The 10 Worst Interview Questions (and the 5 Best)

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“So, do you have any questions for me?”

This common refrain toward the close of a job interview can make even the best of us stammer when the tables are turned. But with the national unemployment rate over 8%, sharp interview skills are more important than ever.

Whether or not you’re currently looking for a job, try your knowledge: Do you have the right questions to ask your interviewer?

The goal, of course, is to ask a few smart questions – thoughtful ones that show you’ve been paying attention and have done your homework when it comes to researching the company, and the specific job you’re after. At the very least, you want to ask something.

Most employers agree that, “No, I have no questions,” is the worst possible response. “The most frustrating thing for a recruiter is when you don’t have any questions at all,” says recruiter Abby Kohut of AbsolutelyAbby.com.

We asked professional recruiters to brief us on the top ten most common interview questions to scratch off our lists immediately–plus five effective ones to ask instead.

Questions You Should Never Ask in a Job Interview

1. Anything related to salary or benefits

“Company benefits [and salary negotiations] don’t come into play until an offer has been extended,” says Kohut. The same principle applies to sick time and vacation days. It’s best to avoid any question that sounds like you assume you already have the position–unless, of course, your interviewer brings it up first.

2. Questions that start with “why?”

Why? It’s a matter of psychology. These kinds of questions put people on the defensive, says Kohut. She advises repositioning a question such as, “Why did the company lay off people last year?” to a less confrontational, “I read about the layoffs you had. What’s your opinion on how the company is positioned for the future?”

3. “Who is your competition?”

This is a great example of a question that could either make you sound thoughtful … or totally backfire and reveal that you did zero research about the company prior to the interview, says Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter of CareerTrend.net. Before asking any question, determine whether it’s something you could have figured out yourself through a Google search. If it is, a) don’t ask it and b) do that Google search before your interview!

RELATED: Secrets to Getting a Raise, From Women Who Did

4. “How often do reviews occur?”

Maybe you’re concerned about the company’s view of your performance, or maybe you’re just curious, but nix any questions about the company’s review or self-appraisal policies. “It makes us think you’re concerned with how often negative feedback might be delivered,” says Kohut. Keep your confidence intact, and avoid the topic altogether–or at least until you receive an offer.

5. “May I arrive early or leave late as long as I get my hours in?”

Even if you make it clear that you’re hoping for a flexible schedule to accommodate a legitimate concern such as picking up your kids from daycare, Barrett-Poindexter advises against this question. “While work-life balance is a very popular concern right now, it’s not the most pressing consideration for a hiring decision-maker,” she says. “Insinuating early on that you’re concerned about balancing your life may indicate to your employer that you are more concerned about your needs and less concerned about the company’s.”

6. “Can I work from home?”

Unless it was implied in the initial job description, don’t bring it up. “Some companies will allow you to work from home on occasion once they see what a productive employee you are,” says Kohut. But an interview isn’t the time to be asking for special favors. Right now your top priority is selling them on you first.

7. “Would you like to see my references?”

“Interviewing is a lot like dating,” says Barrett-Poindexter. “It’s important to entice with your value and attract them to call you for the next ‘date’.” Offering up your references too soon may hint at desperation. Plus, you don’t want to run the risk of overusing your references.

8. How soon do you promote employees?

“An individual asking this question may come off as arrogant and entitled,” says recruiter Josh Tolan of SparkHire.com.

RELATED: 11 Tips to Get a Promotion, Straight From the Boss

9. Do I get my own office?

This is an uncomfortable one, says Tolan. Of course you may wonder about it, but will something like this really play into whether you accept a career opportunity or not? If so, he says, it may be time to rethink your priorities.

10. Will you monitor my social networking profiles?

While a valid concern in today’s culture, this is something best left unsaid. “It gives the impression you have something to hide,” says Tolan. Play it safe and don’t post anything (especially disparaging things) about your company, co-workers or employers on Facebook, Twitter–or anywhere on the internet, really.

… Yes, even if you’re not “friends” with anyone at work. These kinds of things have a way of getting around.

Questions You Should Definitely Ask in a Job Interview

1. Can you explain the culture to me, with examples of how the company upholds it?

Asking for specific insight into the company’s culture is key. “Everyone will tell you that their culture is great, but examples prove it,” says Abby Kohut. This will help you decide if you want to work for them. At the same time, most interviewers are also trying to assess if you’re a good cultural fit for the company.

2. How have you recognized your employees in the past?

This is another example of a smart question that digs for specifics. “You want to be sure that your new company appreciates its employees,” says Kohut, and that the company values morale.

3. What excites you most about your job, and what do you like most about this company?

By nature, most people like to talk about themselves, so this question helps warm up your interviewer, suggests Barrett-Poindexter. It also provides critical insight into whether you’d be happy working with this individual or company. “If your interviewer’s answer excites you, that can further reinforce your decision to continue the interview process. If the response is lukewarm, it may give you something to think about before deciding to invest in a future here.”

