Questions You Shouldn't Ask During Job Interviews

It's the job interview question you can confidently predict will be there: "Do you have any questions for us?" Yet that doesn't stop people producing some absolute clangers.

Interview picture from Shutterstock

Staffing firm Robert Half surveyed 650 US and Canadian HR managers and asked them for the "most bizarre" responses offered when interviewees were asked if they had any questions. As Business Insider reports, the more ridiculous options included:

  • "Would you consider going on a date with me?"
  • "Do you want to take a ride in my new car?"
  • "What colour is the paint in this office?"
  • "Can my husband finish this test for me?"
  • "Is the boss single?"

The list also included a number of questions which actually aren't "bizarre", but perhaps need to be phrased more carefully:

  • "Do I have to be at work every day?"
  • "How soon can I take my first vacation?"
  • "Do you allow midday naps?"
  • "How much time do I have to put in?"

Especially if your skills are in demand (a common scenario in tech), it's entirely fair to establish what the existing workplace practices are in terms of flexible hours, working from home, holiday policies, and how people are rostered on to help with emergencies. Just don't say it in a way that implies you want to work minimal hours, which most of these versions imply.

The Most Ridiculous Things People Did In Job Interviews This Past Year [Business Insider]


    And some questions that don't get asked enough, given previous experiences with recruitment:
    * Does anybody on your side of the table actually work for the company that will be employing me, or are you all outsourced recruiters?
    * Follow up question: Do any of you have the faintest idea of what I will actually be expected to do if I'm accepted in this position?
    * Given that this is the fourth round of interviews that you are conducting, and it has taken more than a month to get this far, does your whole organization operate with such inefficiency and lack of urgency?
    * Why is this position vacant - is the organization expanding, or did somebody leave because the person this position reports to is a complete dick?

    Last edited 08/01/14 12:53 pm

      Taking your aggression out on those that are considering hiring you, or recommending that you're hired probably isn't the smartest thing to do. Or politest.

      I do appreciate your comments in regards to efficiency, but please don't for a moment think that all applicants appreciate efficiency. Some do. A lot don't.

      In fact a lot of applicants believe that the recruitment process should be done their way and to their exacting standards, and if it isn't then they're entitled to throw a hissy fit, or simply be condescending towards the recruiter.

      Not cool people.

      Recruiters don't want to deal with those that have a chip on their shoulder, and guess what, clients don't either.

        A lot of the applicants actually have a clue about the job they are being hired for and know that a lot of the questions they get asked have very little to do with their ability to do the job and realise that they were hardly asked the right questions to determine their abilities.

        It gets highly irritating having a bunch of people who know very little to nothing about the job they are interviewing you for have such a huge amount of sway as to whether you get it or not. Lord knows how HR were put in charge of recruiting people, they should manage the people already hired and leave the hiring to the people who know the god damned job.

          So what you should do then is make sweeping statements and bring your prejudices into the interview with you. That way you can emit negative vibes which will work wonders for you chances of securing the job. Being aggressive and condescending to the interviewer is sure to get them on side.

          Here's the deal...

          The recruiter, should there be one, is the gate keeper between you and the client.

          They are there because the employer has asked them to be.

          They're not gate-crashing the process, they're dictating the process.

          You may like their process, you may not like their process - but getting all uppity about it either way just won't help anyone.

          You're not the judge in the interview situation. You don't get to decide whether or not the interviewer is up to your high standards.

          Do you think a recruiter is required to know the ins and outs of every position out there? Give it a moments thought. Of course they don't.

          What they need to know is how to recruit. And unfortunately they also need to know how to handle stroppy applicants that fundamentally act like ungrateful little shits.

          Not all applicants are like this, but a lot are. Easily 30%, on a good day. For some positions it can be close to 80%.

          Be professional, Let the recruiter do their job. Work with them, not against them.

          The applicants that are pleasant and work with the recruiter will rocket to the top of the pile. Every time.

          I'll tell you now, shittiness from applicants is to be expected and it won't be tolerated. Leave your attitude at the door or expect to not get the result that you were hoping for.

