Avoid asking your interviewer these questions (with topics)

Updated 13 July 2023

At the end of an interview, it's customary for the prospective employer to welcome questions from the interviewee. This is, first and foremost, an excellent chance to discover more about the culture of the workplace, but it's also your final opportunity to make a lasting impact on the interviewer. Considering this, you may want to pick your questions carefully and in advance of the interview session. In this article, we outline several topics and questions to avoid during an interview and why it's best to avoid asking your interviewer these questions to make a more positive impression on them.

Topics to avoid asking an interviewer about

It's best to avoid certain questions and ways of asking them when in an interview. Avoid being pessimistic, any questions that place an emphasis on benefits rather than performance and anything else that gives the impression that you don't have the organisation's best interests at heart. Keep in mind that interviewers develop their initial thoughts of you as a real person during an interview, so try not to discuss the following topics:

  • Basic questions: Employers expect applicants to research the position and the organisation before the interview. If you ask basic or simplistic questions about the job description, for instance, it shows that you didn't spend enough time researching the organisation or the role.

  • Other jobs: While it's not necessarily a bad idea to discuss opportunities for promotion, asking about jobs other than the ones you're applying for is undesirable. This may raise concerns and doubts about your interest in the role.

  • Asking about income and perks: Unless the recruiter brings it up first, asking about income and perks tends to negatively impact how the interviewer judges your devotion to and interest in the job.

  • Untrustworthiness: When you enquire about how seriously an employer enforces regulations, you give the impression that you intend to disobey the rules or that you don't possess the characteristics of a trustworthy employee.

  • Personal enquiries: Asking invasive questions about the recruiter unrelated to their work appears improper and disrespectful.

  • Changes to the role or environment: If you express an interest in changing the office layout before you're employed, you give the impression to the recruiter that you're demanding or insensitive.

Related: Interviewing techniques and tips to make a great impression

Avoid asking your interviewer these questions

In addition to the topics listed above, it helps to go through a list of specific scenarios to avoid asking your interviewer these questions. This helps you prepare more suitable questions to ask the recruiter, either before or after the interview. Below are some examples of questions to avoid asking your interviewer, along with details as to why they're unwelcome:

What are my responsibilities in the job role?

It's important that you thoroughly understand the job before you appear for the interview. Instead, enquire about what a normal day is like for someone in the position you're interviewing for. If you find that the interview or job description didn't mention certain aspects of the job, don't hesitate to follow up on these. It's more than likely that the interviewer takes this as a legitimate interest in the position. It also provides answers that give you a unique understanding of the job and the organisation's culture.

What exactly does this organisation do?

Researching the organisation remains one of the most important aspects of job interview preparation. It's critical to understand the goal and purpose of the organisation before attending your interview. Consider focusing your questions on aspects of the organisation's culture or achievements that you were unable to discover on your own. More importantly, by asking questions that demonstrate what you did during your studies or work experience, you're more likely to leave a positive impression on the recruiter.

Who are the main rivals of your company?

Many interviewees don't realise the importance of researching an organisation before interviewing. This helps you avoid walking into an interview without knowing what to discuss. Put simply, avoid asking any questions, including those about competitors, which could have been answered had you prepared and researched appropriately.

Are there any other positions available?

Concentrate on the role that you're interviewing for. Unless you're applying for a temporary position, employers tend to look for applicants committed to staying and progressing within the position over a number of years. You may answer this question yourself, privately, by expanding the scope of your job search.

When do I achieve a promotion or get a pay rise?

While self-improvement and professional growth remain commendable, you don't want to address topics outside of your present interview or ask for unearned perks or benefits. Instead, focus your questions on what you offer and bring to the organisation rather than on what you get from it in the short term. Common interview etiquette dictates that you don't bring up wages and perks for a position that you aren't currently in.

Related: A guide on how to ace an interview (with tips and examples)

When can I begin taking holidays?

When in an interview, focus more on the days you're planning to work rather than the days you're taking off. Otherwise, this shows a lack of interest in the role and gives the impression that you lack a strong work ethic. Employers infer that a potential employee who enquires about time off doesn't want to be in the role.

Is it possible for you to examine my references? Do you do criminal record checks on your employees?

Interview under the impression that the prospective employer always reviews your references. Select your references with complete faith in their ability to assist you in obtaining the position. Background checks function similarly. If you're afraid that anything in your history prohibits you from obtaining the job, your best alternatives include either being forthright about it throughout the application process or just waiting it out. When you begin to question your past before receiving a job offer, it causes employers to become hesitant about hiring you.

Do you make employees submit to a drug test? Is there a system of random drug testing?

During an interview, it's reasonable to anticipate that any queries concerning passing a drug test are inappropriate to raise. The presumption is that if you ask these questions, there's a reason for you to worry. If you're concerned about undertaking a drug test while looking for work, consider changing your conduct and habits. Most sectors and firms that regularly drug test their employees remain open and honest about their practices. It appears unprofessional to enquire about drug testing at any point during the interview process.

Is it possible for me to work from home? Is it mandatory for me to work in a group?

In most cases, bringing up the topic of working from home makes you look uninterested in participating with your team unless you're seeking a telecommuting role. Furthermore, the interview process makes it clear how team-driven or remote the position is. When it comes to working culture, it's beneficial to enquire about its dynamics, which leads to an in-depth discussion, rather than posing questions that make you look detached or disinterested. Although you may like to work individually, make your employer aware that you gladly collaborate when the situation calls for it.

Related: 12 important interview skills and how to improve them

Is it possible for us to meet for a coffee or add you on social media?

No matter how open and amicable the ambience and mood are during the interview, it's rarely a good time for social activities. Instead of requesting your interviewer schedule a follow-up meeting, try sending a follow-up note indicating your enthusiasm for their professional expertise and asking relevant work-related questions. Making a social network connection with an interviewer transgresses professional boundaries and demonstrates a lack of self-awareness in the profession.

What is the most difficult aspect of working in this company?

This question requests that the interviewer critique their workplace. This adds a negative aspect to the interview that adversely impacts the recruiter's image of you as a candidate. Instead of eliciting criticism and filling the interview with unpleasant dialogue, frame your questions in a manner that welcomes knowledge and challenge. Encourage the interviewer to see hiring you as a positive move for the organisation.

Do you monitor my social media profiles?

Asking whether the employer monitors their employee's social media profiles during the interview indicates that you have something to hide. While many employers outline a social networking policy that prevents employees from posting negative or sensitive information regarding the organisation, bringing this up during the interview suggests that you have or plan to use social media in this way. Keep your Internet presence respectful and professional to prevent posts or photographs from negatively impacting your career prospects.

Related: 13 thoughtful questions to ask in a marketing interview

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