The job interview is a very stressful moment in time, not just for the person hoping to land a new job, but also for the employee or employees who need to vet them.
The point of an interview isn’t just about seeing if a person’s qualifications are a match — their resume should help answer that question. It’s also about evaluating a person’s cultural fit and determining if they really have a grasp on the job they are hoping to receive.
A really good interview is like a slow dance, where the person being interviewed takes the lead and turns around the conversation so the employer is excited to share information that could help them answer questions with certainty.
If you ask the wrong interview questions your potential employer might think you are lazy, unprepared, or ultimately not very interested in the job at hand.
What does your company do?
If you haven’t researched the company before applying it throws up a lot of red flags. First, how can you say this job is right for you when you don’t understand what the company does. Second, if you can’t be bothered to learn about the company, what does that say about your work ethic?
What is the salary I will receive?
There’s a time and place to talk about salary and it is not during the first interview. If you are really interested in the work, you will talk about the job and not about the rewards of accepting that job.
Do employees work long hours?
Translation: Do I have to put in more than 8 hours a day because I really don’t want to be here in the first place. This question also means that you don’t plan on putting in the long hours needed to get the job done as well. You will be out the door soon as the clock hits 5 o’clock. This is a regular question that eliminates even some potentially great employees.
When does my vacation time kick in?
You can often find information about a company’s benefits on its website, via the job ad you applied for and by asking questions before you actually accept the job. If you draw focus away from the actual job during the interview you will lose the room.
How much paid vacation time would I get?
Stop obsessing about the time when you won’t be at work. You should be excited about the job. Ask questions about how you can pitch in, what is expected from you, and other important details. This question says “I already can’t get away from my responsibilities at work.”
Is there an expense account?
Why does this even matter? Your job is to make money from the company, not to assume they will spot your purchases. If there is a need for an expense account it will be given to you once you accept the job. Stick to questions about your specific potential position.
When will I be able to get a promotion?
You are in the interview to apply for a certain job. When you ask this question the assumption an interviewer gets is that you don’t want to actually work in the position you are being offered. They want someone who is going to accept a job and come in focused on the task at hand.
What happens if I don’t get along with my coworkers?
Be an adult and do your job or talk to someone in a civil way to see why you are bothering them in some way. When you come into work your job is to reach certain goals and handle certain tasks. This isn’t a schoolyard playground, we can all be adults and get the job done.
What are the benefits like?
This is a great question — when you are being offered the position or entering a final interview. It’s not a great question when you should be focusing on questions about the job you are hoping to land.
How often are raises given?
This question takes the focus off your accomplishments and tells the interviewer that you just want to chase the next big paycheck. There is nothing wrong with negotiating your salary but your main interview is not the time to do it. If they ask about your requirements that is different than shoving it in their face.
Can I come in early or late and arrive early or late?
Consistency can be king for many employers. They want to know you will be there when a meeting pops up and that you will be there to support your fellow co-workers. If you get into the job and find hours that works for everyone, that’s great. If the job requires an 8-5 shift, then that’s when you should work.
Do you have kids? Are you Married? Or other personal questions.
There are two reasons you shouldn’t ask personal questions. First, employers can’t ask you personal questions, so you are basically leveraging your position in the interview which could make them uncomfortable. Second, it’s an irrelevant question. If an interviewer doesn’t think you can focus on the task at hand, in this case the interview about a specific job, then why would they want hire you?
Do you check social media accounts?
This screams “I’m going to be a horrible representative for your company.” Employers want to know they are hiring level-headed people who can conduct themselves in a responsible manner both at work and while away from their desk. You will raise a bunch of suspicions by asking this question.
Is there a background check?
Red flag alert! Even if you don’t have anything wrong with your background this will raise a bunch of warning signs and immediately cast doubts about your past. If you are going to fail a background check maybe you shouldn’t have applied for the job at hand.
Do you monitor employee computer usage?
Do you plan to do things on your computer that should require monitoring? This is another question that will draw a lot of concerns about your work ethic and your ability to stay focused on the job in general.
Will I have an office of my very own?
