I have read many blogs and articles that share questions TO ASK in an interview. In fact I have written about this subject myself. However, it is rare to find an article which highlights questions NOT TO ask.
Of course, just as not preparing any relevant questions is often frowned upon by the interviewer, so is asking an inappropriate question. What do I mean by inappropriate? Of course there are thousands of inappropriate questions, but where most candidates cause themselves issues is by asking something that inadvertently shares with the interviewer an undesirable attitude/desire/trait. So let us jump straight in and look at some examples, why they are to be avoided, and how they could potentially be approached in a slightly different way.
This is an obvious one (I hope). A candidate should only be applying to work for a company if they know what they do. This often means doing some research before attending the interview. Having to ask the interviewer this question not only undermines the application, but also exposes the fact that interview prep was not conducted. It is wholly valid to ask questions at a lower level that it would have been impossible to discover from internet based research.
The issue here is that an interviewer is looking for absolute commitment to the role that has been applied for. By asking about a different role, it demonstrates an indifference to that role. This question is to be avoided.
Work life balance is important, and checking that flexibility will be offered is fine. However, asking outright if you can work from home might not be the best approach. All that said, this question will be ok in some companies who are well set up for work from home. To be on the safe side, a better way to approach this subject is to ask about flexible working practices and access to technology so you can be available outside of office opening hours.
It is good to be ambitious. However, it will set alarm bells ringing if it comes across that you do not really want the job you are applying for – but you are hoping you will get an almost instant promotion. No boss wants to hear that as it will ultimately be problematic for them. A far better tactic is to ask about career progression, succession planning, and how development more broadly is approached within the business.
Again, this shows a lack of interest and commitment to the job being applied for and will almost certainly set alarm bells ringing for the interviewer.
In summary, avoiding asking the wrong questions is just as important as asking the right questions. The questions shared above are good examples of things to avoid, but tend to follow an obvious theme – disinterest in the role, lack of research, and/or a sense that the interviewee will be a problematic employee. Questions based on these themes should not be asked.
Peter Forshaw, Managing Director – Maxwell Stephens.
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