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October 03, 2016

7 Interview Questions You Should Never Ask

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Questions You Should Never Ask

By Amy Elisa Jackson, Writer, Editor and Content Creator

Much like the rules of dating warn against talking about politics and religion too early, there are some definite no-nos when it comes to the questions you ask a hiring manager or recruiter in a job interview. No matter whether you are interviewing for a job as a foreman on a construction site or a hostess at a restaurant, there are some topics you should stay away from just to be safe.

To help guide you through the interview process, we have come up with 7 questions you should absolutely refrain from asking if you want to land the job.

1. "I heard that the company will go public soon, is that true?"

Not only is it poor form to ask about gossip you've heard, your potential employer gains nothing by answering. For insight, confidential IPOs or secret IPOs allow companies to test the waters for an IPO by getting feedback from the SEC and certain investors; it also makes it easier for a company to quietly back away from an IPO if the response isn't optimal. In an interview, stay away from questions rooted in "he said, she said" and steer clear of prying into the financial details of a company. A better question would be, "How would you describe the future of the company? If I came on board, what would the future of the company look like?"

2. "When will I be considered for a promotion?"

In an interview, it is very presumptuous and a bit cocky to ask the timing around promotions. Sure, you want to know about employee advancement opportunities and review criteria, but this is not the way to go about receiving this information. The better way to dig into a company's career growth trajectories is to ask, "Can you describe the company review cycle? How will I be evaluated? What is the framework, especially for the team that I might be joining?"

3. "Are happy hours a part of your company culture? They were at my last job."

While you want to show your personality in an interview, there is a delicate balance between coming off as a great culture fit and presenting yourself as a partying slacker. Pick your references and examples carefully in the questions you pose. Happy hours? Probably not okay to mention in an interview (depending on company culture). Team bonding activities? Perfect to ask an interviewer about.

4. "Who is your competition?"

While this question is not offensive, it definitely shows that you have failed to properly research your potential employer. Before every interview, research the organization: know their company culture, feedback from other employees, read interview reviews, and evaluate their benefits. Failing to do so may equal a rejection.

5. "Why did you have layoffs last year? Will that happen again this year?"

Evaluating a company's success and future potential is important for any job seeker, especially if you want to stay at a company for the long haul. However, abruptly mentioning a sore spot like layoffs may turn off the very people you are trying to impress. Furthermore, the hiring manager and recruiter may not be at liberty to share that information or may not know. For the majority of companies, we would warn against asking this question. However, if an organization has a track record of growth followed by layoffs over the past few years (Think: Yahoo, HP, Boeing, or Twitter), it may be wise to ask this question in a polite way. Try, "I have followed your company for years, and while I am eager to become a part of the team I am concerned about the pattern of layoffs. What are the company's plans for doing things differently in the future to avoid mass layoffs? How do you as an employee deal with the unexpected landscape?"

6. "I prefer solitude, do I get my own office or an area away from everyone else?"

Bold and presumptuous. Period. That is how you will be perceived by the employer if you pose this question. Save the preferences and "would be nice to have" items for when you have the offer letter in hand.

7. "How long have you been with the company? And what do you do?"

Again, research, research, research. With Google and the Internet at your fingertips, this should rarely be a question you ask, save for those moments when an unexpected interviewer is tossed your way or joins your panel. In most cases, a recruiter will give you the names of those who you will be interviewing with. Be sure to research them in advance so you can ask more poignant questions like, "I see you transitioned from a marketing role to a business development one. How typical is that kind of change in the company?" Or ask something along the lines of, "Now that you have been at XYZ company for 5 years, what advice would you give a new employee about making the most of their time here and career advancement?" If you absolutely must ask this kind of question, pose it in a savvy way. For example, "What do your day-to-day duties consist of?"


Amy Elisa Jackson is an established expert in entertainment and lifestyle journalism, content management and social media strategy. She is currently the Director of Partnerships & Social at Levo.com, the largest and fastest growing professional network for the under 35 set. The Stanford University alum and proud 'LA girl' has spent 10 years as an award-winning journalist on both digital and print platforms. She served as the Lifestyle Editor for Ebony Magazine, executing cover stories and exclusive interviews with Magic Johnson, Mariah Carey and Mike Tyson.

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