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What to ask at an interview - and what to avoid

09 / 03 / 2015
What to ask at an interview - and what to avoidLike a driving test or a sit-down exam, a job interview is a stressful time with a lot riding on it. But, just like those other two challenges, good preparation will boost your chances, enhance your confidence and reduce the chances of making a terrible mistake.

Asking questions

When it comes to an interview, the biggest concern will be how to answer all the questions that will come your way, especially those familiar booby traps like "what are your weaknesses?"

However, it is vital to remember that you should be asking some questions too. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, it is a great way to show your potential employer that you are really interested in the post. Secondly, it is a legitimate exercise to find out what you need to know about the post. After all, you should be sure this is definitely the job you want before committing to accept any offer.  

Questions you really shouldn't ask

That said, it is important to ask the right questions and there are some you really should avoid.

Asking how much the pay is and what benefits the job comes with is definitely one of these. In the first instance, the salary will usually have been stated in the original advert. Alternatively, if an employment agency has forwarded your CV they should be able to tell you what the pay is. If you don't know for sure because a salary is "negotiable", the time for talking about this will be when they make you the job offer.

Apart from suggesting you may not have read the job spec properly, the other problem is that it can sound like you are only interested in the money, rather than emphasising things like how excited you are by the challenge, how well you work in a team and so on.

Other jobs that could make an interviewer question your commitment include asking about the hours, and how much holiday time is provided. Once again, these may be listed in the job spec anyway.

Similarly, avoid asking for basic information about a company. This is something you should know before you walk into the room. This question demonstrates a lack of preparation - a fatal mistake.

Then, there are some really awkward questions. One is to ask what happened to the previous holder of the post. This sounds nosey and it is none of your business whether they moved job, were sacked or dropped dead.

Another truly awkward and nosey question is anything about the interviewer's background. This might be a fascinating topic, but this is not the time to get too familiar. After all, you may never have any dealings with them again. If they become your colleague, that will be the time to get to know them.

If asking for too much information about other people is a bad idea, so too is probing the issue of whether they do background checks. This sort of thing immediately arouses suspicion about what you have to hide - whether it is past misdemeanours or an untruthful CV.  

What should you ask?

That said, it is perfectly fine to ask some questions. Asking about opportunities for career progression indicates you want to do well and make a good impression, rather than just pay the bills.

Your questions should all be focused on how to be successful. Ask how the employer thinks your skills might help meet company challenges and what constitutes success. Their answer should offer you a chance to expand on why you have the skills that will meet these needs.

Besides that, you should ask questions, because not doing so might be taken as a lack of interest or pre-interview preparation.

So be prepared to ask about five questions in an interview - and choose them sensibly.  ADNFCR-1684-ID-801778916-ADNFCR