Anyone who works in the human resources field or has managed people can most likely tell some eye-brow raising stories about comments they have heard in a job interview. There is a lot of information available on the right job interview questions to ask, but what about what not to say?
What are some job interview dos and don’ts?
One of the most interesting stories I’ve heard that illustrates what not to say in a job interview came from someone who was part of a panel interviewing prospects for a customer service position. About halfway through the interview, the job seeker, a male, stopped the interview and said to his potential boss, a female, “Do we really need to continue with this interview? I think you and I both feel the chemistry between us.” The candidate was right: there was no need to continue the job interview, and after the panel members picked their jaws up off the floor, the interviewee was politely escorted out of the office.
As a recruiter, the question I always use to get candidates to start talking is, “If you were to twitch your nose and create the perfect job, can you tell me about it?”
There are three responses that end the conversation pretty quickly:
1. There is no such thing as a perfect job. Wrong. If someone can’t describe their version of a perfect job, how can I help them?
2. A job where I don’t have to do anything. Motivated much? Ambitious much? Next!
3. It doesn’t matter, I’ll do anything. No, you won’t – or at least not with my help. This response implies desperation and is a good indicator that the candidate won’t perform well or stay in the job very long.
In addition to these job interview stoppers, other topics that are generally considered inappropriate to broach during an interview include:
• Questions that are personal or related to politics, religion or other controversial or sensitive subjects.
• Inquiries about salary and benefits; let the employer raise these subjects.
• Questions about the company’s financial stability or any potential layoffs or downsizing.
• Questions that focus solely on how the job will benefit you, as opposed to what you bring to the table.
In addition to coaching my clients on what not to say in a job interview, I advise them to prepare a list of questions that cover some of the details that may not be covered during the conversation. Frankly, I’m always amazed when a candidate is asked if they have any questions, and they say no. My first reaction is that they haven’t done their research, aren’t interested in the job and/or are lazy. To me, there is just no way that everything they needed to know about a job was addressed in the interview. Asking relevant and insightful questions demonstrates interest in the job, company, and industry and could be the deciding factor when filling a position. Follow-up questions also help candidates determine if the job is a good fit for them or not.
Here are some suggestions for questions that will help ensure a positive Q & A session:
• What is the company’s philosophy on work/life balance?
• What will a typical day look like for the individual who gets this job?
• How is feedback shared with employees?
• Are there opportunities for professional development and advancement?
• What are the short-term and long-term goals for the team or department?
• Can you provide some examples of projects or challenges I might expect in this role?
• How does this position contribute to the overall success of the company?
• How is performance, productivity and progress tracked and measured?
• How does the company encourage innovation and creativity?
• Are there any specific challenges or obstacles I should be aware of in this role?
A few other tips…
Try to avoid asking questions that have already been answered during the job interview or that can be easily found through basic research. Also, remember to tailor your questions to the job and the company.
An interview is an opportunity to showcase your skills, experience and fit for the position. Asking questions that demonstrate your enthusiasm, curiosity and ability to contribute to the company’s success is the key to a positive outcome.