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Whatever You Do, Don’t Ask This Question During An Interview!

by Johnny Bravo · 12 comments

Whatever You Do, Don't Ask This Question During An Interview!
In my post How To Say No To Recruiter I shared my experience talking with a recruiter who cold called me.
Before saying no to an interview I talked about the first thing you should do: ask questions.

Well as I was considering the kind of questions you should ask during that kind of interview, it also made me think of the questions you SHOULDN’T ask.

Today I want to offer you a piece of advice to help you stand out from the crowd. I want to first eliminate a question you have probably already asked in an interview, and replace it with something that will help you differentiate yourself.

Most job candidates ask the same questions.

  • What is the culture like?
  • What is the salary?
  • What attributes are you looking for in your next hire?

And from my experience, more often than not is the question, “What are the growth opportunities in this position?“.

On the outside you would think this is a good question. You are asking if there is a future for you in this company, beyond this initial hire.

The problem is that it is a generic question which is asking for a generic answer. The answer could quite literally be something as simple as “Good”.

I have to assume that is not what you are looking for by asking that question. You want to know that if you stick around, your career won’t be stagnant. You want to know that the company is prospering to the point of adding levels to the organizational structure. You want to know that there is potential for your income to increase above inflation. You want to know that your hard work will be well rewarded. You want to know that this will be the right fit for you now and in the future.

What are the growth opportunities in this position?” won’t answer those questions.

Instead go deep with the question. A few different options you might consider are:

  • “If I join your team I’d expect to be here for years if not decades. For those who started in this position or have been here that long, what career growth have they experienced?”
  • “What attributes and achievements are rewarded with growth, how are they measured, and what growth have they led to?”
  • “What growth has our longest tenure employee experienced in the last 5 years?”

These questions ask specifics to the question(s) you are really asking. You are looking for examples that speak to the culture, growth, and opportunity within the company.

Sure you can ask the normal question but they’ll tell you “the plan” which is rarely ever the case. Do your due diligence, ask the hard questions, and make the right choice for your career.

What are your thoughts? Any other suggestions to help eliminate that question from interviews? 

~ JohnnyBravo

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Graham March 6, 2014 at 6:51 am

Questions NOT to ask is a topic I haven’t seen addressed before but it is a good one. I like your suggestions which I find valid for most interactions. They encourage the other party to think about the answer and not just give a stock response. Also, 100% right about interviewers being turned off by facile stock questions. Been there, done that !

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Johnny Bravo March 6, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Thanks Paul. These are definitely things to consider for any interview. Sales or not. Thanks for stopping by.

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Susan Cooper March 6, 2014 at 11:28 am

LOL, I have been on the other side of many interviews and have heard some really odd questions. I agree, when someone asks a question with specifics in mind, was always appreciated and did make then stand out because if it. It’s been while since I have done either so I am hard pressed to offer any insight. What I can say is, always have well thought out questions, not have any is the worst. 🙂

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Johnny Bravo March 6, 2014 at 9:05 pm

You’re right Susan. Better to have questions that are well thought out then to try and wing it. Having none will not help you stand out at all.

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Jeri March 6, 2014 at 9:32 pm

I haven’t been on as many interviews as I have sat in on interview panels. The teaching candidates who asked specific questions always stood out the most. It was apparent they really knew what they wanted out of a job. I think sitting in on interviews was a really great experience and it gave me lots of ideas for how to tackle my own in the future.

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Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) March 7, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I agree that the folks I interviews scored big points with me if they were more specific with their questions. But I also looked for balance – the things that lead me to believe they were interested in the growth of the company and how they could help as well as the things that a company could offer them. I think some of this can be driven by market conditions… more jobs/less people applying, or the opposite.

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Johnny Bravo March 8, 2014 at 12:02 am

Excellent point Jacqueline. Balance is very important and has a lot to do with finding the proper fit, for them and the company.

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maxwell ivey March 7, 2014 at 2:21 pm

thanks for the great examples. Your post reminded me of the one job interview i ever had. I was at lions world services for the blind auditioning for a spot in their training course to become a worker in one of their automated collection centers. each of us went into a room with reps from seven different district offices. in the middle of my first answer one of them started writing very loudly. I was nervous and didn’t recognize the sound so asked about it. eventually made a joke out of it and got asked back for the second round and eventually made the cut. sure wish i had thought to ask some of these questions. If i had, i would have probably known it wouldn’t be a good fit for me. thanks again and take care, max

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Johnny Bravo March 7, 2014 at 11:55 pm

Thanks for stopping by max. After that story I can’t argue and say that you didn’t ask the right question “what is that sound?” ha. You made the cut!

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Sara Kate MacFarland March 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm

I’ve been interviewed and on many interview panels. My personal experience as a job candidate has been very positive. I’ve left the interview feeling more as if I’d been interviewing them…and I have always been called back..and subsequently hired. Questions such as those you’ve provided are the first step in being a memorable candidate. As an interviewer, I am impressed by candidates who express an interest in the “learning” opportunities of the position…what skills can they expect to add to their resume…Good post, Johnny! You’ve done your followers a service that should make them stop and think about what they offer in an interview. Curiosity stands out.

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Johnny Bravo March 7, 2014 at 11:47 pm

That’s a great way to think about it Sara. You are interviewing them just as much (if not more) then they are interviewing you. It’s all about taking control which it sounds like you’re pretty good at.

Thanks for the kind words.

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Becc March 9, 2014 at 8:34 pm

It has been a while since I have interviewed someone or been interviewed, but I love the idea about being specific. It works in many areas of your life as well.

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