Asking the wrong questions in job interviews can send red flags to employers that you are not the kind of candidate they’re looking for – and that working with you will probably suck.
There’s usually some small talk at the beginning of a job interview which can seem conversational. Don’t be fooled. That’s job interview too. Stay focussed on the professional impression you are there to make. The same goes for the inevitable end of the meeting when the employer asks you, “So, do you have any questions for me?”
Of course, there are plenty of things you want to know about the perks, pay, and benefits of working there. But you’re being judged as much on the questions you ask as you were on the ones you answered.
Many people have lost opportunities either by having no questions at all – which makes them appear disinterested – or, far worse, by asking questions that make them look dumb.
So, what does this company do, anyway?
Go home. There’s no excuse showing up for a job interview without doing your homework. Research the industry, read the company website, and look up your interviewer. You should know going in, who you will be speaking to – and what you want to communicate to them about you.
Otherwise, is just looks like you don’t care enough to put in any effort. So, why should they hire you?
What is your job here?
Again: do your homework. The interviewer will likely be someone from HR, your department head, or your direct manager. Often you will meet with all three. In any case, you should know in advance who you will be speaking with and what their role is.
It is okay to ask who you will be meeting if they don’t tell you straight out when the interview appointment is booked.
How soon can I get promoted?
It’s good to be ambitious. You want to work for an employer who will allow you to grow your career. However, when you’re interviewing for one position is not the time to be asking about your next. The employer has a role to fill right now. If you give the impression that you are not actually interested in staying in that role for any length of time, they’ll move on to someone else who is.
Get hired. Work hard. Do a great job. Then with a solid body of work and professional reputation, look for opportunities for advancement.
Are there any other positions currently available?
You might want to know this to determine if the company has a high turnover rate. If they’re hiring for many positions simultaneously it could indicate that either staff are fleeing or that the organization is experiencing rapid growth.
Those could be valuable piece of information while you’re weighing potential job offers. You just don’t want to give the impression that you aren’t really interested in the job you’re interviewing for by asking about other options.
Employers want candidates who are enthusiastic about the job and who will stay in it at least long enough to make it worthwhile hiring and training them.
Is it always so loud/hot/cold in here?
I ignored this red flag when interviewing a candidate once. She asked several disapproving questions about the work environment – including the support from the office chair she sat in for roughly 20 minutes. How can you concentrate with those fans going? Where is that draft coming from?
Complaining about the workspace in the interview can make you look like you might be a pain in the butt to work with. Employers will actively try to avoid adding complainers to their team.
I don’t work well in the open concept tables I see out there. Can I get an office with a closed door?
If it is an open concept office, then that is the deliberate culture of the workplace. Use the interview to sell your candidacy and find out more about the company and its culture. Asking for something different straight off just tells the employer that you aren’t going to be a good fit.
How soon can I take my vacation time?
Employers want a new hire that is excited about the job, anxious to contribute. Your goal at the job interview is to convince them that you are that dynamic candidate. Asking how quickly you can take time off gives the opposite impression. You’re just looking for a gig to get some paid vacation time, asap.
Do I get an employee discount?
Similarly, asking about perks is a job interview faux pas. Employers like to boast about the advantages and benefits of the company to candidates that they are eager to hire. Those will all be part of the package you receive if you get a job offer. So, in the interview, ask smart questions about the future of the company, trends in the industry, and the ways that you can contribute.
That’s how you get to the offer.
Negotiations are about you and what you want. The job interview is about what the employer wants, and what you can do for them. The answers to what they can do for you don’t matter very much – because if that’s what you focus on, you won’t be getting the job anyway.