5 job interview questions you should never ask
Avoid putting your foot directly into your mouth and trouncing on your chances to land an offer.
You may be camera ready with a spiffy job-interview outfit and your resume (15 drafts later, phew) and cover letter in hand, but now it’s time for the hardest part: preparing what will come out of your mouth. The job interview questions you ask a hiring manager can make or break your chances of getting an offer.
The key is to ask the right questions and “always think about how you’re being perceived,” says Courtney Templin, president of JB Training Solutions, a Chicago-based career development firm.
To help you out, Monster compiled a list of questions you should never (ever!) ask a hiring manager—and what you should be asking instead.
“Who is your target customer?”
Rule #1: Don’t ask for information that you can easily find online. When you do, “it shows you haven’t done your homework,” says Jaime Klein, founder of Inspire Human Resources, a New York-based HR consulting firm.
Similar questions to avoid, says Klein, include, “Who are your competitors?” and, “How many employees do you have?”
Do your homework. Research the company—its mission, achievements and recent news, plus background info on the person(s) meeting with you—before you head into the interview
Instead, make sure you ask: “Why is this position open?”
“Do you do background checks?”
Most companies do background checks. Plain and simple. In the same vein, do not ask any job interview questions that feel shady, like whether you’ll need to take a drug test. “It makes the interviewer wonder what you have to hide,” says Klein.
Furthermore, be prepared for prospective employers to look you up online; 43% of organizations use social media or online search engines to screen job candidates, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.
Make sure your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts present you in the best light before you start going on job interviews, advises career coach Phyllis Mufson. (Read: Take down photos of you raging at college parties or beer-filled tailgates.)
Instead, make sure you ask: “What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 90 days?”
“What’s your benefits package?”
This question is fair game—but only after you receive the job offer.
“Employers want to hire people who are passionate about the job, the work and the organization,” Templin explains. “When questions about benefits are asked too early, you’re not giving off that perception.”
The best time to broach topics such as sick days, vacation time and health benefits is when you know the company wants to hire you. (You might be able to glean some intel in advance by reading employee reviews on Monster.)
Instead, make sure you ask: “Are there opportunities for additional training and education?”
“Can I work from home?”
If the option to telecommute is something that’s offered to employees, “it will probably be mentioned in the job posting,” says Jack Molisani, author of Be the Captain of Your Career: A New Approach to Career Planning and Advancement.
A company is looking to hire someone who will be part of their team, so demonstrate your enthusiasm for joining the fold and collaborating with talented co-workers—not working in your pajamas. The possibilities of a flexible work schedule is another topic to broach only after you get the job offer.
Instead, make sure you ask: “What do you enjoy most about working here?”
“How soon can I expect a promotion?”
In fact, don’t even mention the “p” word, says Templin. If you do, you risk giving off the impression that you’re thinking of just how soon you can get ahead, as opposed to how your talents can benefit the company.
To find out what the average tenure of a company employee looks like, do some research. Go online and look up the career paths of people who have held your position at the company in the past. That should give you a good idea of where your own career path with this particular employer is headed.
Instead, make sure you ask: “What are the next steps in the hiring process?”
How not to put your foot in your mouth
You don't need to be an oratory master in order to impress a hiring manager, but you do need to know what not to say. Preparing in advance for a job interview is really the only way you can hope to avoid blurting something embarrassing or unprofessional. Could you use some help developing solid talking points? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you'll get interview insights, career advice, and other useful job search tips sent directly to your inbox. You'll learn how to highlight your skills and accomplishments—as well as inquire about important things like salary and benefits—without shoving your foot in your mouth.