Don't Ask These 5 Questions in Interviews

Businesspeople at meeting

By Vicki Salemi

This sounds like an oxymoron, right? After all, you should ask questions during the interview – they're a must. If you don't, a hiring manager may consider it game over before it began.

Here's the kicker though: Not all questions are created equal. Use them wisely, and you can gain tremendous insight into the organization and gauge if you can see yourself working there and ultimately thriving. The other scenario is asking weak questions only to get weak answers. It's kind of like the lifeline situation on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" Leverage that lifeline when the going gets tough, rather than in the earlier, easier rounds.With that in mind, don't squander your questions. It's not about quality, not quantity. Consider the questions you ask to be equally as important as your answers to the interviewers' questions.

Take time to plan your questions thoughtfully and methodically before the interview. As specific questions arise during the interview itself, ask them, but please avoid the ones below. The following questions won't provide you with an inside view on the organization and probably won't give you substantial answers.

1. "When are you looking to fill this position?" Yes, it may be tempting to ask this, but here's the thing: Recruiters hear this question on a daily basis, and you may end up getting a snarky response – and rightly so. They're not looking to fill the position six months from now – not even three months from now. They're looking to fill it right this very minute and, in most cases, yesterday.

Although recruiters want to hire quickly, you need to factor in at least two to four weeks for the chain of command approvals and background check. And that's assuming the interview process is towards the tail end.

It's in the hiring manager's best interest to move things along swiftly, too. If not, his or her boss can say, "Hey, this position has been open for three months and is still vacant. You're clearly getting by without this additional team member, so you technically no longer need it." And just like that, the job opening disappears. So, yes, everyone is on the same team here: Hire, and hire fast.

2. "Why are you hiring?" These specific words are key, and the simple answer is, "because we have a need." Even though we know what you're getting at here, you may end up getting a succinct, non-descriptive response that beckons a follow-up question anyway.

The better, more insightful question to ask is, "Why is this position open?" Is it because the group is expanding? If so, that's a great opportunity to ask a follow-up question about how many people are expected to be hired within the next two years. Is the position open because the person who previously held the position got promoted? That's another great sign the organization espouses career growth and promotions. Or is the position open because an employee left? In that case, you have to wonder what the turnover is really like.

3. "What is your policy on drug and alcohol use?" Seriously, please don't be that guy or gal. Next question ...

4. "What are the hours?" This sounds like a Catch-22, given that you need to know the hours to show up on time. However, asking about the hours shows you're going to be watching the clock. And yes, we should all watch the clock for work-life balance, but this question won't necessarily look good for your work ethic or make a positive first impression.

Your future boss is evaluating everything you say and wants to know you'll do whatever it takes to get the job done. Plus, answers to this question won't give you insight into the job, company or its culture.

You can, however, learn from observing. If your interview starts at 4 p.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m. as the staff circulates menus to have dinner delivered, that's a sure sign you'll be working well into the evening.

5. "Why do you like working here?" This isn't necessarily a bad go-to question to ask the interviewer about him or herself, but it often leads to a major dead end. Here's why: The most common answer is typically "the people." And even if it's not the people, they'll still tell you it's the people.

Instead, you can ask, "What's one of the main reasons you like working here aside from the people?" or "What do you like most about this corporate culture aside from its people?" This will give you further insight. Is it due to training opportunities and the ability to grow? Maybe this person has an amazing mentor who has guided him or her? Maybe the benefits are stellar?

This is a good line of questioning to ask toward the end of the interview, when things feel less formal and you've established a rapport.
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