10 questions you should never ask in an interview (and 5 you always should)

 “So, do you have any questions for me?”

This common question toward the close of a job interview can make even the best of us stammer when the tables are turned.

The goal, of course, is to ask a few smart questions—thoughtful ones that show you’ve been paying attention and have done your homework when it comes to researching the company and the specific job you are after. At the very least, you want to ask something. Most employers agree that, “No, I have no questions,” is the worst possible response.

Here are the top 10 most common interview questions you should never ask, plus five very effective ones to ask instead.

Questions you should never ask in a job interview

Company benefits [and salary negotiations] should never be discussed until an offer has been extended, the same principle applies to sick pay and holiday entitlement. It’s best to avoid any question that sounds like you assume you already have the position – unless, of course, your interviewer brings it up first.

Why? It’s a matter of psychology. These kinds of questions put people on the defensive change a question such as, “Why did the company make redundancies last year?” to a less confrontational, “I read about the redundancies you had. What’s your opinion on how the company is positioned for the future?”

This is a great example of a question that could either make you sound thoughtful – or totally backfire and reveal that you did zero research about the company prior to the interview. Before asking any question, determine whether it’s something you could have worked out yourself through a Google search. If it is, a) don’t ask it and b) do that Google search before your interview!

Maybe you’re concerned about the company’s view of your performance, or maybe you’re just curious, but never ask any questions about the company’s review or self-appraisal policies. It makes us think you’re concerned with how often negative feedback might be delivered. Keep your confidence intact, and avoid the topic altogether – or at least until you receive an offer.

Even if you make it clear that you’re hoping for a flexible schedule to accommodate a legitimate concern such as picking up your children from nursery/school. While work-life balance is a very important, it is not the most pressing consideration for a hiring decision-maker. Insinuating early on that you’re concerned about balancing your life may indicate to your employer that you are more concerned about your needs and less concerned about the company’s.

Unless it was implied in the initial job description, don’t bring it up. Some companies will allow you to work from home on occasion once they see what a productive employee you are. But an interview is not the time to be asking for special favours. Right now your top priority is selling them on you first.

Interviewing is a lot like dating. It’s important to entice with your value and attract them to call you for the next ’date’. Offering up your references too soon may hint at desperation. Plus, you don’t want to run the risk of overusing your references.

An individual asking this question may come off as arrogant and entitled.

This is an uncomfortable one. Of course you may wonder about it, but will something like this really play into whether you accept a career opportunity or not? If so, it may be time to rethink your priorities.

While a valid concern in today’s culture, this is something best left unsaid. It gives the impression you have something to hide. Play it safe and don’t post anything (especially disparaging things) about your company, colleagues, or employers on Facebook, Twitter – or anywhere on the internet, remember as soon as you post it is in the public domain.

And yes, even if you’re not “friends” with anyone at work. These kinds of things have a way of getting around.

Questions you should definitely ask in a job interview

Asking for specific insight into the company’s culture is important. Everyone will tell you that their culture is great, but examples prove it. This will help you decide if you want to work for them. At the same time, most interviewers are also trying to assess if you’re a good cultural fit for the company.

This is another example of a clever question that digs for specifics. You want to be sure that your new company appreciates its employees.

By nature, most people like to talk about themselves, so this question helps warm up your interviewer. It also provides critical insight into whether you would be happy working with this individual or company. If your interviewer’s answer excites you, that can further reinforce your decision to continue the interview process. If the response is lukewarm, it may give you something to think about before deciding to invest in a future here.

This is a great question for team players. It not only shows that you have a quality that’s very valuable to the company, but it also gets down to brass tacks when it comes to company culture.

This question shows you’re invested in what you can bring to the company, and not just what the company can do for you. Expect the answer to go deeper than just a basic skill set requirement. Hope that the interviewer will wander a bit, providing personal insight into qualities he favours – perhaps even offering nuggets of detail you can use to reinforce your value in the follow up thank you note/email.

Both! Prior to the interview, have a stamped, addressed blank thank you card ready and with you. This way, you can write your thank-you note right when you walk out of your interview, while everything is fresh in your mind, and drop it right in a mailbox. Once you get home, you should send the email too!

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