Past Issues

February 21, 2011

Don't Ask These Questions If You Want The Job

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Don't Ask These Interview Questions...

Jeff Lipschultz is a founding partner of A-List Solutions

Many career coaches and placement specialists focus on telling job seekers about the types of questions to ask during an interview. This is why I've decided to flip the coin and touch on the issue of "what NOT to ask during an interview".

Here's a list of questions that I recommend you do not ask in the first interview. Consider the more appropriate questions (and comments) I've provided.

What is the salary for this position?

This question is premature. Hopefully you already have a general idea, based on the job title you're applying for and online research for what others in similar roles are being paid. Based on these figures you should know that you're not wasting your time interviewing for a job that will not match your budget requirements.

When do you expect to make a decision?

Instead you might ask a more general question about how their typical selection process works. For instance, you could ask, "Are there typically several rounds of interviews before selection is made?" This will give you a rough idea of how long the selection process may take.

What does this company do?

You should know the answer to the question before the interview begins. A more appropriate question would probe deeper into the company's unique strengths and positioning (for example, "I know you excel in providing XYZ to your customers-has the company thought about also providing ABC?").

Did I get the job? When do I start?

If they think you are the lead candidate, they'll likely tell you about the next steps in the process. If they mention this, simply let them know you are very interested in the opportunity and look forward to next steps in the process.

Do I really need to have Requirement XYZ as listed in the Job Posting?

There's a chance you don't need it, but the company likely put it in the job posting for a reason. If they ask you about it first, you know they really care about it. If they don't, it may not be too important and you should leave the topic out of the discussion.

Do I have to work weekends/overtime?

You don't want to give the impression that you are planning to put in as few hours of work as possible. Instead you might ask what a typical work week is like.

How long would I expect to wait to get promoted or transferred?

This question implies you are not happy with the position you are interviewing for. Instead you might ask what the typical growth opportunities are for people in this role.

When do employees get salary increases?

Similar to the previous question, this question implies some kind of mismatch between your needs and the job being discussed. Regardless of the answer, the next raise could end up being sooner or later due to company performance. You need to be satisfied with the current salary to interview for the job.

What is it about my resume that got me this interview?

Although it is good to know what they consider your strengths, you sound like you're not confident about your qualifications or trying to manipulate the interview. A better question to ask is "What characteristics and strengths do you feel the ideal candidate has?"

Other general rules of thumb:

  • Don't ask questions that start with "Why." Many of these questions sound as if you're questioning their expertise or decision-making. Asking "How" prompts a discussion you may learn more from.
  • Don't ask multi-faceted questions. Keep your questions limited to one point per question. Simple is better.
  • Don't ask questions that have a simple answer like yes or no or a number. Those questions may indicate you didn't do your homework on the company or don't really have a strong desire to work there.
  • Don't ask questions that will make the interviewer uncomfortable. Your goal is not to make yourself appear smarter than them. You want to have a good conversation where valuable information is exchanged.
  • Don't ask about beliefs or values in the interview. If offered the job, and you feel strongly about something, you can take this up with Human Resources to make sure you will be comfortable in the job.
  • Be careful about asking personal questions. Only ask questions that would be considered public knowledge, like what high school or college they may have attended (not necessarily dates attended). These questions are only useful in an interview if it allows you to make a better connection with the interviewer.
Jeff Lipschultz is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a premier recruiting firm in Dallas-Fort Worth. Jeff shares his views on employment trends and quirky observations of society at Jeff has worked in start-ups to Fortune 500 companies and has interviewed thousands of candidates.

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