job interview questions
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What’s the worst question to ask in a job interview?

28 Feb 2018

We all know it’s important to ask questions in interviews, but it’s also important not to ask the wrong one. Hays’ Dean Stallard is here to help you steer clear of question pitfalls.

Whether it’s a tour of the office, a peer-to-peer interview or an informal meeting, don’t be surprised if your hiring manager introduces you to your potential colleagues during your upcoming interview.

From experience, this usually happens when the hiring manager is close to making the candidate a job offer, but they want to be completely certain that they are a good cultural fit for the team.

This is a positive sign for you. It’s your chance to make a good impression on more than one influential person within the business.

Being introduced to your potential colleagues is also a great opportunity to get a feel for the company, who you might be working with and whether this place is the right cultural fit for you.

A word of warning, however: many candidates will make the error of dropping their guard at this stage of the interview because they think the job is theirs and this is just the last tick in the box.

As a result, they don’t give as much thought or tact to the questions that they ask, leaving a negative impression on their potential colleagues and harming their chances of interview success.

So, what are the worst questions to ask your potential colleagues during an interview, and what should you ask instead?

How often do people leave?

It is reasonable to want to know about employee turnover and, understandably, if people tend to only stay with the business a few months, you would rather know sooner than later.

But asking, ‘How often do people leave?’ comes across as pessimistic and will likely get fed back to the hiring manager by your potential colleagues. Asking the below more positively phrased questions, which focus on length of service, will make you appear inquisitive and professional, while still providing you with the information you are looking for.

  • How long have you worked here?
  • How long was my predecessor in this role for?
  • How long has the team worked together for?

Have you been promoted since joining the company?

Like most candidates, you’ll also be keen to find out whether deserving employees are offered the opportunity to grow professionally and drive their careers forward at this company.

During an interview, however, you need to demonstrate that, yes, you have ambition but, if offered the job, your first priority would be succeeding in the role.

Moreover, it’s important to understand that career progression doesn’t always come in the form of a promotion. Progression may also involve a lateral move into a different role, an increment in responsibility or the chance to upskill through additional training.

Therefore, you should ask more open, less-direct questions that will give you a better idea of the career progression opportunities available, such as:

  • Have you always worked within this role since being here?
  • Would you say you have had the chance to grow your skillset in this job?
  • How has your role changed since joining the company?

What do you dislike about working here?

You may feel inclined to ask this question in order to make a fully informed decision about whether you want to work for this company.

But remember: most employees are professional enough to know not to speak negatively about their employer to an interview candidate, thus this question will only cause them to consider your own professional standards. Instead, opt for diplomatically phrased questions, for example:

  • What kind of obstacles do you and your team come up against regularly, and how do you overcome them?
  • What would you say is the most challenging part of your role?

Do you like everyone here?

Meeting your potential colleagues is a prime opportunity for you to find out more about the team dynamic and whether this company could be a good cultural fit for you.

However, in a similar vein to my previous point, asking questions such as, ‘Do you like/do you get along with everyone here?’ may be misinterpreted as being antagonistic or ‘gossipy’. The below alternatives, on the other hand, are much more neutral.

  • How would you describe the team dynamic?
  • Do you socialise with each other outside of work?
  • What would you say is the most important trait for somebody joining this team? 
  • How would you describe the company culture?

What company perks do you get? 

Like many candidates, you may be itching to know about the rewards on offer, but I would strongly advise against asking your potential colleagues any questions about financial perks, holiday allowance and any other benefits. Not only does this look presumptuous, but it could also be seen as unprofessional.

Specifics such as these should be discussed in private with your hiring manager via your professional recruiter when negotiating an offer, not with your potential colleagues during this early stage in the interview process.

The below questions, however, are much more open, and can invite an answer that reveals information, possibly about the rewards on offer but, more importantly, about the company values.

  • What is your favourite aspect of working for this company?
  • How do you celebrate successes here?

A final note: Be your authentic self

Don’t be mistaken; while it is important to filter your questions, don’t filter your personality. The entire point of being introduced to your potential colleagues is for both sides to assess whether you are a good personality fit within the team and, to get an accurate picture of this, you must be your authentic self.

As I said at the beginning, meeting your potential colleagues is a positive indication that you are close to getting a job offer, plus your chance to get the insight you need in order to make an informed decision. Just don’t fall at the final hurdle by getting too complacent and asking the wrong questions.

By Dean Stallard

Dean Stallard is the managing director of Hays Hong Kong and South China, and has 11 years’ experience in recruitment.

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

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