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Q&A? More Like N&O! What NOT to Ask on an Interview

Updated: Jan 17, 2020

With such a competitive job market, the littlest things can be a difference. Hiring decisions can come down to the smallest details, so you want to make sure you outshine whoever your competition might be. These are things that could tip the scale against you in a close contest, so be mindful, and keep these in the back of your mind.

“How quickly can I get promoted and get a raise? Will you pay for training or an advanced degree?”

It’s great that you want to advance within the company, and many employers will view this as a perk overall. However, asking these questions in an interview could be considered by most hiring managers to be jumping the gun and could hurt your chances of getting a job in the first place.

Instead: Ask about the typical career trajectory for someone in this position, or about company goals as a whole for growth and advancement over the next five to ten years. This still shows that you plan on being with the company for a long time and are interested in growing as the company does, but it lands much more softly with an interviewer.

“How often do I have to pass a drug test? Do you do background checks and check references?”

These questions will all be a red flag to any interviewer; they all suggest that you have something to hide. It’s best to assume that the answer will be yes so that you can be prepared, You will likely get the answers to these questions, should you have them, but it will be when, and if, they extend an offer to you.

Instead: Don’t say anything until you have an offer; the company will likely explain their onboarding process to you. At this point, if you have an issue, I’m sure you can Google ways to get around it, which we will not be discussing in this article.

“Are you interviewing other people for this job?”

Of course they are! Unless they explicitly tell you that you are their only candidate, they’re interviewing other people. Don’t think about it; if you’re the right person for the job, you will get it, and thinking about other people will only throw off your concentration.

Instead: Focus on the fact that if you do a great job in this interview, it doesn’t matter who your competition is. I’ve seen times where they were two candidates who were so strong, the company created a role for the second person. The company might decide to reach out to you in a week or a month for a different role- you never know. Make sure you give the best interview you can and impress everyone in the room.

“How long do I have to wait before I take my time off? Do you need a doctor’s note for sick days?”

Before you can worry about taking time off at work, you have to get the job. Asking these questions preemptively indicates that you’re already thinking about being absent from the office. This is not the impression you want to give to a future employer. Of course, it is important that a job offers a good work/life balance, sick days, benefits, etc., but these are things you want to discuss after you’ve already been offered the job.

Instead: Don’t mention any of this until the job offer is on the table. At this point, the company will give you a benefits package, and you can negotiate from there. Remember, you can always turn down an offer if it really turns out to be not what you want.

“Do you monitor email use and web browsing? Will someone be checking my work? How often do people get fired, and what’s the severance package like?“

Like the above questions, these will indicate that you have something to hide. The reasoning behind this conclusion? If you’re not doing anything wrong, you wouldn’t mind your browsing being monitored, or security cameras tracking you throughout the day. You shouldn’t be worried about how the firing process is carried out, and you shouldn’t be nervous about your boss looking into your work. If you are, you might do better to examine your own work ethic and adjust accordingly.

Instead: Don’t even bring it up. At all. If there’s expectations for your work, they’ll be given to you

“What does this company do? What’s the history?”

You might be trying to seem interested, but an interviewer is going to think you just didn’t do your research. All of this information is going to be readily available on the website of any company you might interview at. By coming in and asking these questions, you’ll seem ill-prepared and unenthusiastic about the opportunity.

Instead: Ask the interviewer for their favorite thing about the company, or what they think is most interesting about their job. Just trust me, and don’t ask anything you could learn on their website. It’s a big turn-off for a hiring manager that you haven’t done your research for a company you’re interviewing with. If you haven’t done your due diligence, you won’t come across as a serious candidate, and it could be an automatic pass.

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