RELATED: The Scientific Way to Improve Confidence In Just 2 Minutes

4. I like to collaborate with team members and brainstorm ideas to help reach communal goals. Can you give me examples of collaboration within the company?

“This is a great question for team players,” says Josh Tolan. It not only shows that you have a quality that’s very valuable to the company, but it also gets down to brass tacks when it comes to company culture.

5. What are the most important things you’d like to see me accomplish in the first 30, 60 and 90 days of my employment?

This question shows you’re in invested in what you can bring to the company, and not just what the company can do for you. “Expect the answer to go deeper than just a basic skill set requirement,” says Jacqui Barrett Poindexter. “Hope that the interviewer will wander a bit, providing personal insight into qualities he favors–perhaps even offering nuggets of detail you can use to reinforce your value in the follow-up thank-you letter.”

  • ranavain

    I agree with all of this, with the possible exception of the very first one… it can be very helpful to at least establish that you and your prospective employer are at least in the same ballpark on salary. Good employers will post a range in the job description so nobody is wasting their time; but then, many employers are not good!

    I would say that if you have reason to suspect that your prospective employer won’t be willing to reach your desired salary, you should probably bring up that possibility in the interview. It’s horrible to go through possibly several rounds of interviews only to find that both parties were wasting their time.

    • Maria

      not one job interview is a waste of time. At the very least you get to network and to practice your interview skills. 

    • Stef73

      Couldn’t agree more hiring and interviewing many candidates, it was one of my first insight given to recruiters

  • Pal B.

    This is an exceptional compilation of the dos and don’ts during an interview.

  • Robin

    I understand this is the way things are and we should be aware, but if I may rant, it sucks. I absolutely hate that we can’t ask about salary until an offer has been made. Especially when companies don’t post a salary range in their job announcement. Why would I want to waste my time or yours if the salary isn’t even in my range? So I have to go through the trouble of writing a cover letter, customizing my resume, possibly taking time off of my current job and coming out for several interviews just to find out in the end that the salary is not appropriate? I think it should be a rule to just post a salary range up front. Sadly, the employer holds all the cards here and candidates get the short end of the stick.

    Also, maybe I want to know if I get an office, if hours are flexible, what the review process is like, and if you will infringe on my privacy. Is that so bad? These are legitimate concerns, and if we can’t ask during an interview, then we only find out after we’ve accepted the position only to learn that it’s not a good fit. Again, we’ve wasted my time and yours. It’s very frustrating.

    As I said, I get the rules and that we have to play by them. But I will say that the rules are highly one-sided and unfair. How do we change them?

    • Learnvest

      Do enough research that you feel comfortable. I agree with you! If someone does not hire me because I asked a salary range —  It is NOT the right employment situation anyway.

      How do we change THEM? If people quit applying for jobs with no hint of compensation and benefits, and apply only for positions and to employers that acknowledge the compensation package, realistically, is WHY we all work, including the human resources department and the hiring manager.
      However, should you choose to go in to the interview blindfolded, but having done as much research as is available, AND, if YOU feel there is a possibility for a productive relationship, are you happy walking out of that interview without the compensation information? It can be discussed later. By this time you have submitted a resume and the interviewer likely has an idea of your past compensation.

    • dvd

      I think it would have been more clear if that these questions are not appropriate for a FIRST interview. If a job offer is extended, or additional interviews are conducted (showing an interest in you), THEN you may (and probably should) bring up some of these items. But you need to get past the first interview, and asking some questions (as presented here) are inappropriate if you want to get past this second opportunity (after your resume) to reject you.

  • Dyaeli

    What is the best way to answer the question…. Why do you want to work here?

    • Cassandra

      honestly!

    • Guest

      Express some enthusiasm!  Enthusiasm goes a long way in most companies. Be interested, but don’t forget to share why you’re interested with real examples.  Describe personal ties to the company’s service/product and mission/values.  Cite a recent press release that caught your eye and why.  Use what you know about the specific team or leadership tied to the role you’re interviewing for, and talk about why you want to be a part of helping to meet their goals, how your experience complements the team and what you can learn from them to be even better at what you do.

  • Katherene`

    I must agree with Robin, though it might be uncomfrontable at first to bring up salary, paid vacation time, sick time, personal time., etc.  You have to know that most companies are promoting family orentied.  So I would simply feel my way during the interview.  However, your questions to ask, are refreshing. 

  • Annasandoval602

    Like a few people mentioned below – the first point is not true  I’ve been in HR for over 15 years and I specialize in recruiting.  It is perfectly acceptable to ask about salary and benefits up front if the company has not posted that information or revealed that info. in a phone interview or office interview.  No one wants to waste time going through the process if we arent on the same page.  And it does not mean a company is bad if they don’t post salary information on a job posting, the main reason a company wont do that it because they want the flexibility to hire someone with more or less experience and dont want to be locked into the original salary range they posted. 

