The famous adage “you only get one chance to make a good first impression” rings especially true to job interviews. The first impression a potential candidate makes is critical, especially during that moment when the interviewer asks if they have any questions. This gives the candidate the chance to shine by asking thoughtful questions or flub it by asking seriously poor questions.
What counts as a cringeworthy question? Is there a way you can you turn a bad question around to work for you, not against you, during a job interview? Instead of defaulting to a poor question, ask one of these alternatives that better frame your skill sets.
What makes this a bad question? You haven’t even started working at the company, much less received a job offer. According to HR professional Jodi RR Smith, asking this question reveals that you’re not all that interested in the role you’re applying for. You’re already jumping at the chance to move on up.
Ask instead: "Can you tell me about the typical career paths for this role?"
Asking this question shows that you’re interested in staying with the company and growth opportunities in the role. The interviewer will likely have a few, specific examples of employees that worked their way up from entry-level to senior roles that they can share with you.
What makes this a bad question? Everything. Everything makes this a bad question. The minimum requirements for the role are already provided in the job listing. Nicole Wood, CEO and Co-Founder of Ama La Vida, also advises against asking this question because it establishes that you are someone who only does the bare minimum.
Ask instead: "What do the top 10% of performers in this role do differently to prepare for this role?"
Much better! Additionally, Wood says to ask what sets top performers apart in their first 30 days. You may bring along a proposed 30-60-90 day plan of your own to the interview, outlining your strategy for what you’d like to accomplish in the first 90 days on the job. The interviewer may also provide further insight into what they have seen top performers do in their day plans.
What makes this a bad question? Once again, you’re still interviewing for the position. You haven’t received a job offer. But, you’re already inquiring about how quickly you can take time off. This implies that you’re a bit more invested in PTO than the position itself.
Ask instead: "Can you tell me a little bit more about the vacation policy?"
Rather than give off the impression that you’re planning to book it to Cabo the second you get the gig, explain to the employer why this question matters to you. For example, you might have recently gotten married and are planning to go on your honeymoon. Asking about the vacation policy is less about the PTO and more about whether you’ll have the flexibility to take the time off for a special purpose.
What makes this a bad question? Remote work is a reality many will continue to face in the coming months — and for 54% of people, according to one recent IBM study, they're intending to stay remote even after COVID is behind us. If you're one of those people, it makes perfect sense that you'd want to ascertain the feasibility of staying remote during the interview process, but be careful with how you word it. You want your interest in the role itself to be what stands out over the location incidentals.
Ask instead: The same question — but later on, or direct it to the HR manager.
If you are bent on finding a remote job opportunity, maybe wait to bridge this request until a later-round interview, or even once the offer is made. You may also want to ask about workplace flexibility, too. Amanda Ponzar, Chief Communications and Strategy Officer at Community Health Charities, says it might better to direct these queries to an HR manager.
“These types of questions are better to ask the HR manager versus making the hiring manager doubt your commitment to learning the new role and getting to know the team,” Ponzar says. “Prove yourself first before focusing on what you can get.”
What makes this a bad question? Generally, this is a conversation you need to have with an HR representative. The hiring manager conducting initial interview rounds may not be the proper point of contact for that discussion.
Instead: Wait to talk about benefits.
If you are early into the interview process, hold off on asking about benefits until you get closer to receiving a job offer. Once you have an offer that details your benefits in writing, you may properly negotiate and discuss benefits.
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