I have worked as an executive for the last 17 years and the only office I have is in my personal home space. Why does it matter where you work? In fact, many successful executives these days such as Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Founder of Facebook, refuse to keep an office because they want to be around their employees. An office is just a bunch of walls and a door, it shouldn’t define your job.
What are your grounds for termination?
Are you planning on arriving late? Leaving early? Taking days off without any notice? Violating the dress code (if there is one)? That what this question is essentially asking, even if that’s not what you mean.
Can I make personal calls during the day?
You are at work to do a job. Let’s be honest, most employers not in the services industry don’t complain if you call a spouse or a friend for a quick call during work. Just show up, get your job done, and if you have to make a call or two nobody is going to care.
How did I do during this interview?
If you got the job you did great. They loved you. And CONGRATS!!! If you didn’t get the job you didn’t hit the main points they were looking for. You can ask this question if you receive notice that you didn’t get the job. In fact, I encourage you to ask this question so you can better prepare for future interviews. This all comes back to a “time and place” scenario.
Is there an employee discount?
Is that going to change if you want the job? If you are there for the employee discount you are probably not the right match for the job. This reveals your position and shows that the job isn’t what’s most important to you.
Can you tell me the history of your company?
Do you have Google? This is like asking what a company has done since the beginning of time and then expecting a 30 second answer. If you have Google (hint: you probably do) you should have researched the company’s history so you could gain a sense of how it has evolved and where it is going.
Do you check references?
Translation: I might not get this job if you check references. What you might be asking is whether they would like you to provide references for the job. In any case you should only provide references when asked to do so. Providing them ahead of time can make you seem eager and refusing to provide them can make you seem unqualified for unknown reasons.
What is my schedule going to be?
Typically, you can expect to work 40 to 50 hours per week if you are a salaried worker. If you are in a highly competitive industry such as banking or tech you may work longer hours. This questions may lead the interviewer to assume you don’t have any flexibility in your work hours.
Can I apply for other positions in the company?
Translation: I don’t really want this job but will do it so I can move onto the next position. Instead, show your interest in the current job. Feel free to ask instead about career development opportunities. This shows the interviewer that you are interested in getting better at your job which will help the company.
Do I have to sign a non-compete agreement or a non-disclosure agreement?
This is a huge red flag. If you are concerned about jumping ship or sharing company information you are probably not the type of person they want to hire in the first place.
Can I wear whatever clothes I want?
This sounds like an anti-authority question and it could lead to the interviewer showing you the door. You should wear whatever is appropriate for the business where you will be working.
Do you drug test?
Translation: I’m on drugs, I might do drugs, I love love love drugs. If you are going to fail a drug test turn down the job when that request arrives. Another option is simply not to do any drugs which helps you avoid this question all together.
What are the people like?
Don’t put the interviewer in a tough position to talk about their employees. Instead, ask what the culture is like and what you can expect on a day to day basis in terms of working with other employees. This shows you want to really see if the company is a good fit for you and it shows you are a team player.
Will I have to work on weekends or holidays?
Does it matter? If you do a great job, show up on time, and impress your bosses it will lead to promotions, better pay, and other benefits. Check out sites like Glassdoor to determine what the hours and work environment are like.
When can I get a raise?
This makes you sound expensive even if you are about to receive a high starting salary. Focus on the details of the job and negotiate a strong starting salary based on your skills and work experience. This goes along with the previous question about when you will get a raise.
What type of technology do I get to use?
If you are not a computer programmer or technician you probably shouldn’t ask this question. You will be given the same tech as everyone else at the company and they are obviously able to do their jobs. If your main goal is to have the newest iPhone or the best Mac, your priorities are messed up.
Did I ask the right questions?
First, if you were prepared you probably asked the right questions. Interviewers don’t expect you to know everything about the company and the job you are applying for. They will fill you in with some specifics and will answer the questions you have.
Did I get the job?
This question shows a lot of desperation. If you don’t hear back in weeks you can reach out to a potential employer for an update, otherwise give them some time to evaluate all of their potential job candidates.