  • http://twitter.com/genebernice genebernice

    It makes me to attend an interview confidently, by providing the sample interview questions.

     Cover
    Letters
     

  • Pricklypair

    I am an in-house corporate recruiter and always bake a comp question into my initial interviews with candidates in order to understand expectations.  If salary doesn’t come up and you want to probe the company’s comp parameters, I would advise posing the question like this: I am currently earning X, and my target salary for my next role is X.  Does this fit within the range you’ve established?  I would recommend asking this of HR or recruiting only, however.  The recruiter can share candidate expectations with the hiring manager and make recommendations about  whether or not they believe the experience matches the desired salary, but the hiring manager will be far more concerned with honing in on past success and long term potential before talking money.

    The question about expected accomplishments in 30/60/90 days is right on! 

  • http://twitter.com/juliean83167422 julieanderson

    This is regarding do ans dont’s in the interview!! I agree with all this these are some helpful question to make our interview good and achieve a job!! These are the questions which decides your way  of thinking and they will check the positives i you!!

     sample job descriptions

  • Clementina

    as a follow-up to number 3 in the questions to ask list, how about asking what they like least about their job and the company? is that inappropriate/too negative?

  • navigio

    I’ve never quite understood why one would ask questions of the company, especially in an initial interview, and when there are still many candidates being reviewed. Although the information would be useful to eventually know, it seems like a complete waste of time for the interviewer and isn’t helpful to anyone before an offer is made (unless of course the interviewer is using those questions as part of how they assess the candidate–something the article seems to imply is what happens. If thats truly the case, I think its a mistake. A candidate who has respect for the time commitments of the people involved and analyzes the interview process in a logical fashion will be least likely to ask such questions. They of course would be the best eventual hires). Note also that in some interview situations, the ‘interviewers’ are in fact external evaluators. Those people will have virtually zero insight into things like culture or collaboration or such. Furthermore, the information gained would only be useful to the interviewee. Why should the interviewer care about that? Perhaps this is why I am not a recruiter.. ;-)

    • Furu

      Because a job interview isn’t just a one way street. You’re looking for a job for at least one year, probably closer to five. You want to be exploring fit, company values (not just the ones on the box, but real ones inside – is there really a flexible work schedule, or is it just a fake out? What’s the expected procedure for reviews? Annual? Biannual? You want a job that gives regular contact for your career development, and your results so you’re not blindsided.)

      You don’t want to entertain a company all the way up to, say, an interview with senior management, and then realise that they’re only willing to pay half your expected salary. Or that the ‘perks’ aren’t what you’re looking for in a company. Or that the values of this company are listed as ‘fast paced’ and ‘dynamic’ but actually equate to ‘everybody works sixteen hour days, and holidays are frowned upon’.

      Equally, the company will come into it knowing your expectations, and seeing if they can match them or negociate with you on things, such as a company car.

      It’s more like a date – you’re both sizing each other up for a cultural and personal fit, and you want to be reasonably honest in both directions.

      Obviously, it’s about wording, and how you come across. Rather than, “What is my salary going to be?”, you should address it more as someone commented above.

      Too many people think of it as a one way street where the power rests with the company, but it doesn’t. You have the right to ask questions back, show that you’re in control of your career and job search, and make an informed decision about your future.

      • http://twitter.com/rachelquire Rachel Q.

        But the kinds of questions you’re expected to ask aren’t about salary or flexible hours or perks–in fact I think I’ve only ever seen articles that discourage asking questions of that nature.

    • Eric Bohner

      A company wants to know that you want to work for THEM… not just draw a paycheck. They want a relationship with employees. They don’t want it to be like the joke, that “you are paying me just enough to not quit and I’m working just enough not to be fired.” If you go to an interview and ask no questions, and just “audition” it implies that you don’t care where you work and anyone who says yes is going to get you… which seems to mean you wont CARE about the job.

  • Eric Bohner

    For anyone who feels this list is un-fair… you are right. That is the problem with supply and demand… The supply of unemployed, underemployed or unsatisfied workers is so HUGE right now, employers can demand the world for almost nothing. When/IF the economy improves, and un-employment drops, and companies are investing in new projects again, then the supply will go down and employers will have to give more and expect less in order to get talent.

    • English Rob

      It also works on the principle of who you know not what you know as well. I know first hand, as a friend of mine told me about a job in the company he worked for. I applied and was interviewed and presented my CV, letters of reference and technical certificates that showed I had done the said job for many years. I was then sent a letter saying thanks but due to the number of qualified applicants another had been chosen. My friend said they had hired a friend of the hiring manager who didn’t have a clue about the job and was fired in a month. What a lot of crap!

  • alan

    Thank god I am self employed and have been so for the past 30 years.

  • Tiffany Williams

    This Article was very helpful. Thank You!!