A: Questions that make you sound desperate (or clueless)
You often hear blind date analogies to explain the interview process. Like a blind date, it is a gathering where two parties that don’t know each other spend some time together asking each other questions (sometimes even over coffee or dinner) and then based on that, decide to (or not to) go steady. Even though it is proven not be the best way to determine the success of an employee (most recently in Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior), it is still the most prevalent method used to make hiring decisions (so we’ll go with that).
So like the dating process, you want to be (a little) coy at the start, don’t throw up on your interviewer (“here is everything I have ever done or witnessed from my conception to 10:00 this morning”) and you also do not want to “over bound your steps” (a favorite Stan Laurel malapropism) and jump too far ahead too early (the equivalent of “do you want to meet my parents?” half-way through your first date).
With the assumption that you are not trying to be desperate or clueless, here are two quick things to keep in mind:
- Premature Elicitation After spending 26 minutes illustrating in great detail how smart (and able to get things done) you are, don’t let the first questions you ask when the interviewer yields the remainder of their time to you is, “Do you have dental?”. Personally, that is probably one of my biggest peeves.
Remember – you don’t have a job offer yet. Your goal (at this stage) is to market ourselves and our abilities. This introduces the what’s in it for me aspect (and start’s the negation phase…and we’re not ready for that). I also think it makes you sound clueless. Is that the first and most important thing you want to know about your perspective job? Really? You don’t want to know what projects your team is working on, or what your typically day will look like, or what exciting new products it that company planning?
Further, if the first question you ask is “How many days vacation do I get?” – what perception of you do you I think I will conjure? Perhaps slacker? Remember if you don’t like them or they don’t like you – whether they serve Coke or Pepsi in the break room won’t matter (so save the banal semantics for the final round).
- Sharing too much too soon We all have (perceived) negatives when we are applying for a job. Maybe I am currently obligated to give 41 days notice at my current job, or you’ve already booked a 3 week vacation to Aruba with your wife and her Aunt Gladys (that would start on your third day on the job). Unless asked about these matters (and you then do need to answer and answer truthfully), there’s no reason to give someone a reason to put someone else ahead of you in their pile of interviewees. Again - wait until the offer/negotiation stage of the process (when they’ve told you that already like you and want you).
Now that you know what not to ask – we’ll cover what you should ask in our next episode.
Next Up| What questions should I ask the interviewer?