The wrong questions can kill the good impression you made earlier, so it’s important to pick thoughtful questions about the job and the organization. Here are 10 questions that you should steer far away from:
[See The 50 Best Careers of 2011.]
1. What does your company do? If you ask questions about the company that could have easily been answered with a small amount of research, you’ll come across as unprepared, unmotivated, and lazy.
2. What benefits do you offer? You don’t want to ask about benefits at this stage, and you definitely don’t want to ask about the nitty-gritty details of those benefits—who the health care provider is, if dental coverage is offered, how many vacation days employees receive, and so forth. The time to inquire about benefits is when you’re negotiating the details of an offer. At this stage, your questions should center around the job itself and the organization.
3. Can I leave at 3:00 on Thursdays? If you start asking for special treatment before you even get the job, employers will assume you’re going to be regularly asking for exceptions to be made. Whether it’s requests to work different hours, have a specific day off, or telecommute, now’s not the time to be making requests. Once you have a job offer, then you can negotiate for what you want.
4. Do you drug test? If they do, you’ll find out soon enough. Asking about it raises some obvious red flags.
5. Would I be able to play a role in (something unrelated to the job you’re applying for)? You might be really excited about the company’s social media operation or that big event they throw in Hollywood every year, but if it doesn’t relate to the job you’re applying for, don’t imply that it’s more exciting to you than the work that you’re actually interviewing to do.
6. Do employees get a discount on your product? This stage of the conversation is about whether you’ll be a good fit for each other. The answer to this question is unlikely to determine that for you, and you’ll come across as only interested in what they can do for you.
7. Do you check references? Assume that most employers do check references. Asking about it implies that you have something to hide.
8. How long do you get for lunch? Anything that implies that you’re focused on getting away from work rather than excelling at the job itself is going to reflect badly on you.
9. Why should I take this job? If you can’t figure out on your own whether or not the job is one you want, the interviewer is unlikely to try to figure it out for you.
10. How did I do? This question puts your interviewer on the spot. Good interviewers will be taking time to process your conversation and compare you to other candidates. Don’t end the interview on an awkward note.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.