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Five questions you should never ask at a job interview

Posted on: 19 Jul 2017, admin

We’ve previously written a blog that detailed Eight insightful questions to ask at the end of a job interview to help you make a good impression at your meeting.

If you can demonstrate your enthusiasm and depth of research to the interviewer, you stand a much better chance of being offered the role. However, for every great, thoughtful question you can ask there are others that should be avoided altogether, alongside saying you have no questions of course!

Whether they’re inappropriate, badly timed or show up your lack of research, here are some questions you should never ask at an interview.


How many holidays / sick days do I get?

Basically, asking anything related to the salary or benefits of the role is a big no no at interview. Firstly, this could make you appear presumptuous and a touch arrogant, as it may look like you’re assuming you’ve already got the role. Secondly, asking about sick days or annual leave will set alarm bells ringing in the interviewers mind, leaving them wondering if you’re someone who can’t wait to take a break or pull a sickie! So leave benefits and salary negotiations until you’ve been offered the role, unless the interviewer brings the issue up, in which case it’s fine to give an answer.


Do you do background or reference checks?

Many companies will ask for references and contact former employers as a matter of course, not only to get an insight into your character and work ethic, but also to make sure your experience matches up to what you say on your CV. So asking this question will instantly make the interviewer think you have something to hide or question the validity of the references you have provided. You should always expect a potential employer to contact your referees, so make sure your CV is truthful and matches what you actually did in your previous roles. However, if you’re concerned about the employer contacting your current boss and giving away the fact you’re seeking a new role, make sure you mention this to the interviewer.


Will you monitor my internet usage?

Another question that will raise concerns about your motivation and work ethic, as it implies that you’re planning to spend at least some of your time at work surfing the internet rather than doing the job! Even if the role requires you to use the internet/social media for research or work purposes, raising this point during your meeting will only serve to raise a red flag for the interviewer, so it’s advisable to avoid it altogether.


Who is your main competition?

On first appearances, this question doesn’t seem to be as obviously unsuitable as the ones above. However, the interviewer will likely mark you down as someone who has done zero research, as this is the type of question you could have answered yourself with some simple online investigation (see also, “What do you do here?”). Asking any question you could have researched the answer for yourself will only serve to make you look uninterested and indifferent, not exactly the sort of impression you want to be making at interview!


Can I start late/leave early as long as I do my hours?

Even if you have a legitimate question regarding flexibility in the role, the interview is not the time to ask it as it will simply raise concerns about your motivations. A good work-life balance is important for many people, but it’s unlikely to be the main focus for the hiring manager, plus you don’t want to make it look as if your personal needs are more important than those of the company. If flexibility of hours is a deal breaker for you, it may be worth checking out the company benefits page (if they have one) beforehand or waiting until you’re offered role to broach this subject. Again, if the interviewer raises the issue, it’s best to answer it honestly.


If you’re preparing for an interview, hopefully you’re now fully aware of the type of questions you need to avoid if you want to impress your interviewer. Anything to do with the salary/benefits, references or questions that will raise concerns about your work ethic are to be avoided as they are likely to damage your chances of landing the job.

Likewise, it’s important not to ask anything you couldn’t have found out yourself. The interviewer wants to see evidence of thorough research in the form of intelligent, considered questions regarding the job role or company, so steer clear of anything that doesn’t follow this formula and you’ll give yourself a better chance of being offered the job.