4 questions you should not ask at an interview (and what to ask instead)

By Juliet Soh

Most recruiters end interviews with “Do you have any questions for me?”

This is a great chance for you to ask questions that will help you assess if the company and position are right for you. Interviews should be a two-way conversation and the questions you ask at an interview may be as important as the answers you give.

But that’s not to say that you should simply fire away. There are indeed out-of-bound questions and here are four you should NOT ask:

What does this company do?

You’re expected to know the answer even before the interview starts. There’s a reason why you applied for the role, right? Always step into the interview room having done research on the company you’ve applied to.

Ask instead: “I know your core business is in _______, which is a competitive field. How do you position yourself against your rivals?”

What was it that made you call me down for an interview?

Remember you said “With my stellar academic background in Business Administration and experience in marketing, I am highly confident that my skills will be an asset to your organization” in your cover letter? Why don’t you sound as confident anymore?

Ask instead: “What strengths and skills do you feel the ideal candidate should possess?" And if you have compatible skills and experience, seize the chance to share them.

Will I be able to transfer to another department?

You are shortlisted for the interview based on your interest in the position you’ve applied for. Asking this indicates that you’re not truly interested in the role, and are hoping to use it as a stepping stone to something else you really want.

Ask instead: “What are the growth opportunities for this position?”

Do I have to work overtime? Do I have to work on weekends?

This gives the impression that you want to clock the minimal hours possible and that you’re unwilling to put in extra hours during crunch periods.

Ask instead: “What is a typical work week like?”

Other tips:

• Don’t ask personal questions. Just as you wouldn’t feel comfortable if the interviewer questions your family background or religious beliefs, avoid asking them.
• You should definitely ask questions and should ask more than one. This indicates that you have a genuine desire to work for that company and are interested to know more about the company and the position. The description on the job advertisement doesn’t usually equip you with sufficient information to make a decision about accepting the position.
• Ask open-ended questions. The interview usually ends with the interviewer answering your questions and you don’t want it to end awkwardly. Asking questions that only require “yes” or “no” as answers brings the interview to an anti-climax. You want the interviewer to remember you as an interesting and enthusiastic candidate.

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