Hiring managers and HR pros will often close out a job interview by asking an applicant if her or she has any questions themselves. This is a great way to learn about the company’s expectations and the job but it can open a Pandora’s box of potential landmines if you’re not careful. Remember, you’re being judged and here’s a time where using your social intelligence could pay off.
It’s not to say that you can’t ask any tough (or real) questions but it’s important to focus on how you say it. The old adage “It’s not as much what you say but how you say it” holds true when interviewing. Here are a few examples of how to ask the questions you really want to know without offending your interviewer and without showing you’re out of touch with reality.
Don’t ask, “When will I be promoted?”
You can ask, “What will I need to get a promotion?”
Don’t ask, “When can I expect a raise?” The word “expecting” will instantly label you as a member of the entitlement generation and will damage brand YOU!
You can ask,” What work can be done to work up to a higher compensation level?” This shows your focus is on the work not merely the reward. Consider that many companies are having hiring and salary freezes so you need to phrase it properly so you don’t seem like you’re out of touch.
Questions you should completely avoid in a first interview…don’t even try to rephrase them!
Don’t ask, “What’s the salary for this position?” This immediately communicates that money is on the forefront of your mind versus what you can do to contribute there. Even if salary is a key concern…don’t ever ask this question in a first interview!
Don’t ask, “What kind of flextime options do you have?” This kind of question in a first interview would be a big turn-off for the interviewer as it sounds like you are looking for ways to get out of the office. It may be that flextime is critically important to you but you still shouldn’t show all of your cards in the first interview as it could label you as inflexible. Another candidate with equal talent and a comparable resume to yours who communicates a desire to work according to the firm’s needs will snatch up the job leaving you without any chance of getting a second interview thus ruining your chances for getting a job offer. Many companies may offer flextime but its inappropriate to ask this in the first round of interviews.
Don’t ask any questions that show you haven’t been listening: Listen carefully throughout the interview. Asking a question about something that was already said will send off a red flag NOT to hire you.
Don’t ask about the company’s mission!
You should know the answer going into the interview. (see the company website or the management profile) You can ask about the company’s corporate culture. That’s an appropriate question that would be better answered by an insider than on the company’s website.
Don’t ask: Who’s your competition?
You should know the answer to this question from your pre-interview research!
Knowing what questions not to ask in the first interview can help you stand out in a good way. Sometimes you can rephrase the question, but there are times when you just need to hold off and wait until you’ve been given the job offer to ask about specific requests that involve salary and scheduling. Try to imagine if you were the interviewer and were looking for the ideal candidate, who would you prefer to hire? Someone who is knowledgeable about your business, has a clear idea of how s/he could add value and where focused on seeing how they could help fix problems or…someone whose primary focus was on their own needs i.e. salary, raises, flex-time etc. The answer is rather obvious. You would choose the first candidate. So why not try to be that candidate from day one and make a great first impression so you get the job offer. At that point you’ll be in a stronger position to negotiate for salary, a promotion or flextime.