You’ve polished your resume, fine-tuned your cover letter, and found a company contact who’ll make sure your job application gets in front of a recruiter. So you draft an email and press send, not expecting to hear back until at least a week later.
Then, later that day, you get a call. It’s the recruiter asking you to come in tomorrow for an interview.
You know the basic dos and don’ts of the job interview process–but when it’s a last-minute thing, all your career wisdom goes out the window. You can cram, but there’s no way you’ll feel totally prepared to interview under such short notice–especially when it comes time for you to ask questions. In situations like this, make peace with the fact that you’ll have to learn some crucial intel about the company after your job interview, and remember this “anti-checklist” of topics to avoid while speaking to the recruiter or hiring manager.
1. ANYTHING YOU CAN FIND ON GOOGLE OR THE COMPANY WEBSITE
It goes without asking that you need to brush up on basic information–like how many people the company employs, its main competitors, and how many locations it has. Ideally, you should’ve done this research before you applied for the job. Asking these basic questions shows you haven’t done your homework, and the interviewer will likely have questions about your level of initiative and interest. So even if you haven’t managed to gather all that information before interviewing, you can at least avoid letting on by asking less basic questions.
2. COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS
Until you get an offer, stay away from questions about compensation. You’ll leave the impression that you’re mainly interested in the job and what you can get out of it–rather than in what you can contribute. Employers mostly care about your commitment (and ability) to do the work itself. So try to ask questions with their point of view in mind.
3. TIME OFF, HOLIDAYS, AND FLEXIBLE HOURS
You’ll definitely want to feel out the company’s culture and work-life balance, but if you’re bringing up flexible work and vacation plans before you have an offer, you run the same risk as you do if you ask about pay and benefits. Again, you don’t want to look like your sole concern is how the job fits into your lifestyle. So wait to work this out with the employer if and when you’re offered the job.
4. REVIEWS AND PROBATIONARY PERIODS
While you’ll probably be curious about how often performance reviews take place, whether there’s a probationary period, and how long it is, you should steer clear of these questions as well. In addition to commitment, you want to portray confidence–and asking too early about performance metrics can leave the impression that you’re not 100% sure of your ability to do the job well.
5. HOW SOON BEFORE YOU RECEIVE A PROMOTION
If asking about performance measures might show a lack of confidence, inquiring about how soon you can expect to be promoted comes across as entitled and arrogant. Few organizations have set timeframes for promoting their employees–it all depends on their individual performance and ability. You don’t want to look opportunistic, like you’re only using this as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. If you want to see how it might fit with your mid- to long-term career goals, ask more generally about the employer’s promotion policies or the number of managers who are promoted internally each year.
6. BACKGROUND CHECKS AND DRUG TESTING POLICIES
While these practices are routine (and sometimes intensive) in certain fields, they’ve best saved for later. The last thing you want to suggest is that you have something to hide. If the organization requires a drug screening, they’ll generally mention that early on in the hiring process, if not right away in the job description.
7. HOW COMPUTER USAGE AND TECH IS MONITORED
Employers employ you to work, so any questions around time allowances for non-work-related web browsing, or the permissible uses of personal devices, is a red flag. Again, you’re more likely to find out about these policies if and when you start working at the company–including whether there’s an unspoken rule or a hard-and-fast policy. Whatever the rule is, tread carefully–it’s always better to be a little conservative at the beginning.
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