across as unprofessional.
5. Personal Questions
Don’t ask anything that’s too personal or questions that, if the interviewer were asking you, could be considered illegal. Not only might you make the interviewer uncomfortable, you may also come across as inconsiderate–both of which will hurt your chances of moving forward.
If you want to break the ice, you can mention, for instance, that you noticed on their LinkedIn profile that they went to a particular school, and ask them how they liked it or what they majored in. Make sure to keep it light, though.
6. Bringing Dogs or Kids to the Office
While you may want to connect with a job that supports a positive work-life balance, there are better ways to find out how the company supports those initiatives than to ask during the interview. Usually, things like “pet-friendly” or “on-site child care” are in the job description or the company website. But if they’re not, ask other questions to learn more about the company culture to help you understand whether Fido is welcome in the office or not.
The one exception, in this case, is if you have a service dog. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer only needs to make a “reasonable accommodation” for your service dog (which is not the same as an emotional support animal). However, this does not automatically mean you can bring your service dog to work. If you must have a service dog with you, you may want to consider discussing your needs early on in the interview process in the event that the employer can’t accommodate your disability.
7. Flexible Schedules
It might seem odd for us to recommend you not ask about flexible schedules during a job interview, but it’s generally not recommended. Employers want committed workers, so if you’ve just started interviewing and you’re already wondering about your work hours, that could indicate that you’re not as committed to the job or that being available during work hours may be an issue.
Once again, let company culture be your guide. Usually, companies list flexible work options in the job posting or on the website. If they’re not there, ask about the company culture and listen for clues in the interviewer’s answers.
Based on the same premise as the salary question, questions not to ask during an interview include anything about benefits (vacation time, sick time, insurance, and so on). Like salary, asking about benefits early on in interviews positions you as someone who is more interested in what the job can do for you and not what you can do for the company.
Until you receive an offer or are in the final stages of potentially receiving an offer, this topic will just have to wait.
Tread lightly with these types of questions. Having a clear career path is important, and it’s equally important to understand what your career path at that company could be. But there are subtle ways to find out what your future at the company could look like.
Ask what success looks like in the position. How does the company measure success on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis? Or ask why the position is open.
10. Background Checks and Drug Tests
Whenever you’re job hunting, it’s always best to assume that you’ll have to complete background checks and drug tests. Asking questions about these during an interview could imply that you’ve got something to hide.
If there is something that might cause the company to question hiring you, it’s better to be upfront about it and explain honestly and candidly what that issue is and how it won’t interfere with your employment.
Asking The Right Questions
Every job seeker should ask thoughtful and probing questions at the end of their interview. It’s your best chance to learn more about the job and the company. But, knowing what questions not to ask in an interview will help you avoid any missteps and hopefully get you through to the next interview and a job offer.
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