Dear Sam: I am starting my job search—the first time in more than 10 years—and I feel rusty when it comes to interviewing. I know I’m supposed to ask questions to the interviewer, and I wondered if that would be a good time to ask about compensation and benefits? – Steve
Dear Steve: When a job interview is coming to an end and an employer asks you if you have any questions, the answer should always be “yes.” If you don’t have any questions prepared, you are missing out on a valuable opportunity to show that you’ve done your research and to ask some critical questions that could help determine if the company is a good fit for you. However, asking the wrong questions is an even bigger mistake. Asking inappropriate and careless questions can curtail your job interview and destroy your chances of landing the job.
1. What does this company do?
You should always do your research before a job interview. At the bare minimum, you should know the key functions of the company. Never ask something that should have an obvious answer or that you are assumed to have known when you applied for the job. Instead, ask questions about the company’s culture and the company’s strategy. Similarly, you should have a basic understanding of the job duties you will be expected to perform, so make sure you review the job description carefully.
2. What is the salary for this position?
It is best not to bring up salary during the first job interview. The purpose of the first interview is to “sell” yourself to a hiring manager and to learn more about the company. Shifting the focus to salary can be considered presumptuous and can give the appearance that you only care about the money. Wait until you receive a job offer to start discussing salary.
3. How soon can I take a vacation?
You never want it to appear like you’re not committed to the job (especially before you’ve even received a job offer!) Questions about time off, breaks, and even working from home should be avoided so as to not send the wrong message about your work ethic and dedication. If you’re trying to get an idea about how many hours you’ll probably work during the week, you can instead ask “What does a typical day/week look like in this role?” This will give you an idea about the hours involved with the position.
Landing a job interview is a big accomplishment, so you want to do everything in your power to “close the deal” and receive a job offer (or a second-round interview at the least). With interviewers analyzing and scrutinizing your every move, it is imperative that the questions you ask reflect your knowledge of and research about the company, your work ethic and professionalism, and your interest in the position.