When I was a recruiter, I was asked a lot of smart questions that made me say, “Wow, this candidate is on top of her game.” But I also heard a lot that made me wonder who the person had taken interview advice from—or if that person had ever sought out help at all.
The truth is that while hiring managers expect you to come with questions, there are plenty of topics you shouldn’t ever bring up. For starters, here are a few that might sound exciting to you, but won’t endear you to the interviewer.
1. “How Often Does the Team Hang Out After Hours?”
It’s only natural to want to work with people you’d have a drink with after work. Because as you know, the reality is that you spend more time with your co-workers than you do with most other people in your life. But asking a recruiter to talk about what goes on after-hours makes it sound like you care a lot about the happy hour scene. And again, you should care about the culture, but phrasing it like this doesn’t do you any favors—even if it’s at a company known for having a good time.
What to Ask Instead
Rather than asking to hear about how hard the team parties, try something like this: “I’d love to hear more about how the team works together here, how would you define the company culture?” This answer will often lead to discussion about fun traditions or weekly happy hours, but it makes you sound far more concerned about finding the right fit than the original phrasing.
2. “Do I Have the Job?”
OK, you might not be as blunt as the wording here, but back in my recruiting days, you’d be amazed at the lengths people would go to get me to say, “You’re amazing!” But here’s the thing: Even when you think you’ve forged a bond with your interviewer, it’s important not to start digging for compliments or reassurances that you’re going to keep moving through the process.
What to Ask Instead
Again, digging for compliments is a good way to turn a recruiter off. Instead, ask this:
“In an ideal world, what should the person in this role do to make his or her manager’s life easier?” By asking this, you’re not getting the answer to your question—sorry!—but instead you’re keeping the focus on what you can do for the company. And at the interview stage, it’s key to make it all about how you’ll be an asset. (The negotiation stage is when you get to start making it about you!)
3. “If This Doesn’t Work Out, Would You Consider Me for Another Opening?”
I’m on the record multiple times for saying the interview process isn’t over when the hiring manager takes a pass. In fact, I’d often bring people back in for new openings because they really were awesome, it’s just that at the time, the role in question wasn’t a good fit for them.
But there’s one thing those people had in common: They never asked me during the first interview to do that. Because those who outright begged me to keep them in mind for other positions made it tougher for me to imagine forcing another person to meet with them, let alone consider them for a full-time position at our company.
What to Ask Instead
There isn’t a great way to ask, “I’m desperate to get my foot in the door any way that I can. Will you put me in the running for another job?” That is unless you want to sound like a crazy person. Instead, at the end of the interview, reinforce your interest in the company one last time.
Say something as simple as, “As a long-time admirer of your organization, I’ve been thrilled to meet with you today.” A brief statement that sums up your passion for the company can leave a positive impression even if the interviewer knows the job isn’t right for you. Throw in a quality thank you note and you make it easy to be considered for other positions.
Finding the right questions to ask during an interview is tough. But half of the battle is knowing which ones to avoid altogether. So before you start asking whatever comes to mind, think more carefully about the impression you want to leave. And if you’re struggling after brainstorming for a while, fear not—we have a list of 51 interview questions you should be asking.