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7 questions make interviewers cringe

By Beth Braccio Hering,
What you ask and when you ask it can alert an interviewer to your interest and work ethic.
What you ask and when you ask it can alert an interviewer to your interest and work ethic.
  • What you ask at an interview can speak volumes about your interest and work ethic
  • Do research on company and to get a feel for what similar jobs are paying
  • Asking about vacations and sick pay while interviewing are not a good idea
  • Job Searching
  • Business
  • Worklife

( -- Chances are you've prepared answers to a variety of questions an interviewer might throw your way, but have you spent equal time considering the questions you want to pose to a potential employer?

What you ask (and sometimes when) can speak volumes about your interest and work ethic. Keep interviewers from cringing -- and possibly questioning your suitability for the position -- by avoiding these seven questions:

1. What does your company do?

Sure, an interview is a two-way street designed for both parties to learn about one another. Yet how can a job seeker prove he is the person for the position if he doesn't even know the basics about where he wants to work?

"I feel that if someone is coming to an interview he should have some background about who we are and what we do," says Tina Kummelman, human resources business partner for Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. "Specific questions are great, but the overall blanketed question tells me someone did not do his homework." 5 ways to rehab your résumé

Bottom line: Don't waste the interviewer's time by having her recite what could have been learned beforehand on the company's website.

2. How much does the role pay?

It may be the answer you're dying to know, but seeking this information too soon can make you look like you're jumping the gun.

"Just don't ask it. It sends the wrong message," says Chris Brabec, director of leadership talent acquisition for Western Union.

Adds colleague Julie Rulis, senior recruiter with the talent acquisition team, "I believe this question should be saved for later stages in the interview process. Asking about salary or benefits in the first interview isn't the impression you want to leave with an employer."

A better idea: Do some research ahead of time to get a feel for what similar jobs are paying.

3. What are the hours of this position?

"This one question makes me cringe more than any other," says Paul Solomon, president of Solo Management, a New York-based executive recruitment firm that specializes in financial industry recruitment. "Wall Street managers don't want a clock watcher, so when I hear that question I know the candidate will not be the right fit." Great employee? Or you just think you are?

Rulis agrees. "Although I understand why candidates are eager to know this up front, it can raise a question regarding their work ethic if asked too early in the process."

4. How many sick days do I get?

What goes through the interviewer's mind when hearing this question?

"We are in the business of developing leaders, not slouchers!" states Gary Rich, president of Rich Leadership, an executive coaching firm in New York City.

Keep a potential employer from questioning your motivation (or your health) by looking this up in the employee handbook at a later time.

5. How much time do I get off?

Like numbers three and four, this question can make a potential employer wonder if a candidate is more interested in getting out of work than actually contributing. It is especially frowned upon in fields requiring significant motivation from the get-go.

"A career as a financial representative is what you make of it. Your hard work helps determine your rewards. You have the ability to be your own boss, build your own practice and arrange your own schedule, while making a positive impact on your clients' lives," states Randi Michaelson, a director of recruitment and selection for The McTigue Financial Group in Chicago who recruits career changers to work as Northwestern Mutual financial representatives. Difference between tattling, reporting a concern at work

"In the beginning, it takes time, energy and commitment, but successful financial representatives -- like successful entrepreneurs -- are able to enjoy work-life balance among other rewards."

6. If I'm hired, when can I begin applying for other roles within the company?

"This question makes it seem like the candidate isn't really interested in the job she is currently interviewing for -- that she really just wants a foot in the door," Rulis says.

While ultimately you might have higher aspirations than the position for which you are applying, remember that an employer is looking for the best person to fill an opening for what the company needs now, not in the future.

7. Do you do background checks?

If you don't have something to hide, you probably aren't going to bother asking this one. If you do ...

Rich sums up the feelings most interviewers have after hearing this question, "I definitely don't want this person on my payroll!"

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