It’s not unusual to be a bit nervous for a job interview. It’s also not unusual to worry that you might say something dumb. But do you plan to ask the hiring manager the location of the nearest bar? Or why the hiring manager’s aura doesn’t like you? A CareerBuilder survey from 2017 found that these were some of the questions asked by job candidates, so you might be breathing a little easier, knowing that you could never ask anything that unprofessional.
Still, there are some questions you never want to ask in the early stages of the interviewing process – don’t even think about how to ask how much a job pays. To avoid making that mistake and other goofs that will turn off an employer, here are queries that you should avoid:
1. “How much does the job pay?”
It’s not that you can never, ever ask how much a job pays, it’s just that it’s considered a no-no in the initial interview phase. It’s sort of like when you have a first date and you ask how much the other person earns as soon as she or he says hello. It’s rude and makes it seem like you’re only interested in a second date based on annual earnings. The employer wants to know that you’re drawn to the job and the company, not just a paycheck.
Editor's note: You can research your worth using LiveCareer's salary calculator. And if you're still re-tooling your resume for other jobs you're applying for, consider putting LiveCareer's free resume builder to use.
2. “How much vacation do I get?”
Variations of this include “How many days off do I get?” and “Can I have Friday afternoons off?” When you’ve received an offer, then you can ask about time off or other perks (or, even wait to learn about them on your first day or during your first week, in the office). Some employers might bring up these issues in a second round of interviews, but don’t ask about vacation until an offer has been extended.
3. “What are the hours?”
If you want to give the impression that you’re more interested in time off, ask this question. Otherwise, save it until after an offer has been extended. If you’re being offered a salaried position, then you’ll work the hours necessary to get the job done, which might include emails after hours or working anywhere from eight to 12 hours or more a day. Hourly workers can expect to have more set hours per day or week.
If you’re really curious about the hours at a company, snoop around on Glassdoor and see what current and past employees have to say about hours (and work/life balance, for that matter).
4. “Can I telecommute?”
If this is a deal breaker and you absolutely must be able to telecommute to consider the job, then ask early on in the process. If, however, you’d like to telecommute but the employer doesn’t mention it in the ad or the initial interview, then don’t bring it up unless it’s a general inquiry, like: “In your culture, will most of the people I work with be onsite every day or will some be working remotely?” suggests Cali Williams Yost, CEO and founder of Flex Strategy Group.
5. “What does this company do?”
Nothing can be a quicker turnoff for an employer than to know that a job candidate didn’t even bother to Google the company, or do another form of research on the company. If you have to ask the interviewer about the company or the industry, it shows a lack of preparation and interest in the position. Further, it may also hint to the interviewer that you’re too lazy to do even the simplest work – a sure way to be rejected for the job.
6. “Why did the last person in this position leave?”
You might be curious, but don’t ask. It makes you look nosy. If the person was promoted within the company, the interviewer may be happy to share that news without being asked. If he was fired, you don’t want to bring up a sore subject. If you’re really curious about this, you’ll likely discover why the last person in the position left soon after getting hired for the job.
7. “When can I get a promotion?”
When you ask about a promotion or pay raise in the interview, then you’re telling the employer that you’re more interested in what the company can do for you, rather than what you can do for the company. Employers understand that you’re interested in career development, but don’t ask about another job before you get an offer on the job you’re going after!
8. “Do you do drug tests?”
The employer may assume the reason you’re asking such a question is because you’re worried about taking one and passing. Don’t bring it up – if you have to take one, you will be told when and where.
9. “Is there business travel?”
Usually a hiring manager will bring up the need for business travel in an interview, but if you bring it up first, it may signal that you’re unwilling to be flexible or have too many demands at home that could interfere with your ability to do the job. You want the employer focused on what you can do, not what you cannot do.
10. “Can I get a new smartphone/laptop when I start?”
Employers want to know that you’re interested in the job, not the technological goodies that may come along with it. They may think that you have an old laptop and failing smartphone that are prompting you to try and get the job – and that you’re more interested in those things than the actual job.
11. “How did I do?”
Asking such a question makes you seem unconfident. It’s much better to ask the interviewer if she has any reservations about your capabilities to do the job, and then address those concerns. It may be difficult to avoid asking some of the questions listed above, and you may feel you have figured out how to ask how much a job pays without it being an interview red flag. But employers have heard it all, and your attempts can seriously backfire.
Instead, focus on the kinds of questions you should be asking, such as “What does a typical day look like?” or “Where do you see this company in the next few years?” or “What kind of training will I get?” Such queries show that you’re engaged in the interview and invested in learning more about the job and the employer.
Need more interview help? Check out LiveCareer's Interview Questions section.