Asking questions at the final stage of a job interview is a great idea to decide whether you will be a good match for the position. Moreover, it will show the recruiter you’re interested in the company. However, asking the wrong questions can have a really negative effect on your chances of landing your dream job.
In this article, we will discuss some of the questions of which propriety is often questioned by candidates. In order to ensure absolute authenticity, we have co-created this post with Mónica - our Interview Master and HR Manager here at Europe Language Jobs. With many years of experience, she has conducted countless interviews and heard her fair share of very different queries. This being said, let’s have a look at what her views are on some of the most controversial job interview questions!
1. How long is this interview going to last? - No
Well, if that is your first question, certainly no more than five minutes.
If you were truly interested in the position, you wouldn't mind rescheduling other appointments or meetings, would you? Leave your watch at home and be completely focused on the interviewer's questions and on the interview itself.
Remember, the interview is a two-way opportunity (you and the recruiter) to learn more about each other.. It is your chance to ask any questions you may have, related to the company in general or the job position itself. Take advantage of it - it will only help your case. Focus on the best way you can present your professional self and on receiving as much information as you possibly can, not on wondering if you will make it for the soonest train or will need to wait for the next one on the way back home. If that is your biggest worry, then maybe you should ask yourself if you really want this job.
2. What are the company's policies on holidays/days off/paid leave? - Not necessarily bad
Not necessarily a bad question - it all depends on how you ask it. Don’t give the recruiter an impression that if you get the job, the first thing you will do after coming to the office on your first day will be booking your days off. Again - the interview is the time when you can ask any questions you may have. If what interests you is strictly related to the company’s regulations on days off, then it is as good a question as any. Not any different from asking, for example, what benefits come with the position.
Actually, we believe this question is quite reasonable. Some people just like planning things ahead, knowing what options they have. If you’re considering expanding your family soon, it will be a sensible thing to do to inquire about the company’s view on maternity/paternity leave. You don’t have to let the employer know you intend to make use of that leave right after they hire you - you can ask more generally, about the options of paid leave available to you. Show the recruiter that you’re serious about this job and planning on staying here long enough that this sort of information might become relevant in the future.
Note: Our only advice would be for this question not to be within the first ones, nor the only one you ask. While inquiring about leaves or days off isn’t necessarily a bad thing on its own, it may leave a bad taste in the recruiter’s mouth if that is your only concern. To avoid this issue, you could ask about the details regarding your duties in the position, or any other work-related doubts. That will prove that you do not only care about what the company can give you, but also about what you can give to the company.
3. Can I work from home? - Totally fine
In the past, this question might have been considered impolite, yes. However, given the shift to remote work brought to us by the pandemic, it seems reasonable to ask it now. It is more likely now than before that an employer would be willing to allow their employees to occasionally work from home.
However, don't expect the position to be a full-time remote job if the job description doesn't state so. You might be allowed to work from home a few days a week, but on the rest, you would be required to show up in the office. It is better to clarify that - you wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to avoid commuting on some days just because you didn't ask.
4. What do I have to do to get your job? - NO
If the recruiter seems friendly enough and you feel like your interview is going really well, you may start feeling like you can relax a bit. No matter how approachable the interviewer appears, though, remember that they are not your friend. If they seem sympathetic, great! You might end up working next to them on a daily basis, so it’s amazing if he or she is a nice person. It might also take some of the stress off of you, making the conversation easier and smoother.
However, don’t fall into the trap of believing you can fraternize with that person, not even a little bit. When you feel confident, it is natural to forget where you stand. However, don’t forget the setting and that confidentially asking for some advice that will give you an edge over the other candidates, might be the end-game.
No matter how friendly the recruiter is, they probably won’t appreciate you believing you are entitled to special treatment. If you feel like the communication between you and the interviewer is great, then maybe it’s a sign you don’t even need to ask for clues, because you’re just the right fit for the team!
5. What does this company do? - No, no, no!
You should know this before attending the interview. First of all, because by conducting research about the company you want to work for, you will be mainly doing a favour to yourself. You need to know if your goals and values align with the company’s, or if working for that employer would be a hassle for you. Before the recruiter decides if you are the right fit for their team, you need to find out if the company is the right fit for you!
