Your resume didn’t fall into a black hole. You’ve been called for an interview. You picked out a nice suit to wear and you’re ready to dazzle them with your smarts. And you know it’s important to have questions for the interviewer because it shows you’re engaged and genuinely interested in the position.
The wrong questions, however, can tank even the best interview. You know better than to bring up salary, benefits or vacation early on in a discussion — those are still commonly viewed as taboo in a first interview. But there are other, less-known pitfalls to avoid as well.
Here are five questions you should never ask in a job interview.
What does this company do?
You’re here to interview with Consolidated Widget Makers, and you didn’t bother to look up what they do? That’s inexcusable.
This is an unfortunate, but common, mistake now that people can easily apply to multiple positions with the help of job boards, says Kenneth Johnson, president of East Coast Executives, a Philadelphia based executive search firm. “A Google search will uncover the answer and save you the embarrassment.”
Even if you’ve applied to dozens of positions and been on many interviews, treat each new one as the potential game-changer that it is. When you’re called, in addition to the time and address of the interview, be sure to take down the name of the company and interviewer so you can do some research and show up well prepared.
What is your drug testing policy?
Johnson says this is the worst question he’s asked in interviews. “Even if the company has a very liberal testing policy, this question definitely raises some doubts about your candidacy.” Asking is unprofessional and a huge red flag to employers.
How long until I can have your job?
I’ve heard this one often, says Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. “Some candidates seem to think this demonstrates career focus and gumption. On the other side of the table it feels obnoxious. Demonstrate strong passion and commitment for the job you’re interviewing for.”
If you’re asked about your five- or 10-year plan, that would be the time to inquire or express your desire for advancement, but “until then, articulate your commitment and qualifications for the job at hand,” explains Hurt.
What about overtime?
Questions about overtime can get you in trouble a couple ways. First, employers who are worried about budgets and hiring hourly staff may be very sensitive to paying out for extra time. Asking if you’ll get frequent overtime may mean you’ll risk turning them off in favor of a candidate who will work efficiently within their regular hours only.
A question such as “Will I have to work overtime?” is also bad form. “Asking this question during the interview gives the interviewer the impression that you don’t want to put in any more work than is required. This does not give the interviewer a positive impression of you,” says Cheryl Palmer, owner of executive coaching firm Call to Career.
It’s probably best to ask what the normal hours for your position will be and leave it at that.
Any question about what you’ve already been told.
The person who wrote that job listing worked hard to make sure it conveyed the right information to the right group of people. It obviously worked if you’ve applied and gotten as far as the interview stage. Don’t make all their hard work seem trivial by not fully reading every communication they send.
“If someone asks me questions during the job interview that have already been covered in the job posting or emails, it makes me question their attention to detail,” explains Carol Cochran, HR director for FlexJobs, a job search service for telecommuting and flexible positions.