Interviews are those make-or-break opportunities in life. A few vital minutes when you’re in the spotlight and it’s your chance to shine. This isn’t a rehearsal, it’s the real thing. So, are you going to put your best foot forward or your foot in your mouth? Are you going to put in a star performance? Or are you going to fluff your lines? It’s all up to you when you’re center stage.
If you’re seriously trying to secure a position with a company that you really want to work for you can’t just show up and ad lib your way through the interview. You need to practice and be prepared.
With my current venture, RedLotus, I’ve been humbled by the incredible number of people who want to join our mission. We’ve had more than 5,000 applicants for some 50 positions! Obviously, we can’t possibly personally interview 5,000 people. So those who make the grade and have face-to-face interviews are a pretty select group.
But even then you’d be surprised how often someone with a stellar resume blows it. And, quite often the problem is not the answers that they give, but the questions that they ask. Here are some examples of questions you should never ask in an interview.
Can you tell me more about the company and your competition?
Wait a minute. You want to come work with us and you don’t know the first thing about my company and our market? This raises a huge red flag. It tells me that you haven’t spent time researching who we are and what we do and what makes us different. This is basic stuff that can easily be discovered today. It tells me that you’re lazy and not likely to be the kind of rock star we need.
How much vacation time will I get?
You haven’t even started and you’re already wondering about taking time off? OK. We all need a break to recharge our batteries. Even the most intense of us workaholics have to take some time off now and then to clear our heads and get reinvigorated. But an initial interview is not the place for a discussion about vacations, unless it’s a subject the interviewer raises. In fact, don’t ask about any kind of benefits until you’ve been made an offer. That’s when all of the perks and benefits will be up for debate.
What are the chances of working from home?
If telecommuting is available chances are it will have been mentioned in the job description. Don’t ask. It will make it seem as if you’re asking for favors when your priority should be on selling your abilities.
Do you conduct background checks?
What do you think? The vast majority of big employers routinely carry out background checks. That includes social media sites so you need to be careful what you post online. Be careful who your ‘friends’ are and what you share with them because you could be sharing it with everyone.
Do you offer flexitime?
So, you want to know if you can get to work early or stay late as long as you put in the requisite number of hours? Many workers today are striving to strike the right work-life balance. And that’s a legitimate concern. The danger in raising this question upfront may be that you give the impression you’re more concerned about your needs than the company’s needs.
What’s the review process?
You want to know because…? This sounds as if you’re worried about how your performance is going to get rated even before you get started. This kind of question shows a lack of confidence. What do you care? You’ll sail through any review. Won’t you?
How quickly can I get a raise?
This is another cart-before-the-horse question. Don’t ask about salary and pay increases unless the hiring manager initiates the discussion. Also, the economy is not yet at a point where you can expect automatic raises. You’ll get one when you’ve shown your worth and the company can afford it.
Would you like to see my references?
If we wanted to see your references we’d have asked for them—or will ask for them. You don’t need to offer them up. That might look a little desperate. And, frankly, I’m more interested in what you have to say and in forming my own opinion of you rather than hearing someone else’s opinion (which we know will be good otherwise you wouldn’t have offered them as a reference!).
Will I have my own office?
Is this really a priority? Is this really something that will make you decide you don’t want to work for my company? What’s next? Will you want to know if you will have your own bathroom? This is not something to expose as a day one necessity.
Is there a chance I will have to work for someone less educated than me?
The answer—if you’re working for me—is yes! I left school at the age of 16. I’m self-educated. I don’t have letters after my name. But, frankly, I’m good at what I do and that’s what counts. So if academic qualifications are your thing as a measure of someone’s worth, this company might not be the place for you. Or any company, for that matter.
The worst interview question of all?
The worst thing you can say is that you have NO questions when you’re asked if you have any questions! More often that not an interviewer will close an interview by asking if there’s anything else you need to know. Don’t ever say no. Keep something intelligent up your sleeve to ask. These are the last moments of your first opportunity to make a great impression. The interviewer is waiting for you to close the deal. So, go for it.