Updated: Dec 13, 2020
When you go in for a job interview, you should always come prepared with three or four questions, and listen carefully to your interviewer to get ideas for new ones. Otherwise, you look like you’re not truly interested the role or the company, or think you know everything about both already. But coming up with new questions to ask about every job may not be as easy as it sounds, especially if you’ve held similar positions before or are interviewing within the same industry.
So what can you ask if you’ve only come up with one or two or, worse, zero questions before your appointment? That, of course, depends on the job, but your goal when crafting questions should be to come off as well-informed, insightful, humble, and invested. But there are some questions that are always interview don’ts – the kind that gives any interviewer the impression that you are unprepared, incurious, arrogant, or simply unprofessional. Make sure you never utter any of these sentences in an interview room:
1. “What does your company do?”
Believe it or not, many interviewers do report hearing this question from applicants. This is something you should know before you send in your application, much less sit down for an interview. Admittedly, some companies make the answer to this question more difficult to determine than others; you might look at their homepage and find paragraphs of buzzwords like “client-oriented” and “core aspirations.” But you don’t have to be vague just because the company’s web copy is. If you can’t figure it out from their website, figure it out from news articles, social media, and company reviews – and do it now, so you know what you’re getting yourself into and can come closer to better questions than this one.
2. “What’s morale like in this office?”
Honestly, how do you expect an interviewer to answer this one? “Oh, it’s terrible. The managers keep everyone in a constant state of fear. Gossip is rampant. There are probably going to be layoffs soon. You should really just leave now and not waste your time with us.” Just like you, they’re going to put the best face on everything they tell you. But it doesn’t look good on you to expect this level of candor this early. If you really want to get a sense of morale, look and listen around the office. If people seem happy to be there, it’s probably fairly strong. If they all seem like they can’t wait to go home, feel free to be wary.
3. “How much does this job pay?”
If they didn’t tell you this in the job posting or at any point in the application process, you’ll have to wait until the company makes you an offer to find out any details regarding compensation and benefits. You may not want to waste your time interviewing with an employer who isn’t willing to pay what you think you deserve, or who isn’t prepared to cover vision care. But no interview is a waste of time, even if it turns out that the offer isn’t ideal. Your chances of ever seeing that offer may drop if you seem more interested in the money than the work.
4. “Are there any opportunities to work part-time or from home?”
Some companies are flexible enough to allow employees to design their own schedules. There’s little chance that they’ll allow this within a new hire’s first three months, and even less chance that they’ll be willing to discuss it before that new hire has been offered a contract. By asking this in an interview, you’re setting up the expectation that you’ll try to find ways to get out of being in the office from 9 to 5, or that you think you deserve to have exceptions made for you. Prove yourself as an invaluable member of the team first, and then, maybe, you can talk about telecommuting.
5. “So when do I start?”
Making your interviewer laugh is always a plus. You may think this is a clever way to do it, especially if you ask it with a smile and follow it immediately with a chortle so they know you’re just kidding. But there’s no guarantee that the interviewer will read this question as a joke; they may end up thinking you really are that full of yourself. Or, at the very least, they may wonder why you couldn’t come up with any better note on which to end the conversation. You can ask when you can expect to hear back about their decision – but never like this.