12 questions you want to ask in your interview but shouldn’t

Your job interview is wrapping up. It went off without a hitch. You were charming but not effusive. You answered the interviewer’s questions smoothly. You hit on your rehearsed talking points like a pro. You were comfortable but confident. Basically, you were perfect. There’s only one question left to answer: “Do you have any questions for me?”

This innocuous question can end an otherwise stellar interview on a dissonant note. Most of the time, the recruiter is the one directing the conversation. This is your chance to lead and set the tone. The questions you ask will provide insight into what’s important to you. These topics are better avoided.

questions to avoid in a job interview

1. what does your company do?

If the answer to your question is a quick Google search away, don't ask it. You should know the answer long before you step into the interview room. It doesn’t matter whether you're interviewing with a Fortune 500 company or a startup. Do your research before the interview. Asking this question says you didn’t care enough to learn the basics.

2. what will my responsibilities be in this job?

Make sure your question isn't answered in the job description. You applied to the job (hopefully) because the job description aligns with your skills. Instead of asking a broad question about 'the job', focus on specifics you want to know more about. For example: “I noticed the job description said I’d be handling accounting duties. Can you explain in more detail what this would entail?” Unlike a catch-all question, a focused question demonstrates interest.

3. what will my salary be?

A job interview is not the time to hammer out the specifics of your salary. You haven’t got the job yet. You should know if your salary requirements fall within your potential employer's hiring budget. But that's it. After all, there’s no point interviewing with a company that can’t afford your ask. During a job interview is not the time to ask for an exact figure. Wait until the company is ready to make an offer, and then you can start negotiating.

4. how often are raises given?

You haven’t got the job yet. Your starting salary isn't even finalized. This is not the time to be asking about the nitty-gritty details of your pay. Worse, this question implies a sense of entitlement. The implication is you expect, rather than earn raises. That’s not the kind of tone you want to set.

5. how many hours will I be working?

A direct question about how much work you’ll have to put in can make you sound work-shy. Avoid asking questions about long hours or if work extends over evenings and weekends. Instead, turn it around on and make your questions about the company. More insightful questions include: “What does an average workday look like?” or “Describe the company culture at [company]?” or “Are there opportunities to work from home occasionally?”

6. how soon can I take a vacation?

Asking about taking a vacation before you’ve put in your first day of work is a definite no-go. You’re at an interview to showcase why you’re the right person for a job. Asking about how soon you can get away from that job doesn’t do much to inspire confidence.

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7. what will my office look like?

Chances are your office decor will have zero impact on how productive you are. Making the size of your office a talking point this early in the game can seem entitled or superficial. You’re still at the point where you should be focusing your efforts on proving you’re right for the job. This is not the time to start laying out a list of diva demands.

8. will I have an expense account?

You might have noticed a common thread on this list. Many questions are about negotiating perks before you’re a shoo-in for the job. Asking about an expense account falls into this category. Until you’re in the midst of negotiating an offer, the answer to this question is none of your business.

9. is internet usage monitored?

Asking about restrictions on internet usage puts up immediate red flags. Same goes for email and phone calls. Why are you asking? What are you planning on doing? Were you caught using company resources for personal reasons in the past? You might think it’s just a question, but interviewers won’t see it that way.

10. will there be a background check or regular drug-testing?

See the previous question. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, this question will raise an eyebrow. Most people won't ask, unless they’ve run into a problem before or expect to have one going forward. Most employers perform a basic background check on new hires. They'll also request to speak with 2 to 3 references. Expect this, unless you’re told otherwise.

11. I heard this rumour about [company]. what can you tell me about it?

An interview is not the place for gossip. No matter how juicy or headline-grabbing, you’re in the building in a professional capacity. Act like it. Even if you think the rumour is harmless, it’s none of your business. If you’re gossiping now, your interviewer might wonder how you’ll conduct yourself at work. Will you gossip about coworkers or cause unwarranted drama?  

12. how did I do? did I get the job?

Asking about your performance puts your interviewer in an awkward position. They may have other candidate interviews scheduled. They may have to consult with other members of the team before making a decision. More often than not, this question won’t end with the answer you want (a.k.a. You’re hired!) Being too eager or desperate for the job can also be off-putting. Keep your head held high, be confident in your performance. You’ll hear back in a day or two, when your interviewer has had some time to process.

Don’t underestimate the power of ending a job interview on a positive note. Though it’s easy to think of ‘do you have any questions for me?’ as a throwaway question without much value, what you decide to ask can be very telling! So make sure your question leaves the focus on all your best traits.

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