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 50+ Questions to Ask in a Job Interview for suggestions on good questions to ask.
Questions You Shouldn’t Ask in a Job Interview
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:
1. Bad Impression:
You Are Lazy and/or Not Interested in the JOB
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.
2. Bad Impression:
You Are Lazy and/or Not Interested in the EMPLOYER
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?
Research the employer and the location before you go to the interview to be prepared to ask good questions in the interview. If you aren’t interested in them, they surely are not interested in you.
3. Bad Impression:
You Don’t Want THIS Job
These questions indicate lack of interest in the job you are interviewing for:
- What other jobs are available here?
- How soon could I apply for another job here?
- How quickly can I get promoted?
- Do you have any remote jobs where I could work from home (assuming this job is not remote)?
- Do you have any jobs that are not remote (assuming this job is remote)?
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.
4. Bad Impression:
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.
5. Bad Impression:
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:
- How do you track and verify the work of remote employees? (Good question if asked differently — How are remote employees managed?)
- 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?
- What is considered as excessive when someone misses work (arrives late or leaves early)?
- What is the process before someone is fired? Are there warnings? How many?
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.
6. Bad Impression:
You Would Be a Pain-in-the-Neck to Work With and/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 use a different kind of computer?
- 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 cameras, 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).
7. Bad Impression:
You Are More Interested in Raises and Vacations than the Job
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:
- 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 negotiating the job offer.
EXCEPTION: If the interviewer presses you for your current salary or your salary expectations, as they often do, tell them that your salary requirements would depend on other aspects of the job like raises, vacation time, training, etc…
8. Bad Impression:
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.
9. Bad Impression:
You Are More Interested in a Date Than the Job (and You Would Be Annoying to Have Around)
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 “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.
The Bottom Line on Questions You Shouldn’t Ask in an Interview
You get the idea. In your job interview, don’t ask the questions that might make a bad impression. For successful job interviews, stick to questions about the job, based on your preparation, and the discussions in the interview process.
More About Job Interview Success:
- 50+ Good Questions for You to Ask the Interviewers
- 5 Key Questions to Ask in Second (and Subsequent) Interviews
- Guide to Successful Interviews
- Smart Answers to 21 Interview Questions
- Smart Strategies to Answer to Behavioral Interview Questions like Answering: Tell Me About a Time When You Failed
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 Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.
More about this author…
Don't forget to share this article with friends!