3 Kinds of Questions to Avoid Asking at All Costs

John Krautzel
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The kinds of questions you ask at the end of an interview often determine the job interviewer's lasting impression of you, so choose them carefully. Certain categories of questions are momentum-killers that can derail your chances of moving forward in the job application process. Take a look at some of the types of questions you should always avoid in a job interview.

1. Questions You Could Answer Through a Google Search

It used to be that a job interview was one of the primary ways you could learn information about a company. In fact, job interviewers often went out of their way to provide candidates with an overview of the company's clients, products and management style. Those days are over, however. Now, you have most of this information available to you with a few minutes of searching the Web.

In a job interview, don't ask any questions you could answer by doing your own research. That means questions about what the company does, the company's history, its main competitors, its products and the like are all off-limits. By asking these questions, you're not showing that you're interested in the job; you're showing that you couldn't be bothered to prepare for the interview.

2. Questions About Money

A first interview is far too early to talk about salary. In fact, you should avoid bringing up money at all until you've been offered the job or until the interviewer mentions it. Related questions such as when you'd get your first raise or whether you'd have an expense account also send the message that you're only interested in this job for the money. To an interviewer, this may signify that you'll likely have little company loyalty and can be expected to jump ship as soon as you sniff a better offer in the wind.

Questions about benefits send the same message that you're only in this for the money. They may also make you look a bit arrogant, since they're based on the assumption that you're getting the job. There's plenty of time for these discussions after you have a job offer on the table.

3. Questions That Make You Look Lazy

Don't ask about vacation time or how soon you can take a vacation, even if the answer has a potential impact on something important like a wedding or a family reunion. Avoid questions about the hours. If you're applying for a salaried position, you're not going to be punching a time clock and should assume that you may work long hours from time to time.

While many people work well telecommuting, your job interview is not the place to bring it up. If the company you're interviewing with encourages people working from home, the job interviewer is likely to mention it. If you bring it up instead, your interviewer may wonder why you're so eager to avoid coming in to the office.

Don't sabotage what might otherwise be a great job interview by asking questions at the end that send the wrong message to your interviewer. Stay focused on what you can contribute to the company, and do your research ahead of time to make a great impression in your next interview.

Photo Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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  • Robbie M.
    Robbie M.

    ok that's nice

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Lydia totally agree. I have worked both in an office and remotely, as I do today. But I have accepted positions where, after working there for awhile, I would start hinting around about working from home - even part-time. But, if working from home is a priority for you, then I say what does it hurt to ask? If the job posting does not specify a remote option, I would bring it up. If the interviewer reacts badly to the question then I know that the position is not for me and I can wrap up the interview.

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    I think it's okay to ask questions about telecommuting if you responded to a job ad that says remote work is an option. It may also be easier to get the information you want, by asking questions about the team, e.g. "how many work in this office?" Sometimes you'll find out that some are offsite or work out of an office in another city. If telecommuting is not mentioned in the job ad, I agree it's not a good idea to try and negotiate for it in an interview.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Jacqueline thanks for that. It's always great to be able to see an issue from both sides. Totally agree that nowadays we can learn pretty much everything about a company in just a few cursory searches so why ask what we already know. We tend to think that it makes us look smart if we ask those questions. Good to know that it only makes us look lazy to the hiring manager. And taking notes - can't stress that enough. During the interview we may think of another question or two also and should jot that down quickly. I will typically carry a notebook with a list of my questions and, if they are answered during the interview, I write down a quick answer so that I can review it later. @Jacob if telecommuting is mentioned in the job posting - mentioned in a positive light - then certainly you can ask about it. Many job postings will indicate NO telecommuting in which case it's probably not a good idea to ask!

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    Is it appropriate to ask about telecommuting if that is something that is mentioned in the job listing? Something like that may not be a deal breaker, but it really could have a strong influence on why a person would apply for a particular job over another, and if an job seeker was gainfully employed but seeking a greater work/life balance or less time in the office, that is something that really could determine whether or not they would want to move forward in the process.

  • Jacqueline Parks
    Jacqueline Parks

    I have been on both sides of hiring interviews, and as an interviewer, I really dislike those who ask questions that are easily answered with a Web search. A single question might be an oversight, but I have interviewed job candidates who asked multiple questions with easily discoverable answers. To me, this makes it look like the candidate is simply asking questions to look interested, especially if she doesn't take notes on the answers I give. I recommend that you only ask questions that you truly want the answers to so that you remain sincere during the interview process.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Shannon so very true. Always remember that the interview goes both ways. @Hema sure you want to impress the hiring manager but you also want to find out if the company and its culture is right for you. Never forget that you are interviewing them at the same time as they are interviewing you.

