Job interviews are a necessary evil. While they’re super important because they allow employers to decide whether you would fit in at their company and also provide you with an opportunity to figure out whether the company is somewhere you might thrive, they can be nervewracking and uncomfortable. You only have 15 or 30 or maybe 60 minutes to make an awesome first impression, and then some random person gets to have a major say in the trajectory of your life? Aaah.
There are certain things you can ask–and not ask–in order to minimize your chances of coming off as awkward and maximize your chances of sounding intelligent, engaged, and mature during your interview. Here are some things that should (and shouldn’t) come up when it’s your turn to raise any questions.
Don’t ask about money.
A starting salary is something that should not be discussed until you have a formal offer in hand. While there are certainly respectful ways to negotiate for a salary that will make both you and your employer happy, it is not appropriate to bring this up during an interview. The employers are still trying to figure out whether to offer you the job and you are still trying to get a feel for whether you’d even want to work there if they did.
Under absolutely no circumstances should you ask when you would be eligible for a raise because that question is incredibly premature. This company has no record of your performance and you’ve done nothing for them yet! Once you already have the job offer, you can work out a comfortable starting salary and eventually you’ll get that raise when you earn it. During the interview, just stay away from money matters.
Ask about what the company expects you to accomplish.
Questions like “What are you hoping for me to accomplish during my first six months here?” and “What type of employee tends to succeed here?” offer a great way to gauge your employer’s expectations without outright asking about money. That way, you can go above and beyond what they’re anticipating. (And maybe get that raise someday.)
Don’t ask about conducting personal business during the day.
You should not be asking your potential future employers if you can make personal calls during the time that you’re supposed to be on their clock. They’re not going to say yes and it makes you look unprofessional.
Don’t ask about whether the company monitors internet usage or tracks emails for the same reason.
Do ask if they have any hesitations about whether you are qualified for the job.
It may be a little uncomfortable to talk about your weaknesses, but rather than shying away from them, it is more productive to address any potential problems that might come up. If your interviewer does have any reservations about hiring you, this will prevent an opportunity for you to fully explain your situation and hopefully convince this person that even if you don’t have the exact background they are looking for, you will still be able to thrive in this position.
Don’t ask for fancy perks upfront.
Mentioning vacation time is a big no. You don’t even have the job yet and you want to take a week off? This just makes you look lazy, even if that wasn’t the intention.
There’s really no reason to ask if you’re going to get any “special benefits” at work if they do not directly impact your work. If you’re a good employee, you’ll be just as productive at a desk next to three other people as you will be in your own private office.
Do ask about how you are expected to interact with coworkers.
Certainly, there should be no gossiping or asking about who you aren’t going to work with–that would start things off on the wrong foot even if you do get the job. It is a good idea, though, to ask about which people you will be spending most of your time with, the ways in which you will communicate with them, and the proper procedure for reporting to whoever is above you in the chain of command.
Don’t ask for concrete work hours.
This one is a little less obvious than some of the others but stay away from inquiring about the specific times you’ll have to be in the office (or wherever). Asking for the exact hours or asking if you’ll need to work long hours will make it look like you’re just going to clock in and clock out at the exact times that they give you. It signifies that your work isn’t necessarily a priority and that you may not care about it enough to give it any thought outside of that 9AM to 5PM window.
Don’t ask whether it’s okay to arrive early or late, either. While this does show more dedication than the previous questions, it’s too early to set hours for a job you don’t have yet and it very obviously calls attention to the fact that you want people to recognize how hard you work. Of course, you do want people to notice, but you want them to notice on their own–not because you’re screaming “Look how early I came in and how late I stayed and how much I’m doing!” Nobody is going to hate on you for putting in extra time. If you do it quietly, your boss should pick up on it without you having to point it out.
Do ask about the company’s culture.
This shows that rather than getting wrapped up in your paycheck, your main concern is finding a place that will be a good fit. Asking your interviewers to describe the company’s culture, coming up with questions about the work/life balance that employees experience, and inquiring about what a typical day in your position would be like will reveal plenty about what it is like to work there without making it seem like you care too strongly about the specific hours.
Good luck with all of those interviews!