Asking questions during an interview shows the employer your interest and enthusiasm. It helps you pinpoint what the employer is looking for in their next hire and gives you the opportunity to connect it to your experience. Some questions, though, should not be asked during the initial interviews or you might not make it to the next round.
1. How much will I make? While certainly you should discuss salary before taking the job, asking too early can turnoff potential employers. An employer wants to feel like you're interviewing for the job because you're interested in the company and the position, not just the money.
Wait until you've been invited back to bring up salary, and even then, tiptoe around the issue. Try to word the question better, such as, "what's the salary range for this role?"
2. Who do I speak with about vacation time? You haven't even gotten the job and already you're asking for time off. This is a huge red flag for employers, especially in the interview process. If and when you get to the offer stage and you think there will be a scheduling conflict, you may bring up any already planned events, but only at the appropriate time in the hiring process.
3. Where is my parking space? This is just an example of one of an infinite number of superficial questions that have no place in a job interview. Rest assured: this company has hired before, and if the employers select you as the best candidate for the job, they'll fill you in on everything you need to know—from where to park to when to take your lunch break.
4. What does the company do? Ask this if you want a quick escort out the door. It is your responsibility to study up on any company that's interviewing you. You should be able to walk in and tell them what they do, about their products, their competitors, and even the most recent company news.
You can, however, ask intelligent questions about the company, such as:
- What are the biggest challenges someone in this position will face?
- How would you describe the company culture here? How do you measure someone's success who works here?
- How has Company X's strategy changed in light of [insert intelligent comment here from all the research you've done]?
5. When do I start? Confidence is an important trait to show while you're interviewing, but cockiness will send you to the door. You shouldn't presume you have the job in your initial job interview. You're likely one of several candidates being considered, and even if you're the most qualified, attitude trumps experience in many cases. A better way to work around this blatant question is to ask when the hiring manager expects to make a hiring decision and have the new person start.
6. How flexible is the company? If you're already looking to bend or break the rules when it comes to showing up to work late, leaving early, taking long lunches or other situations, chances are the human resources manager is going to move on to the next candidate. Before asking the hiring manager to accommodate your personal circumstances, make it clear through the interview process that you're the ideal candidate for the job.
7. Can I telecommute? If telecommuting wasn't described in the job description, then most likely the company is looking for somebody on-site. At many companies, telecommuting is an earned privilege and not one offered right out of the gate. Asking indirect questions may give you some insight into how flexible the company is with telecommuting, but if it seems like it's on a case-by-case basis, you'd be better off to leave it until you've been working in the company for awhile.
8. Any personal question. It's perfectly fine to start with small talk to warm up the interview, but don't cross the line with the personal questions. If you see a photo on her desk, it's natural to ask if it's her family, which could lead to a generic conversation about her kids, but don't ask her if she plans to have more children, if she's married, or how old she is. None of it pertains to the subject at hand: how you qualify as a job candidate.
9. Too many questions. If you're nervous you might ask lots of questions to keep the other person talking. Try to be aware of how many you're asking and not to come across as if you're interrogating the interviewer. You want to get the questions answered you feel like you need to know to move forward in the interview process, but leave some for your follow-up or next interview.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.