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For candidates, the job interview is the most critical and often most difficult part of the hiring process. This is your chance for the hiring team to get to know you beyond your credentials, to understand how you work, and to determine if you’re the right pick for their team. How you interview will determine whether a company will offer you a position.
But the in-person interviews aren’t just about employers getting to know their candidates—as a job seeker, they’re also your opportunity to figure out if this is the right role and company for you. Asking the hiring team effective questions not only helps you decide if this should be your future employer, but it also gives the interviewers confidence that you’ve done your research and are the strongest applicant for the role.
There are a lot of articles out there telling you the top questions you should ask your interviewer, but what about the things you shouldn’t? Show the hiring team you are qualified, prepared, and interested in their company by avoiding these five questions:
“What do you do?”
What services do you offer? Are you publicly traded? Who are your competitors? While these questions are bound to solicit great information, you should already have basic knowledge of who the company is and what they do prior to your interview. Scour their website. Look at the LinkedIn profiles of the people you are interviewing with. Read the book written by the founder. Ask for tips from your recruiter. Prepare for the interview by doing ample research on the company (and the team you’re interviewing with!)—not only will it impress their hiring team, but it demonstrates your interest in the role and their company.
“Can I leave early on Fridays?”
Asking questions about a company’s benefits program and PTO policies shows that you’re thinking about what working at that company could look like for you. But when it comes to questions like this, be sure to be thoughtful about the way you frame them. Don’t make it about you! Remove yourself from the equation and focus your questions around their organization: What does your employee benefits program look like? How does your team handle sick days or scheduled vacations? What happened the last time someone on your team was sick for an extended period of time? What does “flexible scheduling” look like at your organization? Specific or situational questions like this add clarity by allowing the hiring team to tangibly define how their time-off programs actually come to life.
“What are the growth opportunities in this company?”
Though the question may be rooted in your interest in staying with the company for the long-term, be mindful about where and when you ask these types of questions, especially if you’re interviewing for a contract position that has a definite end date. Remember, their company is looking for a person to fill a specific role—while there may be opportunity for growth in the future, there is some expectation that you will be in the position they need for some amount of time. Consider different ways to discuss longevity within their company, such as asking the hiring team personal questions about their advancement over time: How did you get to where you are right now? What is your favorite thing about working here? The interviewers’ stories can help paint a clear picture of what career advancement looks like within the walls of the organization.
“How much do you pay?”
During your first interview in particular, asking for specific details around the paycheck is off limits, especially with contract positions or if you’re working with a recruiter. Consult your recruiter beforehand—often times salary is negotiated between the hiring company and recruiter up front, prior to the interview. Remember, your recruiter is your partner in the job hunt: they’re working on your behalf to get you the salary you need, so be direct and honest about your pay requirements from the beginning. Your recruiter is there to work with the organization and negotiate for you.
“Why don’t people on Glassdoor like your company?”
When it comes to interviewing, it’s good practice to head to Glassdoor and read up on what current and past employees say about working at the company. And for most companies, it’s inevitable that you’ll come across a negative review. Instead of confronting the hiring team about specific negative comments or bringing up unfavorable stories, keep positive and look to them for their take. Ask them how they feel about working at the company. If they were to write a review on Glassdoor, what would they say? What stories would they tell? How do other former employees talk about the company?
Asking questions in the interview is key to understanding how the organization works and if you’re a good fit for their team. Be courageous! This is your time to clarify anything that is confusing about the role or the job description, address any concerns that you or the hiring manager may have, and define the next steps in the hiring process. In the end, being open and unafraid to ask the right kinds of questions (and avoiding the wrong ones!) will only help you land the best role for you.
Already have your first interview scheduled? Prepare for the big day with our Interview Prep Guide!