The job interview is a minefield. You’re being judged intensely, it’s almost like being on trial – interviewers analyze and scrutinize your every answer. They even assess your personality to decide whether they'd enjoy spending eight hours a day in your company.
You know the drill - your interviewers have run out of questions for you. Now, they ask you if you have any questions for them.
Home free, right?
Many interviews go south at this point. Asking careless questions of your interviewers (like any of the seven below) can kill your chances of landing the job, and stop your interview cold.
Question 1: "What is the salary range for this position?"
Why it’s so dangerous: This is the atom bomb of candidate questions, guaranteed to derail just about any interview. It’s considered presumptuous for a candidate to bring up salary, and most interviewers find it distasteful and tactless. True, employers ask candidates for their salary history and expectations – but that’s the way they like it.
Do this instead: Avoid bringing up the topic. It’s radioactive. Salary will come up in due time, then you'll have more leeway to probe the issue.
Question 2: "Will I be required to carry a cell phone?"
Why it’s so dangerous: The question carries a strong negative implication. Some interviewers may infer that you're unwilling to work after standard office hours.
Do this instead: Ask, "What would a typical week in this role look like?" You'll get a sense of the hours involved. If it starts to sound like a 24/7 job, presume the cell phone will be essential.
Question 3: "When does the company conduct its salary reviews?"
Why it’s so dangerous: This conveys that you may already looking ahead to getting a raise you haven’t yet earned, or may be bracing for a distastefully low offer.
Do this instead: Once you receive an actual offer, then it's okay to start asking about questions about the compensation process. At that point you're negotiating, and the topic becomes fair game.
Question 4: "Does this position offer the opportunity to work from home?"
Why it’s so dangerous: Consider this – the interviewer would probably prefer to be working from home right now, but can’t because the job requires her to be in the office. Interviewing you.
Do this instead: Proceed at your own risk. If you will only consider work-at-home positions, by all means ask away. Just realize that if it wasn't indicated in the job advertisement, then it probably isn't an option.
Question 5: "What is the company’s maternity / paternity leave policy?"
Why it’s so dangerous: You may have intended to explore the company's benefits, but inadvertently planted a seed in your interviewer’s mind that you already plan to be absent for a substantial period of time from the job you haven’t even been offered yet. Never mind what the Family Medical Leave Act says – the interviewer will be thinking about the deadlines they’ll miss if they hire you.
Do this instead: Ask Human Resources about maternity and paternity policies after you get an offer. Better yet, see if it's listed in the company's benefits brochure.
Question 6: "What can you tell me about the company?"
Why it’s so dangerous: Did you bother to do any research before coming to this interview? It’s expected that you'll know something about the organization before walking through the door. You'll look lazy and unprepared by asking this.
Do this instead: Ask targeted questions about the culture, the role, and the company strategy.
Question 7: "Are you seeing anybody?"
Why it’s so dangerous: Yes, in my days as a recruiter I’ve had misguided candidates ask interviewers on dates. You won't get the job. You probably won’t get the date, either.
Do this instead: Don't. Just... don't. Regardless of whether you think you had "a moment" in that interview room, put out of your mind the possibility that this is a potential dating opportunity.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.