Let’s not beat around the bush: job interviews are scary. They’re a tightrope-esque balancing act, one in which you’re expected to be knowledgeable, capable and efficient while simultaneously coming across as a pleasant human being who anyone would love to have on their team.
A good interview, however, should work both ways. After your prospective employer has finished with their questions, you should get the chance to grill them, too – while remembering that there are some things you should never ask in that all-important first meeting.
UK job site CV-Library recently surveyed 1,200 workers on their interview preparation techniques and found that almost 90% believe there are certain questions that candidates should avoid in interviews if they want to get the job.
“It’s always good to turn up to an interview armed with appropriate questions to ask, and you should always note them down in case you have a ‘mind blank’ halfway through,” says Lee Biggins, CV-Library’s founder and managing director.
“Not only will this show you’re well prepared, it also demonstrates that you have a genuine interest in the company and the opportunity to work there.”
However, Biggins warns that there are certain topics that should be approached with caution.
“Questions around money and working hours can often touch a nerve with potential employers, as it could suggest that you’re not actually interested in the role itself and the work you’ll be doing,” he says.
“That’s not to say you can’t ask about the package the company is offering, it’s just important that you phrase it in the right way.”
Survey respondents were asked to vote on the five questions they believed had scuppered their chances of being offered a job in the past. Scroll down for their answers…
5. Do you offer sick pay?
45.4% of respondents said that they thought they’d been turned down for a job after they asked this question in an interview. Of course, sick pay is an important worker’s right, and full-time employees in the UK are legally entitled to take up to seven days’ sick leave without a doctor’s note.
However, asking this question in a first interview may make it seem as though you’re planning your duvet days before you’ve even got the job – never a good look.
4. How much will I get paid?
This is a tricky one. Almost half (49.8%) of those surveyed said that they thought this question had jeopardised their chances of getting a job – but you’ll have to talk money at some stage.
Overall, it’s best to leave salary questions until you’re sure that you’ve already wowed your interviewer with your skills, charm and experience. Unless they bring it up themselves, wait until you’ve been called in for a second interview or an offer has been extended. Otherwise, you might look unappealingly money-driven – or as though you think the job’s already in the bag.
3. Will I have to work long hours?
Oof. Over 50% of respondents to the survey considered this a dangerous question to ask in an interview, and with good reason: while it’s essentially a reasonable question, the poor phrasing will make you seem workshy.
Biggins says that there are ways of probing your interviewer about working hours without being quite this blunt. Enquiring about company culture, for example, may allow you to find out whether overtime is a rarity or par for the course.
“Rather than going straight in with questions around salaries and working hours, you can find out more about a company by posing questions about their culture, teams and how they measure success,” says Biggins.
“Doing so will help you paint a picture of what it’s like to work there, and will also show to the interviewer that you are passionate about working in a company where the fit is right on both sides.”
2. How often do you give your employees a pay rise?
52.9% of those surveyed agreed that this question is a howler, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out why. As well as suggesting that you’re much more interested in the money than the job itself, it also implies that you’ve already got the job in your head – and that’s never an attractive quality.
1. What does your company do?
If any question is guaranteed to leave your interviewer scratching their head and wondering how you even made it through the door, this is the one. 53% of survey participants said that they thought this question would ruin an interview, and we’re not surprised. Do. Your. Research.
But remember: if you leave a meeting about a job and feel like you haven’t asked everything you wanted to, you can always send a follow-up email or get in touch with a phone call. (Of course, you should always send a post-interview email anyway, thanking your interviewer for their time.)
“Never be afraid to follow up with an interviewer if there are questions which you don’t feel comfortable asking about face-to-face,” says Biggins.
“Remember, it’s about checking that the company is right for you, as well as if you’re right for the company.”
Want more interview tips? You might be interested in our definitive guide to acing a job interview and landing your dream job.
Want to find out more about boosting your career? Why not attend ‘How to Negotiate a Pay Rise (and extra holiday too) with Step Up Club’. Learn how to negotiate with confidence and get the most out of your career with Alice Olins and Phanella Mayall Fine, founders of Step Up Club. Find out more at: live.stylist.co.uk
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