  • Hema Zahid
    Hema Zahid

    I can see how questions about vacation time can make you sound lazy in an interview. It might be better to sit down with HR and ask about vacations and sick days after you’ve been hired. The primary goal during an interview should be to impress the hiring manager and questions about vacation time won’t impress anyone.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    I disagree that basic questions about the company indicate that the applicant did not thoroughly research. Personally, I have interviewed with companies who did not have much of an online presence, so while I could find enough information about products/services, I couldn't clearly find information about the company culture, competitors, etc. Asking about these details helped me to make an informed decision about whether or not the company was a good fit for me at the time.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Jay just come out and ask your question if it hasn't been answered already. Asking questions is great but only if they are valid questions. Many job seekers come in with a laundry list of questions that, in the end, don't really matter. You want to find out if this is the right company for you - right? So ask what you would need to ask to make an informed decision. Remember that the interview goes both ways. They may love you and want to make an offer but, maybe, after interviewing them, you have second thoughts. That's why it's so important to remember that the interview goes both ways. Just because a company may want to hire us doesn't mean that we want to work for them.

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    If I want to know the answer to a question I know I could answer (and probably already should have answered) via a Google search in the middle of an interview, what's the best way to ask? Is it best to beat around the bush hoping for clarity, or to apologize and ask about a subject directly?

  • Jane H.
    Jane H.

    Not only do I recommend applicants do a thorough internet search on a company before going in for the interview, I think it also wise to allow that knowledge to inform the interview. Applicants shouldn't brag about what they know, because that gives a bad impression, but to have an understanding of the company and its culture is one way to show the hiring manager just how well they will fit in if hired.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Erica so well put. @Mike even if the questions can be answered by Google, if you think that the question is pertinent to the conversation - ask it. Pick topics that interest you such as "are you planning to introduce any new products this year?" or "where do you see the company in five years?"... questions like that if that's of interest to you. Don't worry about that line - but ask what you need to ask so that you can make an informed decision. As I keep saying - an interview is a two-way street. You want to know where the company is heading and whether or not you really want to work there. Just because you receive a job offer does not mean that you have to accept it. If the company is not what you are looking for, move on.

  • Mike Van de Water
    Mike Van de Water

    John, would you recommend asking questions based on information obtained from the Web searches? For example: "Company X is the leader in your industry, what do you think they do better than this company, and how can we change that?" It seems to me like you want to prove that you've done your homework and are already thinking about how to help the company. But as Duncan mentions, technically a lot of questions are answerable from Google if you look hard enough. Where's the line?

  • Erica  T.
    Erica T.

    I think asking only basic questions about a company also signals to the interviewer that you'll probably take any old job that's offered simply because you need a job. Asking specific questions about products and services, company growth or specific questions about job tasks demonstrates that you have a thorough understanding of what a company does and how it operates. This conveys to the interviewer that you're genuinely excited and ready to work for that particular company - and that you're ready and willing to work hard to succeed.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    Definitely avoid asking questions about money. You should already have some idea of what the position is worth before you go into the interview thanks to industry research available on several websites or through your network. Plus, if you follow the Chinese adage of doing what you love so you never work a day in your life, money is a secondary consideration to creating the kind of career you want.

  • Duncan  Maranga
    Duncan Maranga

    I have to, politely, disagree with the concept of not asking questions that could be answered through a search on the internet. This is because there are actually lots and lots of questions, some of them apparently company specific, that you can still answer just by running a search through Google. This means that you can not categorically say that there are specific ones that the interviewer will term as "answerable on Google".

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Abbey this is always a tough question and the answer is always - it depends. If, during the interview, the interviewer brings up salary - well then that opens the door. Today, with all of the great sites that are available, you should be able to find at least an average of the salary for the position. Try salary.com to check it out. If the benefits are what attracted you, then you already have a great idea what you would receive should you be offered the position. I have been on both sides of the table here. I have interviewed people who ask right off the bat what the salary is. Those interviews tend to be over much quicker than ones where the applicant waits for me to bring it up. Asking about salary shows the interviewer that maybe you aren't as interested in the actual position as you are in a paycheck. On the other side of the table, I would always try to do my research before applying. Why bother applying if the salary is not going to be close to what you are seeking or what you need to live on. I have read great job postings where I get excited just reading it thinking - oh yeah - this is me - only to get to the end where they say - salary will be $10/hr even though we are requiring you to have a masters degree. Best advice - just watch the interviewer for an opening.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    I have read many articles that say to never ask about pay during the interview, but then read another article today that suggested this would be a good time to clear the air. If not during the interview, when is the time to ask about pay? What about benefits? Is it ever okay to discuss the company benefits during an interview? What if the benefits are what really did attract you to the company?

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