When I was hiring manager, I spoke with upwards of 30 to 40 candidates a week. Nearly every person I met with played it cool and avoided asking about time off, benefits or anything already explained in the job ad.
They were smart and steered clear of the glaring red flags we’ve all been taught not to touch on during an interview. But there were less obvious questions that, asked the wrong way, made a handful of those candidates appear unprepared, lacking in confidence or, well, just plain rude.
Do your job hunt a favor and avoid these job interview questions like they’re week-old takeout food:
You might be tempted to respond this way after your interviewer asks about a project or role from your career history that you feel like you already explained pretty well in your bullet points.
Don’t do it!
Think about it: The person you’re meeting with set aside an hour of her day to speak with you. Of course she’s done her research. She’s read your resume, reviewed your LinkedIn profile and likely Googled your name at least once—she just wants to learn more. (And on the off-chance she’s only skimmed your qualifications, choose filling her in on your awesomeness over calling her out.)
Remember that if you want to impress the pants off of people during this process, you should be prepared to speak naturally about your career from different angles and with vivid examples.
Remember what I said about (accidentally) being really rude? Bingo!
Asking this question implies that you’re not so invested in the discussion at hand. It sounds like you’d rather meet with a “real” decision maker—and who wants to hire the person who is always going over your head? The fact is, everyone you meet with during this process plays a part in deciding if you move forward.
So, instead try saying “Can you tell me about the next steps?” at the end of your conversation.
This way, you can get the information you’re looking for without offending your interviewer. He may not have a fancy title, but you can bet you lunch money that the “low-level” person you’re dealing with will be asked to filter out candidates that he wouldn’t personally want to work with.
Curiosity gets the better of all of us sometimes. While it’s understandable that you’d wonder about your competition, when you ask this question you come off as unsure of yourself. Worse, you’re drawing your interviewer’s mind away from your awesomeness and toward that of other candidates she’s met with.
Your odds have less to do with the number of people being considered and more with your fit for the opportunity itself. If the company meets with you and only one other person, and neither of you is a fit, your odds are zero; likewise, if you’re the only shining star of 15 people, you’re a shoo-in.
Not to mention, the person you’re speaking with is rarely in position to answer this question honestly anyway, so the numbers you hear could be totally meaningless. Your best bet is to keep this thought to yourself and instead ask questions like these that keep the conversation focused on you, and may provide additional info about the role!
At an interview, only one person should be selling you (and that’s you!). If you’ve read the job description and researched the company, you should already have an idea of why you’ve been selected.
But what’s the harm in asking about what tipped the scales in your favor?
I’ll tell you: You risk seeming unaware of the value you bring or what the company’s needs are—it’s a rookie move.
Rather than giving into that instinct, go with: “Can you tell me more about your ideal candidate for this position?” It’s a better way to glean information about how you’re being measured. Better yet, it provides you the opportunity to speak to points you may have missed in your other responses during the interview.
The job hunt isn’t a one-way street. You should absolutely use the conversation to determine if the company is a great fit for you too. Just remember to plan your interview questions in advance to avoid one of the major faux pas above.