The worst questions to ask your interviewer- Hays careers advice

Now don’t be mistaken – any interviewer loves to be sat across from a zealous candidate during the interview; a candidate who has come armed with plenty of well-thought-out questions to ask. After all, this shows a level of proactivity and interest in the role – all things interviewers want to be assured of.  However, this bubble can quickly be burst if the candidate asks a question they really shouldn’t.

So which are the worst questions to ask your interviewer, and why should you avoid asking them?

“How long will this interview be?

This question might seem innocent enough, but by asking it, you are signalling to the interviewer that you have somewhere better to be. You may be a busy person, especially if you are already employed elsewhere, but asking how long the interview will go on for will put you in a poor light before the interview has even really started. Nonverbal cues can be equally damaging, for example, looking at your watch, glancing at the clock or acting nervous when an interview takes some time.

Avoid this situation by confirming the timings with your recruiter beforehand, and try to keep your diary free before and after the interview.

Any question that you really should know the answer to already

Don’t let yourself down by asking something that you should have found out during your interview preparation. For instance “when was the company founded?” or “’who is the CEO?” Instead, do your research, and ask more in-depth questions which can’t simply be ‘Googled’, for instance, “How would you describe the company culture?” or “Is there much opportunity for growth within this role?” I will list a few more examples like this in the following paragraphs.

Questions that include the words with “Would I get…”

By this, I mean questions surrounding which benefits and rewards you will be entitled to if offered the job, for instance:

  • How much holiday would I get?
  • How much of a lunch break would I get?
  • Would I get commission?
  • Would I get a salary increase after x amount of time?
  • Would I get corporate discounts/private healthcare/pension/expenses?

These are some of the worst questions you can ask. By asking these, you risk being seen as presumptuous by the interviewer, whilst giving the wrong impression about your priorities – which, at this stage, should be focused around succeeding in the role you are interviewing for. However, what you can do is speak to your recruiter about the package, and confirm this with the hiring manager later in the interview process, or once you are made an offer.

Any question that starts with “Would I have to…”

Understandably, you may want to gain clarification on certain areas of the role during the interview process. However, starting any questions on this topic with “would I have to…” signifies a reluctant and negative attitude.

Try phrasing these types of questions in a more positive and proactive way, for example, “I’m keen to know if the role could involve… as this is something I have really enjoyed doing in previous positions”.

“Do you like your colleagues?”

By asking this question, you will be trying to gauge what your potential colleagues are like to work with. Of course, this will be an important consideration for you, but asking a question this pointed may make you seem ignorant about professional conduct. After all, realistically a senior member of staff isn’t going to answer anything other than ‘yes’ to this question, and rightly so.

On the other hand, if you ask the interviewer to describe the company culture or the team dynamic, you will seem much more professionally astute, whilst getting the information you are looking for.

“How long would it take to get a promotion?”

You may be keen to demonstrate your ambition, but this type of question risks the implication that you want to run before you can walk, and are not fully dedicated to the role in question. On the other hand, if you can make it clear that you understand career progression involves hard work and focus; this will put you in a better light.

Ask questions geared around the opportunities for personal growth within this role, for instance, “When the time is right, would I have the opportunity to expand upon my skill set and responsibilities within this organisation?”

Any overly personal questions

Let me stress, asking the interviewer about themselves is a great move. Just make sure you don’t ask anything too personal. Questions surrounding their marital status, age, salary or what they dislike about their job, for instance, are all some of the worst questions to ask.

What you can and should ask, are questions focused on their career and the company, for example; how has their role changed since joining the company? What are their favourite aspects of the job? What do they like about being in this industry? What was it that attracted them to this organisation? Of course, use your judgement, if this interviewer makes informal small talk unrelated to the opportunity, for instance, your weekend plans, then by all means reciprocate. These questions allow you to build a rapport with the interviewer, just make sure you don’t overstep the mark.

“Have I got the job?”

Lastly, you may think this is a great “closing question” and one which will help you overcome any reservations the interviewer has about you but in reality, it just sounds confrontational. What you can do, however, is discreetly gauge this by asking something like “is there anything you need to me to clarify or confirm?”  If you feel like the interview went well, you could say something like “I’m still very interested in this opportunity, and the prospect of working for this organisation, I hope the feeling is mutual”. It’s all about knowing the difference between enthusiastic and confrontational.

Hopefully I have helped steer you away from the worst questions to ask during your interview. Better still, if you can take my advice and rephrase these into more professional and positive alternatives, you can get the information you are looking for whilst impressing the interviewer and giving yourself a good chance of reaching the next stage.

Author

Robby Vanuxem is the Managing Director of Hays Belgium.

Robby Vanuxem has fifteen years of industry experience, including thirteen in Hays. With a degree in psychology, he started in 2000 in the world of HR and started as a Consultant at Hays in 2002. In 2008 he was promoted to Business Director, and in 2009 again to Regional Director. In 2014 he was appointed Director for the launch of the new division Hays Response.

After an internal procedure and the appointment of Operational Director, Robby was appointed in June to succeed Wilfrid de Brouwer as MD of Hays Belgium.

 

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