5 Questions Not to Ask in an Interview (and What to Ask Instead)

By Robert Half September 23, 2016 at 12:00pm

These days, most job seekers know it’s a good idea to ask questions of the hiring manager during an interview. But there are also questions not to ask in an interview, especially if you want to be considered for the job!

These five questions you should never ask are from a survey conducted by Accountemps and from our recruiters, who hear job candidates pose these questions more often than you’d think! Read on to find out what questions you should ask instead.

1. “Why would I want to work here?”

You may mean well with this question. Perhaps, you just want to know more about the firm’s working environment and how you’d fit in. But, if this is one of the first questions out of your mouth, and you ask it in such a blunt way, there’s a good chance that the hiring manager will take it the wrong way, like you think you’re the top candidate and the company must convince you to come on board.

Ask instead: If you want to understand how well you’d fit with the company and the role, ask, “What qualities do you think would make someone successful in this role?” The hiring manager’s answer will likely help you determine whether your abilities are a match.

Be prepared to answer, "Why do you want to work here," and other tough interview questions.

2. “How late do you consider too late for showing up to work?”

You never want to suggest in a job interview that you may have an issue with punctuality.

Ask instead: If you’re trying to better understand the expectations for the job, try this question instead: “What is a typical day like for someone in this position?” You’ll learn the typical duties and responsibilities of the role, and you’ll get a better sense of what the office is like – collaborative (say, if the typical day includes a few meetings) or more based on independent work.

3. “How much money am I going to make?”

Of course, starting salary is one of your biggest considerations when evaluating a potential job. However, when you ask about salary right away, a hiring manager might think you only want the job for the money, not for the opportunities or because of a passion for the work. It’s best to save that conversation for the later interviews.

Ask instead: In the first meeting, it’s a good idea to ask a question like this one: “What do you see as the greatest opportunities for the company in the next several years?” The response will give you a sense of the firm’s prospects and future goals.

Familiarize yourself with average starting salaries for the position you're interviewing for by reading the Robert Half Salary Guide.

4. “When can I retire?”

This is another query that might make the hiring manager assume you’re only in this for the paycheck, so it’s best to avoid this line of questioning.

Ask instead: How about this: “Who was in the role before me, and why did he/she go?” If the person was only in the job for a short time, or the hiring manager can’t fully explain why the person left, consider it a red flag and try to find out more. The firm could have unrealistic expectations for the role, or there might be another reason the position hasn’t been set up for success.

5. “How will this job benefit me?”

Like question No. 1 above, this query is likely aimed at learning something simple, like the firm’s commitment to skills training and the chances of moving up in the company. And it would be short-sighted of you to not try to determine what you can get out of the job. But it's all in how you phrase it. Ask the question above, and you could sound overly focused on how the job can help you, instead of how you can benefit the company.

Ask instead: Rather than posing this question, ask, “What do you like most about working here?” You’ll learn not only about what inspires and motivates the hiring manager but also about what the company focuses on, whether it’s opportunities to learn and advance or something else.

Want more ideas of questions you should ask in an interview? Read Turning the Tables: 8 Questions to Ask In an Interview. And more questions not to ask? See the slideshow below.

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