Five questions you should never ask at an interview

There’s nothing worse than having no questions to ask at the end of an interview…

Actually, there just might be. In fact, asking something inappropriate or unprofessional is often more harmful than asking nothing at all – and can send all the wrong signals to recruiters. It could even be the reason they decide not to hire you after an otherwise great interview.

We’ve already covered what you should be asking at an interview, but here are a few questions you should definitely steer clear of:

 

What does your company do?

Think asking someone what their company does is a great way to get the ball rolling? Think again.

All this question really says to a recruiter is that you can’t think of anything worthwhile to ask and, more importantly, that you haven’t even deemed the interview significant enough to spend a few minutes on a search engine looking the company up.

So don’t ask anything that you could have learned by researching the company. Instead, focus on the specifics in more detail to help demonstrate you’ve done your homework.

What you should be asking: I saw that your company has recently done X. Can you tell me a little more about this?

How to prepare for an interview

Pre-interview checklist

 

Can I move into other areas of the business?

As disinterested questions go, this one is right up there.

OK, so perhaps you see the position you’re applying for as a springboard to something else, but that doesn’t mean you should tell the recruiter that. You might as well just go the whole way and ask ‘If I’m not right for this job, do you have any other vacancies you think I might be right for?’

Take your current audience into consideration and try exhibiting your drive and enthusiasm for the position you are applying for. Trust us, it will be a lot more impressive.

What you should be asking: What are the promotion prospects? What opportunities for development are there?

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How much sick pay do I get?

So you’re at the first interview, and you’re already planning your first absence?

When it comes to sick pay and annual leave, it’s probably best to leave them alone, or at least until you receive an offer. Otherwise it just looks like you’re pre-empting being away a lot. And no hiring manager wants to see that.

Unless you have a specific medical reason for asking, leave this one well alone.

What you should be asking: Nothing that relates to sick pay or holiday at this stage.

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What’s the nightlife like?

For some of us, the social aspect of a company is an important part of our working lives.

However, as the old adage goes, there’s a time and a place for everything. And the time for asking about the best places to go out in the area is not during your first interview.

Finding out more about the team or asking an open-ended question about company culture is fine, but let any other social aspects come up naturally when you have the job.

What you should be asking: How many other people are there in the team? What’s the best thing about the company culture?

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How did I do?

When it comes to the end of an interview, this one could be a deal-breaker.

It may seem like an innocuous (or worse, ‘humorous’) question at the time, but no matter how much rapport you feel you’ve built, asking how you did is likely to put the interviewer in an uncomfortable position. And more practically, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to provide you with the answer you’re looking for.

So avoid temptation and shy away from compliment-fishing.

Instead, ask them when you can expect to hear from them and send a follow-up email thanking them for their time. Trust us, it’s a much better reflection.

What you should be asking: Could you give a description of your ideal candidate? When can I expect to hear from you?

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Honourable mentions: How long will this take? How important is it that I turn up on time? What’s your social media policy? How long is lunch? Does the company monitor emails? Do you perform background checks? Do you fancy going for a drink after this?

 

Final thoughts

Some of these questions may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many times they come up in interviews.

Aside from the examples above, the biggest tip we can give is simply to listen. Remember to remain attentive at all times. That way, you can avoid asking anything that you should already know the answer to.

Finally, never underestimate the power of preparation.

Making a list of good questions to ask before you arrive on the big day will keep all embarrassing situations and awkward silences to a minimum.

And, if you’re struggling for inspiration, here’s a handy list of questions you should be asking.

 

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The worst thing you can do at an interview? 

Aside from asking the wrong questions (or having nothing to ask at all), what interview nightmares worry jobseekers the most?

We spoke to a group of university students to find out – and see if recruiters actually agree…

 

 

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