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Questions that Kill Your Interview

There’s that moment at the end of almost every interview, when things are being wrapped up and you have one last opportunity with the recruiter or hiring manager to leave a great last impression.  A great way to do this is by asking a question or two that reinforces your interest in the position.

But is the last question you ask leaving a bad taste in your interviewers mouth when they respond?  Be careful asking one of these questions that could kill your chances at nailing the interview and securing the job.

What is the salary for this position?

Any question that references salary, wages, or being paid should be left for later interviews, unless it has been brought up by the recruiter or hiring manager you are interviewing with.  While it is inconvenient because you want to make sure you aren’t wasting your time pursuing a position that does not meet your salary expectations, hold off until you are further along in the interview process as it is a distraction at this stage for both you and them.

Most jobs will post a range on the initial posting and most good recruiters will discuss this with you up front to make sure they and you are not wasting anyone’s time. But your goal is to make them want you first and secure the position–then worry about salary.

How much time will I receive? (or When will I start accruing vacation time?)

Similar to the salary question, talking about your upcoming trips or needing time off before you’ve actually been made an offer can make it seem like you’re more interested in being out of the office than in it.  Follow the same rule of thumb, unless it’s brought up by the interviewer, avoid distracting the focus of the conversation, your fit for the position.  But if you are made an offer, do disclose any near term travel plans that have already been scheduled to make sure reasonable accommodations can be made.

Do you have any doubts about whether I am suited to this position?

Ouch.  Do you already see where the problems are in this sentence?  The key word is doubts and that’s what you’ll be leaving the interviewer with.  Many interview coaches actually tell candidates to ask this or similar questions like: How do I measure up to your requirements for this position? or Are there any skills I’m lacking that would make you not wish to hire me?

While well intentioned to give you an opportunity to counter any negative feedback and emphasize your strengths before the end of the interview, what the interviewer is left with is thinking why you can’t do the job versus why you can.  And even if you’ve prepared what to say to put yourself in their good graces, you never know if they will respond with something that will puzzle you or catch you off guard. Worse, most interviewers will probably avoid or dodge answering the question, although they will be answering it in their heads to themselves as they walk you out.

There are some great alternative questions to achieve the same goal.  Instead, try asking something like the following:

  • What types of skills do you not already have onboard that you’re looking to fill with a new hire?
  • What are the most challenging aspects of the job for which I am being considered?
  • What particular aspects about my background and experience interest you?

These questions keep the conversation positive and still allow you a chance to showcase your strengths and how you can excel in the role.

Am I hired?  (or When do I start?)

This is another one of those questions that is well intentioned to showcase your enthusiasm for the role and often encouraged by some coaches, but it’s recommended to avoid it.  Yes, some candidates can pull this question off with grace and charm, but most fail miserably or come off as desperate or unsure of themselves.  And you run the risk of putting the interviewer on the spot in a bad way, leaving them in a slightly uncomfortable position of having to pick and chose their response carefully.

Some better ways to end the interview would be to ask what the next steps in the interview process are.  This can provide a similar effect that you are still interested in the role and want to be prepared for what’s next.  A substitute for that question could also be to ask, “Where are you in the hiring process?”  or “How soon are you looking to fill the position?”

If you like to be followed up with, and who doesn’t when it comes to where you stand in the interview process, don’t be afraid to ask a question such as, “If I don’t hear from you within (time period), would it be okay to call you?”  All of these questions allow the recruiter to set expectations of the process and show your eagerness and enthusiasm for working towards securing the position in a positive way.

So in your next job interview, make sure you leave a good impression from start to finish in the interview.  Don’t kill the end of the interview by leaving any negative thoughts in the interviewers head.  Wrap up your meeting in a way that showcases your fit for the role and don’t leave any doubt as to why you’re the best candidate for the job.

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