            One guess what you do for a buck. But the guy you're giving haughty replies to has a point. Recruitment is essentially the most worthless job class. Of course the person sorting applicants for a job should know what that job entails. How could you think otherwise? What, you don't actually know what's involved in the jobs for which you're "gatekeeping"? What are you even doing as a recruiter then? I can't think of anything as elementary as understanding what you're doing in return for your pay. I'm glad you're as honest as to clearly say that you think you don't have to know anything.
            Anyone, and I mean anyone can put on a shirt and tie, look smugly across a table, and ask "Why should you have this job?" followed by "Tell me about a time when you had to manage conflicting priorities." That's monkey work, not a skill. Above all, it's nothing to act so snarky and uppity about. If you're a recruiter, then you're not someone with an actual skill, so relax ;)

              "Recruitment is essentially the most worthless job class. "

              You don't want to provide any evidence or reasoning to back that up? Seeing as you haven't, I'll make it clear that I do understand that a reasonable discussion with you will basically be pointless, so to be clear this response is for the benefit of others.

              "Of course the person sorting applicants for a job should know what that job entails. How could you think otherwise? What, you don't actually know what's involved in the jobs for which you're "gatekeeping"?"

              Does the recruiter need to know something about the position? Of course. How could there be a discussion if at least one person doesn't know what's being discussed.

              Does the recruiter need to know everything about a position? Of course not. Not only do they not need to know everything, to expect a recruiter to know everything about a position is ludicrous.

              Does a flight attendant need to know how to fly a plane? No. They're going to need to know what a plane is, and perhaps things like there are seats on planes and passengers pay money to fly on planes, but the flight attendant can do a fantastic job without having the first clue how to even start a plane.

              What are you even doing as a recruiter then?

              I'm assisting hundreds of clients find ideal applicants. And I'm discussing opportunities with thousands of applicants that may or may not be suitable for those positions.

              If you're not sure what a recruiter does perhaps you shouldn't enter the discussion.

              I'm glad you're as honest as to clearly say that you think you don't have to know anything.

              Well, I didn't say that, which, if you're honest you'd acknowledge. But you haven't done that. In fact you've done the opposite of that. Which I would suggest makes you the opposite of honest.

              That's monkey work, not a skill.

              Hey man, I'm not here arguing that all recruiters are geniuses, I've said no such thing.

              In fact I'd agree that there's a lot of pomposity within recruitment, as there is with many professions. And I'd argue that there's good reason for that. Recruiters that play the high percentage game have to justify their fee - so they do their best to make the service they provide appear professional and out of reach of the typical employer. Of course it's all baloney. Stuff and nonsense. Smoke and mirrors.

              I don't play that game.

              Above all, it's nothing to act so snarky and uppity about.

              If you have a point, please don't be shy - go ahead and make it.

              I'm guessing that I'm being called snarky and uppity because I've complained that a high proportion of applicants are unnecessarily aggressive, rude and ungrateful.

              Now where could I possibly have gotten that impression, when folks like you are so clearly understanding of our role in the process of helping YOU find a job.

              Last edited 09/01/14 8:42 pm

    Actually @xqx your last question is quite valid...they all are really. But the last ones a great opportunity to check on any red flags that would be good to be aware of prior to starting a new role.

      I've asked that very question before. I was simply told 'the person left the position to pursue other opportunities'. I took that to mean 'we fired them' lol.

        Asking why the position is available is a legitimate question and can be a huge eye opener. As a candidate you do have to judge whether or not it's a good company to work, and a question along those lines (albeit less brutal) is fair, but can put the employer under a bit of pressure - so go gently.

          Yep. Also, never have a follow up question about why its open. Just ask and leave it...

    Another tricky one is asking about maternity leave.. My partner is going for a new job at the moment and we will be looking at starting a family in 18 months or so and it's one of those questions you should be able to ask without affecting your chances of getting the position, yet you know if you do ask then they will still look at it in a negative way, like you aren't going to be around for long, even though she plans to go back to work...


      Honesty is generally the best policy, but there are times that you know that being honest is very likely to do you harm. And you have to be your first priority.

      A lot of employers out there simply would baulk at an applicant if they knew a pregnancy was planned. Fact. Further, there are employers that will avoid hiring ladies in their late 20s to late 30s for that exact reason. Completely illegal. Some would say immoral. I would say that there's good reasons for businesses to behave in such a manner - they do have to protect themselves. Yes I realise that rational statement will be unpopular.

      At the end of the day, 18 months away is a long time. You don't need to raise it as an issue. I wouldn't (if I were an applicant in such a position).

      If you have a holiday booked in in a few months time, mention that. Most employers would accommodate that, some might not, but if you don't tell them and drop the bomb once you're hired all trust will be lost. Do you want that kind of relationship with an employer? Probably not.

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