4 Questions You Should NEVER Ask During an Interview (+ 3 to Ask Instead)

by Pranav Ramesh
August 27, 2019

With recruiters chasing down IT candidates left and right, it’s likely that at some point you’ll interview with a company that just isn’t right for you. Thankfully, every job interview is a two-way street. As a candidate you shouldn’t just be answering questions from a hiring manager – you need to be asking them as well. Your interviewer may want to know if you can do the job, but you need to determine if the role and company are actually a good fit for your skill-set and personality.

Asking questions is a good strategy… but you need to ask the right questions. Nothing will turn off a hiring manager more than an inappropriate or irrelevant inquiry from a candidate.

So what questions should you definitely not ask during the interview?

“What does your company do?”

It goes without saying that you should do your research before an interview, but you’d be surprised how many candidates don’t know basic information about companies they could end up working for. A 2018 survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder showed that 45% of hiring managers considered a candidate’s not knowing anything about the company an instant deal breaker. Bottom line? Google is your friend.

Spend some time reviewing an organization’s website before you talk to the hiring manager. What does the company do? How does it make money? What is it selling, and who is its target audience? These are all basic questions you should be able to answer before you set your foot in the door.

Taking a few minutes to look over a brand’s website and conduct a quick internet search provides you with a huge amount of information. This homework doesn’t just keep you from making a bad impression – it also offers you the opportunity to formulate some strong questions. If you see a press release or page on the company’s website detailing a new software launch, ask about it. Or if you’re wondering how the growth of AI could affect their customers’ buying habits, work it into a question. Being knowledgeable and prepared makes a good impression with the hiring manager, but it also leaves you feeling confident – always a win if you’re a little nervous about the interview.

“Can you tell me about this role?”

By the time you get to the interview stage, you should have already worked with your recruiter to understand the fundamentals of the job. Asking extremely basic questions about the role shows you aren’t prepared and may not even be qualified for the job.

If you’re unclear about which frameworks you need to be most familiar with, or what programming language the company uses, ask your recruiter before you meet with the hiring manager. Remember, your recruiter wants you to get hired nearly as much as you do!You should also know how much experience is expected so you can highlight your expertise or be prepared to address any gaps. A recruiter may not know all the nitty-gritty details about how a team operates or every technology a company uses, but he or she should be able to describe the role in general.

This sets you up to skip the basic questions and focus on some things that’ll give you more insight and make sure the job itself is a good fit. Instead of asking “What programming languages does the team use?” ask something more specific like, “I understand you’re looking for someone with three years of JavaScript experience. What features are you trying to implement with JavaScript/ES6 right now?”

“How soon can I be promoted?”

Being ambitious is a great thing. Being desperate for a promotion before you’ve even started a new position is not.

It’s normal to ask about career growth and the potential to move up, especially if you’re leaving your current role due to a lack of advancement opportunities, but how you word this question matters. A lot.

Asking “How soon do people typically move up?” or “How soon could I land a promotion?” is the fast-track to being bypassed for another candidate. Nearly 60 percent of employers surveyed by The Harris Poll said they instantly disqualified a candidate who seemed entitled during the interview process.

Instead, phrase your question about growth more delicately. Asking something along the lines of “What sort of development opportunities are available within your team?” comes off as much less abrasive and shows an employer you have those sought-after soft skills that tech employees sometimes lack.

“Do I need to take a drug test/background check?”

Plenty of organizations require background checks and/or drug tests. Asking in this way only makes it seem like you have something to hide. If you’re genuinely curious about it, change up your phrasing and mention you’d like some informa