When an interviewer asks you if you have any questions during a job interview, this is your opportunity to do three important things:
Read 45+ Questions to Ask in a Job Interview for suggestions on good questions to ask.
Asking bad questions -- or asking good questions at the wrong time -- may indicate lack of interest, preparation, or intelligence. Most of these questions should never be asked in a job interview, and some questions should be saved until a job offer has been made.
Check out the bad impressions you may give the interviewer when you ask these questions:
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:
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.
These questions indicate lack of interest in the current job:
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, better, wait until you are negotiating a job offer before asking any of them.
You should already know the answers based on your pre-application or pre-interview research:
These are important questions you need answered before you accept a job offer, but asking them too early in the process makes you look more interested in the salary and benefits than in the job:
Save these "selfish" questions until you are negotiating the job offer.
These questions are usually opportunity killers because they seem to indicate you have something to hide:
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 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:
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.
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:
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).
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):
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.
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):
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 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.
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 Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.