There you are, sitting in front of the interviewer for your dream job. You’ve dazzled her with thoughtful answers to all the expected interview questions and given some insightful reasons why you would be the perfect candidate. And then comes the question that most interviews use as a wrap up. Do you have any questions for me?
The right answer is always “Yes.” Having a few questions underscores your interest in the position and desire to learn more about it — but also to have those extra few minutes to impress them with why you are the perfect candidate.
This can go really wrong though. Many a perfect interview is torpedoed with the candidate asking the wrong question.
They say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but they would be wrong. Here are five questions you should never ask in an interview, particularly the first interview:
What is the salary (vacation, benefits, etc.)?
Bringing up salary on a first visit can ensure that there’s no second visit. It makes you look more motivated by the extrinsic package than in the position itself. Of course, salary is a huge factor and one that will eventually play a role in whether you accept a given job. But it shouldn’t be the first thing to focus on. In addition, if you have them name your salary before the interviewing process is completed — and shown where your skills and talents make you an ideal person for the job — you might be undercutting yourself. The longer you can delay a salary negotiation, the stronger your hand. If you really are interested in the salary for the position because you have no idea, and aren’t sure if it will be sufficient, see if you can find out what similar positions pay at other companies; this one is probably right in line.
What does this company do? Who are its competitors?
These are just two examples of questions that fall under the category of “things you should already know.” If you are interviewing for a position and have done your homework, you should have a basic idea of what the company does, its market share, its most successful products, etc. Most of these things can be found out with a simple visit to the company’s website and/or a Google search. Showing a complete lack of knowledge about the company indicates a complete lack of interest in the position.
When will I be promoted?
Sometimes you are just purely curious about the next steps of a particular job — what your career path might be with this company. But, a question about a promotion might indicate to the interviewer that you’re not particularly interested in this position — you just want to get your foot in the door and move on. That may be the case, but what does that mean for your new boss or manager? That they will spend all this time training you, getting you up to speed, spending time integrating you into the department or team — and then you’ll leave, forcing them to start the process again. That’s not an appealing thought for them! Of course you might want to show that you are ambitious and career-minded, but a better way to do it is to express your interest in the positon at hand and focus on how you can do the best job possible in the position for which you are applying.
Do you do background or social media checks?
You know exactly why you don’t ask this: it implies you have something to hide. Make sure that you don’t inject any doubt into their mind about your online footprint, your past work history or any other aspect of your previous life. Of course, you should be ready for them to do the background search and social media scan — and make sure that your profiles are waiting for them with a showcase of your best, most professional “you.” Assume that they will be checking, but don’t ask, as it might make them believe that you are concerned they might — and that they won’t like what they would see!
Can I telecommute?
This is another one that can turn into a red flag because they might be concerned that is a deal breaker for you. The truth is that unless the position clearly stated that telecommuting is acceptable, they are unlikely to bend the rules for a new employee. By all means, find out if others in the company telecommute, if you are able to sleuth that out from talking to current or former employees. But don’t expect that you will have the same arrangement. Most employees who telecommute (again, unless it’s part of the job description) were granted that flexibility and freedom after showing that they were valued team members and proving a certain level of work ethic and ability to work unsupervised. Your new manager is going to want to get to know you and your work product much better before they allow you to work remotely. So, assume that this option is off the table unless it has been expressly discussed.
The bottom line is that each of these IS a valid question — they are just not questions that paint you in the best possible light in an interview. Taking the time to get the answers to these either from another source, or later in the process is certainly smart as you consider all your options and whether the job will be the right fit. But when you are on a first interview in a “get to know you” situation, you want to make sure that you are not doing anything that will cast doubt on your commitment to the company or the job that’s available.
by Cathie Ericson