‘Now, is there anything you’d like to ask us?’
It’s standard fare for an interview reaching its conclusion: the turning of tables on your inquisitors. And you’d be forgiven for relishing the chance to quiz those who’ve had you under the microscope for the past 30 minutes. But be wary, the questions stage of an interview can be as fraught as any other ‒ and perhaps more so if you’re in the habit of running your mouth. What may seem an innocuous query can easily raise eyebrows on the other side of the table. Read on for the things that, no matter what, you just should not ask at the end of an interview.
‘How did I do?’
Buoyed with confidence after an impressive back-and-forth, it may seem natural to ask how things went. You might even be tempted to go a step further: ‘Did I get the job?’
But asking this sort of thing is a surefire way to toss cold water on a sizzling performance. Such a question betrays one of two unappealing traits: insecurity or arrogance.
The former suggests you lack conviction in your abilities and need instant validation from those in charge. The latter, that you rate yourself too highly and crave the praise you feel should be coming your way. Neither casts you in a terribly good light.
And perhaps more than anything, it puts the interviewer in an unfairly awkward situation that’ll do little for your employment prospects.
‘Are there any other positions available?’
Now, as nice as it sounds, we can’t expect to be shortlisted for our dream job every time. More often than not, the position on offer is a balance of pros and cons but is overall something worth going for.
Asking if there’s a more appealing job available throws doubt on your commitment to the given role, and considering you’re there to convince the employer of your job-specific appropriateness, that’s not a good signal to send.
What is a fair question to ask is whether, some way down the line, there’s a chance of moving in a particular direction. Any decent interviewer should come prepared to map out possible career progression.
‘Will I be disciplined for...’
‘… arriving late/not hitting a target/being hungover’ and anything else that, let’s be honest, can occur in the course of a career. These things happen; you know that, we know that and your interviewer knows that. But presenting them as serious possibilities before you’ve even landed the job is a big no-no!
A question like this would arouse the suspicion of any interviewer charged with weeding out those who might be less than interested in giving their all.
If a question like this is grounded in a bit more sense ‒ say, your route to work is notoriously bad so late arrival could be an unavoidable issue ‒ you’re best asking after you've landed the job, lest you jeopardise any offer of employment.
‘How many sick days can I take?’
Thanks to the modern era’s progressive labour laws, we all have a legal entitlement to time off for illness. Having said that, pre-empting sickness and asking an interviewer how much time you can take off could seem suspicious.
It’s more than possible that, with a legitimate and recurring illness, you’re simply keen to know how things might pan out if your health takes a turn. But for an interviewer having to whittle two candidates down to one, that seed of doubt that you’re out to play the system might be the deciding factor.
Your best bet is not mentioning it in the interview (as is your legal right) but instead broaching the subject after receiving a job offer. That way you’ll have had the chance to scrutinise your contract’s provision for ill health and be in a strong legal position to request that your new employer make accommodations.
‘Do you conduct background checks?’
Arguably the question most likely to set off alarm bells, asking about background checks ‒ or whether they’re likely to validate your references ‒ hints at someone with something to hide.
If you’ve got a slightly marred record which you’re open about, instant removal from the process isn’t inevitable. Rather, your transparency and honesty about prior behaviour could well reflect positively. But if you’re suspected of hiding something, be it a conviction or crudely faked reference, your chances of a job offer plummet. Asking whether they’ll run checks is a certain way to ensure any discrepancies are detected.
Asking questions at the end of an interview is ideal for learning more about the role and demonstrating a winning inquisitiveness. Raise a few sensible queries and you’ll surely put the cherry on what (we hope!) was a great all-around performance. Ask the wrong questions, however, and you could do your candidacy irreparable harm.
Just like these questions, there are some CV mistakes that you just can’t come back from. Get a free CV review from TopCV to make sure you’re not making them.