As for the employer, you coming to the interview prepared will prove to them that you are serious about this position. It will demonstrate that you can show your own initiative, not only soak in the ready information given to you during the interview. Recruiters appreciate curiosity, motivation, and dedication. Learning about their company of your own volition proves that you care.
You can, however, inquire about the position or the duties you'd be in charge of if you finally were to get the job. Just be careful to not ask questions related to what has already been explained to you during the interview! You can ask the recruiter to elaborate or expand on something that had been said before, that you are not sure you understood or would like to hear more about, but don’t make them repeat themselves. It will be a waste of both of your time, and lead them to suspect you weren’t focused.
6. Can I have another part-time job while working for you? - Not bad at all, but know how to formulate it
We are aware that it is a common opinion that this question is wrong. Still, we don’t particularly agree.
Nowadays, many people come back from work just to do some more work. Freelancing is growing more and more popular - both due to financial reasons and because - luckily! - more and more people are passionate about what they do. The world is more demanding now, and life is not always as simple as one full-time position paying all our bills. God forbid, don’t tell your potential employer you will need additional money from a part-time job because the pay they are offering you isn’t enough.
However, if you freelance within the area you are applying for a job in, that means you have previous experience - something the recruiter will consider an asset. For example, if you are applying for the position of a Content Creator and you have previously freelanced in copywriting, you will have a strong portfolio to back up your CV.
The propriety of this question depends on how you formulate it. Make sure to accentuate your time management skills and assure the recruiter that the freelancing you do after work won’t impact or interfere with your main job. Present it as an opportunity to further develop and practice your skills.
Try to say something along the lines of: “I have been doing some freelancing prior to applying to this position; I think it has provided me with a lot of valuable experience and I would like to continue to pursue it, if you approve of it. I will make sure it will not interfere in any way with my duties at this position, and will only serve as a means of me getting better professionally”.
There is no point in hiding it, either. Imagine you have a website your employer comes across at some point. This might raise questions and doubts as to why you would have hidden it, so better to come clean right at the beginning. You’re doing nothing wrong, so why hide it?
7. If I reach my goals, can I have the afternoon off? - Nope
We can tell you right here and now that the answer to that question will be ‘no’. The only thing you might gain by asking it is getting crossed off the potential candidates’ list - that is, if you can consider that a gain.
Some of you might be frowning right now, thinking: “Who in their right mind would ask that question during a job interview?”. Well, believe it or not, this is something Mónica has been asked at some point in the past, so we’d rather you be safe than sorry.
Your main objective during a job interview should be to demonstrate how you can contribute to the company’s activity. Revealing straight away that fulfilling your daily quota is as far as you’re willing to go will not get you far.
Recruiters look for candidates that are resourceful, motivated, and ready to take their own initiative. You don’t have to pretend your work for the company will be the very reason for your existence if you get the job. But you might also want to refrain from revealing how little care you have in whether the tasks you fulfill bring any results or not - because this might be what the recruiter will think after hearing you ask this question.
8. How did I do in this interview? - A-okay
Our HR Manager, Mónica, doesn’t consider asking for feedback at the end of the interview a bad thing. Personally, she does not perceive someone who has asked that question as self-conscious or doubting themselves. It is more of a sign of the candidate’s willingness to improve, of finding opportunities to learn.
You can even keep a journal where you will write down the valuable feedback you have received during your interviews - one evening, when you’re bored, you can crack it open and perform some analysis. Do the things you have heard have anything in common - is there anything you can start working on right now?
Again, the interview isn’t there to get you down - it is there to help you as well. Even if you don’t get the job, you can make the best of it and at least use the failed interview as a lesson. If you don’t know why you haven’t been chosen for the position, then you won’t be able to improve. Unless your aim is to go on countless interviews and repeating the same mistakes over and over again, we advise you to not hesitate to ask for feedback!
Are there any other tricky interview questions you have doubts about? Let us know in the comments below! The truth is, everyone’s comfort zone is different. Some might have trouble filtering what they say and end up putting their foot in their mouth. Others might not feel comfortable asking questions such as “What benefits come with this position?”, thinking it might be too straightforward.
We did our best to provide professional advice - it’s up to you how you use it! Maybe you have other examples of helpful questions you can ask at a job interview? If so, we would love to hear them!
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