Five Things to Never Ask in an Interview

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.

Five Reasons to Use an Outside Recruiter

You and your HR staff have brought some great talent to the company over the years. But there are some very good reasons to work with an external recruiter to bring you new talent. Here are my top five reasons:

1. Speed and Focus

You’ll be tapping into a recruiter’s vast network of contacts. A good recruiter has spent years building an extensive network of contacts, the foundation of a successful talent search. You and your internal HR staff simply don’t have the time to build the kind of relationship web that will lead to attracting the very best people. By bringing in a recruiter, you are borrowing an often monumental list of contacts.

2. Credibility

Working with an outside recruiter extends the credibility of your brand. Job seekers sometimes find it difficult to trust an internal recruiter, while they often see an external recruiter as a more objective expert with both parties’ interests in mind. The external perspective of a trusted recruiter can often sway a candidate’s decision between two competing offers, especially if the external recruiter has placed many people with the client. An active candidate often counts on the parlayed experience of others whom the agent has placed at the client to measure things like culture, employee happiness, and internal professional development.

3. High Demand, Low Supply

It’s getting harder all the time to find and retain good talent. In many specialized, highly technical industries, it’s getting increasingly difficult to find qualified talent. Our industry, Litigation Support and eDiscovery (ESI), is a perfect example. According to a recent study by Transparency Market Group, “The U.S. portion of the eDiscovery market was valued at $3 billion in 2010 and is estimated to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 13.3% from 2010 to 2017 to reach $7.2 billion by 2017 (that’s 240% total growth).”

In this climate of dramatic growth, finding the right new talent requires a focused, concerted, and ongoing effort. That kind of campaign is often difficult for you and your staff, who have to juggle a range of recruiting and retention tasks. Wouldn’t it be better for you to dedicate yourselves to retention? Losing just one key employee can mean thousands in recruiting and retention costs.

4. Relief
You’ll give your staff some administrative relief. Finding the right talent is time-consuming, labor-intensive work. Wouldn’t it be better to pass that workload to an outside agency? And there’s no reason to fear that by handing over administrative chores to an external recruiter, you’ll be losing control of the process. An experienced recruiter will keep you and your staff constantly informed, providing statistical analysis of the process. In our agency, we make a point of developing close, personal relationships with HR, constantly reassuring them we’re working for them and with them. We create a strategic partnership designed to help clients recruit and retain the best people out there.

5. Market Intelligence

You’re also borrowing a recruiter’s inside information chain. A good external recruiter stays abreast of the latest market, industry, and salary trends. By bringing on a recruiter–especially one focused on your industry–you bring that knowledge and expertise to bear on your department’s recruiting efforts. Additionally, recruiters have often represented large sectors of a niche industry and know the backgrounds, secrets, motives, successes, and failures of the talent pool. They know who to present and should also know who not to present.

A Few Hints to Ensure Success

There are a number of good reasons to work with a recruiter. By following a couple of simple rules, you can help ensure a successful partnership.

Don’t try to work with every agency that claims to specialize in a niche search expertise.

In fact, I suggest working with a maximum of two. If you work with any more, you’ll simply be buried in resumes. If competing agencies all know that every agency in town has the search, they will try to get the candidates to you first and fast, rather than right and vetted.

Be sure to research a prospective agency.

Ask lots of questions to be sure you’re getting the expertise and credibility you need. How many people are they placing in this niche per year? Per month? How big is their recruiting team? What is their geographic success rate? Who will manage the process? What is their process? What does the agency pride themselves on? What have been the keys to their success as an organization?

Keep the lines of communication open. If a recruiter is to do the best possible job for you, they need to understand how your needs may change over time. The more transparent and trusting you are with your agent, the more deliberate and expeditious they can be in fulfilling your search needs. Like any relationship, trust takes time. Make sure you use a recruiter who is looking to invest in your success in the long term as well as the short term. Good recruiters don’t just fill jobs; they create smart, sustainable human capital strategies and resources.