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In that first interview, job applicants should put just as much effort into asking thoughtful questions as they do answering the questions the interviewer asks. I’ve talked before about the importance of coming up with questions that will make you stand out – but what about first interview questions to avoid?

It’s no secret that the job interview process can be nerve-wracking. And just when you come to the end and think it’s time to breathe easy, there comes the final question that almost every interviewer asks… ‘Do you have any questions for me?

Although potentially valid, there are some questions that that may give your future employer the wrong impression. Take a look at this short list I would recommend avoiding.

1. What does your company do?

This seems like a reasonable question, right? But this question can be a no-no for a few reasons. Firstly, you really should have researched yourself prior to the interview.

You don’t want to look like you’ve turned up knowing next to nothing about the company you’re saying you want to work for. This makes it seem like you’re not really interested in the job, and that you’re just wasting the interviewer’s time.

Taking the time to properly research a company, its aims and its values is absolutely essential before any interview. It’s also an easy way to differentiate yourself from the competition and show off a little.

Perhaps a better question would be, ‘I’ve done some research on your company and I wondered if you could expand on a particular area of the business for me?’

2. How long do I have to wait until I get a promotion?

There are a few negative implications in this question. First off, it implies that you feel getting promoted is simply something that just happens, not something that depends on how well or how hard you work. That’s not a great look, especially for someone who hasn’t even got the job yet.

This kind of question also gives the impression that you’re not actually interested in the role you’re applying for, and that you’re already wondering how long it would take to move on to a higher role.

It’s fine to be interested in finding out how you might progress within the company, and to ask about it during the interview; you just need to phrase your questions carefully. Try something along the lines of, ‘I’m interested in a long-term position where there’s room for development and progression. Can you tell me more about some of the opportunities for growth in this role?’

3. Will I be required to take a test?

Asking this up-front may imply that you might have something to hide, or that you might have habits you need to change before being employed – all of which can quickly turn off an interviewer.

Depending on the industry and the individual job, testing is sometimes part of the pre-employment process, and can also be used throughout employment. If they require any type of testing through-out the hiring process, this will likely be communicated to you up-front or at the appropriate stage.

If you are requested to take part in testing, whether medical, drug, psychometric or skills, always try and make yourself as available as possible. This will give yourself the best chance of securing the role.

4. Does the company monitor internet usage?

This is another question that will set alarm bells ringing for your interviewer. It shows that you’re worried about your potential employer seeing what you do on the internet. In turn, this implies that you’re planning to use the internet during work hours for things other than work.

This type of question might bring your work ethic and habits into question before you’ve even been properly considered for the job.

5. Do you have a flexible work schedule?

Flexibility in the workplace is becoming more and more common. James has blogged recently about the benefits of working from home (both for employees and employers); many companies are offering this and other flexible work options as a key benefit for their staff.

However, the right time to discuss this matter is delicate. You want to seem keen and committed even if you may need some flexibility. Be patient and find an appropriate time to ask about this as a general workplace question; if you’re looking for more insight into the company’s work culture during the interview, you could instead ask something like, ‘What does a typical work day for an employee at the company look like?’

If you’re successful in progressing further in the selection process, you can find out more about potential flexibility in the role.

6. What about salary?

If your job interview was organised through a recruiter, you should have been provided with a detailed brief on the opportunity, including position description, salary package and location. If not, then it’s okay to ask to avoid a mismatch in expectation. Perhaps not your very first question!

It’s the recruiter’s job to assist in the negotiation of your salary, benefits and start date once you have gone through the interview process and are selected as the preferred candidate.

If you’re working directly with an employer you should try to obtain this information prior to the actual interview, for example from the job ad or Human Resources department. Again, I wouldn’t recommend turning up to the interview and kicking off with ‘how much money will I make’. Certainly, use the question time at the end of your interview to explore more details about the package on offer, but be prepared to be given an indicative range in first interviews.

7. When can I take annual leave?

Asking about taking time off before you’ve even been offered the job doesn’t scream hard worker and commitment to the role. The key exception is if you have a longer absence already planned, such as an overseas holiday that’s been booked for a while. In this case, it’s courteous to mention this during your interview so that you won’t catch your new employer off-guard by telling them after you’ve started the job.

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