“So, do you have any questions for me?” This common refrain toward the close of a job interview can make even the best of us stammer when the tables are turned. But with the national unemployment rate over 8%, sharp interview skills are more important than ever.
Most employers agree that, “No, I have no questions.” is the worst possible response. “The most frustrating thing for a recruiter is when you don’t have any questions at all.” says recruiter Abby Kohut of AbsolutelyAbby.com.
We asked professional recruiters to brief us on the top seven most common interview questions to scratch off our lists immediately.
Questions You Should Never Ask in a Job Interview:
1. Anything related to salary or benefits
“Company benefits [and salary negotiations] don’t come into play until an offer has been extended,” says Kohut. The same principle applies to sick time and vacation days. It’s best to avoid any question that sounds like you assume you already have the position–unless, of course, your interviewer brings it up first.
2. Questions that start with “why?”
Why? It’s a matter of psychology. These kinds of questions put people on the defensive, says Kohut. She advises repositioning a question such as, “Why did the company lay off people last year?” to a less confrontational, “I read about the layoffs you had. What’s your opinion on how the company is positioned for the future?”
3. “Who is your competition?”
This is a great example of a question that could either make you sound thoughtful … or totally backfire and reveal that you did zero research about the company prior to the interview, says Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter of CareerTrend.net. Before asking any question, determine whether it’s something you could have figured out yourself through a Google search. If it is, a) don’t ask it and b) do that Google search before your interview!
4. “May I arrive early or leave late as long as I get my hours in?”
Even if you make it clear that you’re hoping for a flexible schedule to accommodate a legitimate concern such as picking up your kids from daycare, Barrett-Poindexter advises against this question. “While work-life balance is a very popular concern right now, it’s not the most pressing consideration for a hiring decision-maker,” she says. “Insinuating early on that you’re concerned about balancing your life may indicate to your employer that you are more concerned about your needs and less concerned about the company’s.”
5. “Can I work from home?”
Unless it was implied in the initial job description, don’t bring it up. “Some companies will allow you to work from home on occasion once they see what a productive employee you are,” says Kohut. But an interview isn’t the time to be asking for special favors. Right now your top priority is selling them on you first.
6. How soon do you promote employees?
“An individual asking this question may come off as arrogant and entitled,” says recruiter Josh Tolan of SparkHire.com.
7. Will you monitor my social networking profiles?
While a valid concern in today’s culture, this is something best left unsaid. “It gives the impression you have something to hide,” says Tolan. Play it safe and don’t post anything (especially disparaging things) about your company, co-workers or employers on Facebook, Twitter–or anywhere on the internet, really.