Tech & Work

Questions your interviewer doesn't want to hear

Curious about the number of vacation days you'll get or your chances for climbing the corporate ladder? Good questions, but the initial interview is not the time or place to ask.

Curious about the number of vacation days you'll get or your chances for climbing the corporate ladder? Good questions, but the initial interview is not the time or place to ask.

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I know all the job-search advice you hear says the interview is the time to find out if a job is a good fit for you, as well as to present yourself as someone who is qualified for the job. That's true. But determining whether the job is a good fit does not mean getting answers to the question, "What can you do for me and how quickly?"

Here's what I mean. The initial interview with the hiring manager is not the place to ask the following questions:

How many vacation days would I get? If you're already thinking about time off and you haven't even gotten the job yet, then what does that say about your work ethic? True, benefits like vacation days play a very important part in the worth of a job, but this first interview is not the place to ask. Wait until a second or third interview, or when the actual job offer comes, to ask. Do you require overtime? Same with this question. It's absolutely valid, but hold the question until later. Instead, ask "What's an average day like here?" What kind of health benefits do you have? Again, getting the answer to this question is a must, just not at this time. If you ask it in the initial interview, not only are you implying that you would settle for any job as long as your next root canal was covered, but some companies don't even like to release that information until they have a serious candidate. What are the chances for advancement? Think about it. You're a manager going through the exhaustive hiring process, and the person you're about to hire wants to know how long she has to do the job before she can move on to greener pastures. Not a good sign. (When I asked one candidate where she saw herself in five years, she laughed and said, "In your job." She meant it as some kind of trite expression of her admirable ambition, but it put me on my guard. I wasn't insecure in my own job status, but I also didn't want somebody standing around like the Grim Reaper waiting for my health to take a bad turn.)

In your initial interview, talk only about the job duties, expectations, and your qualifications. The bargaining chips come later.

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About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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