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45 Questions You Should NOT Ask in a Job Interview

By Susan P. Joyce

45 Questions You Should NOT Ask in a Job Interview

When an interviewer asks you if you have any questions during a job interview, this is your opportunity to do three important things:

  1. Collect information about the job and the employer that is important to you -- the things that will help you determine whether or not you will accept a job offer (if one is given).
  2. Demonstrate to the interviewer that you have done some research about them -- that you are actually interested in the job, not just wasting time.
  3. Demonstrate that you are a good fit for the job and for the organization and would be an asset, if they can convince you to accept a job offer.

Read 45 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview for suggestions on good questions to ask.

Don't Ask These Questions

Asking these questions -- or asking them too early -- in the interview process may indicate lack of interest, preparation, or intelligence. They may indicate potential problems that might disqualify you as a candidate, like lack of honesty or lack of integrity.

Asking these questions may also demonstrate that you aren't very interested in the job at all, which is a deadly impression to give an interviewer.

You Are More Interested in the Employee Discount Than the Job

These questions seem to show that you are more interested in being a customer (or reseller) than in being an employee.

Some employers may be happy to have you be a customer, but some will think of you as a competitor (a.k.a. reseller):

  • Do employees get discounts?
  • Can employee discounts be shared with family and friends?
  • Is there a limit to how much I can buy with my employee discount?

If the answers to these questions may cause you to accept or reject this job offer, consider whether you want a different job or to start your own business.


You Are More Interested in a Date Than the Job

Even if the job interview is for a job with a dating service, don't flirt. Questions like this are inappropriate and will probably kill your chances of getting a job (or eventually dating someone at work):

  • Want to go out for drinks or coffee later?
  • Is s/he married or have a significant other?
  • Are all the employees here so "hot" (or -- much worse -- as hot as you are)?

Focus on questions about the job. These questions may feel like they're tension breakers or funny, but they aren't appropriate in a job interview. Unless you are interviewing for a job as a comedian, trying to be funny is not usually a good idea.

You Would Be a Pain-in-the-Neck to Work With or to Manage

Some environments may not be good for you -- too noisy, too hot or too cold, for example. So be observant when you are there for your job interview. While many of these issues may be very important to you, these questions are probably not appropriate for the first job interview without a good explanation of why you are asking:

  • Is it always so noisy here?
  • Is it always so cold (or hot) here? Can I turn up the heat (or air conditioning) when I'm working?
  • I prefer working from my home. How often would you expect me to be here?
  • Is it OK to arrive late or leave early if my work is done or if no one needs my help?
  • Do you have a lot of rules about what you can wear here?
  • I don't like Mac's (or PC's). Can I have a different kind of computer to use?
  • I don't want a cubicle. Can I have an office with a window?
  • Can I have the newest smartphone (or name of model) with the maximum memory, best camera, and unlimited usage?

Asking about telecommuting or flextime can be appropriate if asked carefully. After you've worked for an employer for a while, you may find that asking some of these questions are appropriate. Or, the answers may be obvious.

Consider requesting to see the "personnel manual" or other guide for employees about accepted (and unacceptable) behavior at work that could be shared with you if they offer you a job (and before you accept their offer).

You Don't Want This Job

These questions indicate lack of interest in the current job:

  • What other jobs are available here?
  • How soon could I apply for another job here?
  • How quickly can I get promoted?

These questions are part of the "big picture" of this job, questions that would normally be asked in the second or third round of job interviews. Or, wait until you are negotiating a job offer before asking them.

You Are Not Interested in the Work

These are important questions, but don't really have anything to do with the content of the job which is what the job interview is about:

  • How soon can I get a raise?
  • How much paid vacation time would I get?
  • How soon can I take a vacation after I start work?
  • How many paid personal and/or sick days are allowed?
  • Will you pay for training or an advanced degree for me?
  • What other benefits do you provide?

Save these "selfish" questions until you are discussing the job offer. If the salary is too low, perhaps paid vacation time can be extended, or training or some other benefit provided.


You Didn't Read the Job Description

These questions seem to show that you didn't read the job description, or, if you read it, you don't remember anything about it:

  • What does the person in this job do?
  • What are the requirements of the job?

It's always a good idea to bring a copy of the job description into the interview with you. Review it before the interview, and refer to it during the interview, as appropriate.

You Didn't Do Any Research

You should already know the answers based on your pre-application or pre-interview research:

  • What does this company do?
  • How old is this company?
  • Who's the main competition?

You Have Something to Hide

These questions are usually opportunity killers because they seem to indicate you have something to hide:

  • Do you check references?
  • Do you conduct background checks before hiring someone?
  • Is passing a drug test required to be hired?
  • Will I need to pass drug tests after I'm hired? How often? How much warning before the drug tests?
  • Do you offer maternity (or paternity) leave?

Maybe someone with the same name has caused you problems in background checks for earlier jobs. Perhaps you are on a prescription that causes inaccurate drug test results, or you (or your significant other) are thinking about having a family in the not-too-distant future. So, the questions may be not really be red flags. However, until the interviewer knows more about you, asking these questions at the beginning of the job interview process may cause concern and kill opportunities for you.

You Might Not Be Trustworthy

You may have very good reasons for wanting to know the answers to these questions, but asking these questions early in the interviewing process may indicate that you cannot be trusted:

  • Do you have security cameras watching everything I do?
  • Do you monitor email use and web browsing when I'm at work? (assume YES!)
  • Do you keep close track of when I arrive and when I leave?
  • Does anyone check my work? What will they be looking for? When do they usually check? How often?
  • Will anyone be looking at my social media activities?
  • How long do I need to work here before taking a paid personal or sick day?
  • Do you require a doctor's note whenever a sick day is taken?

If you have a good reason for asking these questions, explain your reason, being careful not to trash a former employer or to share too much information. Perhaps you concern about security cameras is based on someone using them to do something creepy in your last job, like monitoring the bathroom use, not because you don't want cameras catching you stealing.

Bottom Line

You get the idea. Don't ask the "selfish" questions too early in the process, and don't ask other questions that might make a bad impression. For successful job interviews, stick to questions about the job, based on your preparation (right?), and the discussions in the interview process.

About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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