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Never Ask These Questions in Your Job Interview - Interview Pitfalls

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Do you know that there are questions you should never ask during your interview? And that asking them could cancel all the hard work you have done?

Asking the right questions during your interview is crucial if you want success. But knowing and staying away from questions you should NOT ask is perhaps more critical because it can undo all the progress you have made and potentially lead to even being disqualified immediately.

Read below to find out the pitfalls you need to avoid – Questions you should NOT ask in an interview.

1. Asking for the information you should already have:

There are obvious questions to which you should already have the answer. Such as:

  1. "What are the main responsibilities of this role?"

  2. "What are your main products?"

  3. "Who are your competitors?"

This kind of basic information is something you should already know before the interview from your research. Asking them will only make you look ill-prepared and not serious enough.

If you need to clarify some of these points because they are unclear, you should phrase your questions in such a way as to demonstrate that you have done your preparation and you have the basic information already, but you need to confirm a few specific details.

For example, instead of asking:

  1. "What are the main responsibilities of this role?"

  2. "What are your main products?"

  3. "Who are your competitors?"

Better ways to ask would be:

  1. I understand that the responsibilities of this role include A, B, and C. What would be a rough percentage breakdown of each work on a day-to-day basis?

  2. I understand that the responsibilities of this position include account management, sales, and branding. What would be the approximate ratio of each task on a day-to-day basis?

  3. What are some of the future development plans for your product offerings in the region, including A and B?

  4. What are some of the future development plans for your consulting business in Hong Kong, including cloud and security consulting?

  5. Among the players in your industry (such as ___, ___, and ___), which firm would be considered the biggest competitor of ABC (name of the potential employer)?

  6. Among global insurance firms in Asia such as ___, ___, ___, who would be the biggest competitor of ABC (name of the potential employer)?

2. Asking questions that have already been answered or discussed:

Do not ask about something that was already explained or addressed during the meeting.

This often happens when you prepare a set of questions beforehand and ask them without really thinking about what was discussed during the meeting;

It would make you seem like you're distracted or you have really bad short-term memory – both of which are not exactly the most compelling traits of someone you want to hire.

Clearly, this will not leave a positive impression. Only ask questions that have NOT been answered already.

3. Awkward or uncomfortable questions

You DO NOT want to put the interviewer in an awkward or embarrassing position;

People remember how you made them feel much more than what you said. And an awkward or uncomfortable feeling is not what you want the interviewer to associate with you.

Just think about it. Would you like to work with someone who makes you feel embarrassed or upset? And would you like to spend 8 hours a day every day with such a person? Of course not! And if you had a choice, you would choose not to have someone like that on your team.

In the same way, interviewers do not like to hire people that make them feel this way:

Examples of these kinds of questions that you should avoid are:

  1. Bad question: "I know your company just went through a major restructuring last year. Why are you hiring again this year?"

  2. Bad: "I heard this role has been open for over 6 months already. Why are you guys taking so long to find someone?"

This kind of question is quite confrontational and forces the interviewer to be on the defensive, and they almost sound like you're interrogating them.

I understand that you may genuinely be interested in the information you're asking for. But you need to be mindful of the tone and the way you ask:

Better ways to raise these questions are:

  1. Better: "What are the key drivers for the current expansion in the firm?"

  2. Better: "I heard that this role has been open for over six months. What has been the main challenge in identifying the right person?"

By changing the tone, the questions are no longer confrontational, and you can still find out the details you're looking for.

Here is another example of questions to avoid:

  1. So, how did I do in the interview?

  2. What do you think about me?

  3. Did I pass the interview?

Raising these questions will only demonstrate one's lack of situational awareness or interpersonal skills. The interviewer has not even had the chance to process and gather their thoughts.

I mean, what do you even expect the interviewer to say? Even if their initial impression was positive, they may feel extremely uncomfortable and feel pushed to commit right away.

Again, not the kind of impression you want to leave.

4. Salary or work-life balance

Unless you're in an HR interview (and that, at the end of the entire process), avoid asking about salary and compensation;

Discussing salary too early can make you seem like someone who is either desperate or only motivated by money

The best time to talk about compensation is at the end of the interview process when there is already an expressed interest in your profile; You will have the most leverage by this time to negotiate too.

Also, asking about work-life balance directly is typically not the best idea as you may come across as someone unwilling to put in extra effort or hours even when necessary.

Instead, I suggest asking broader questions that can give you an idea about the work-life balance indirectly.

For example, instead of:

  1. "What are the work hours?"

  2. "Is there a lot of overtime work?"

  3. "How good is the work-life balance?"

You could ask in the following ways:

  1. "What does a typical day look like in the office?"

  2. "How would you describe the work culture of the team? Do most people work late and/or during the weekend?"

  3. "What type of people would thrive in your team/firm?"

  4. "Is there a work-from-home policy? If yes, what does it look like?"

5. Personal or invasive questions:

This is a BIG NO-NO. If it's none of your business, don't ask.

No matter how much you feel like you connected with the interviewer, any question that may remotely seem inappropriate, stay well away from it.

Any comments or questions about the interviewers' looks, health, ethnicity, relationships, etc., are probably OFF LIMITS – Do NOT go there.

Keep your questions within the professional context and stay away from anything that could even be remotely interpreted as inappropriate.

Again, asking questions in your interview is unnecessary for you to leave a lasting, positive impression. But knowing what questions to avoid is just as crucial because asking inappropriate questions can hurt your chances and even lead to immediate rejection.

Avoid the mistakes in this article to ensure that you do not fall into unnecessary pitfalls so that you can maximize your chances.

Happy job hunting, and all the best!

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