There is the adage that there are no stupid questions. In spirit, this is true. Asking questions demonstrates interest, curiosity, and a thirst for learning.
In an interview situation, the right questions can further your candidacy, demonstrate your qualifications, give you an edge over other candidates, help you determine whether the job is a good fit, and generate a positive rapport with the interviewer. However, in an interviewing scenario, there are questions that are best to avoid.
Stupid questions usually come from candidates who are more interested in knowing what the company can do for them. They can be a result of laziness or even a lack of genuine interest in the job. They are stupid because they do not really focus on the purpose of the interview, which is to discover if the job is a good fit and get an offer.
If you really want that job, there are a host of stupid questions that come under three primary categories:
Questions about things that are obvious or that can be easily looked up communicate that you are lazy and not really interested. They fall along the lines of: Who are your clients? When was the company founded? What products and services do you offer? All of these and others can be easily found on a company’s website and through other basic, readily available research.
These sorts of questions reflect poorly on your preparation and professionalism. If you are shaking your head in disbelief that anyone could be so stupid, believe me—candidates do ask them.
All-about-me questions also demonstrate a lack of genuine interest in the company and communicate that you put your needs before those of the employer. Remember: Your goal in the interview is to determine whether the job is a good fit and get an offer.
Questions about changes in schedule, time off, summer hours, telecommuting, etc., demonstrate that you are already thinking about getting out of there and your personal needs. You’re already neglecting the company before you even start. Once you have the offer, you can ask what the company can do for you.
If you are looking for growth and advancement, don’t ask stupid questions about raises and promotions. Ask about the company plans and how you might fit into those plans. In this case, it is how you ask the question to gain the insight and answers you need.
It is also understandable that you might have certain circumstances or there are things that are important to you—even legitimate questions that might have an impact on start dates or pre-planned vacations. But now is not the time to ask these questions.
No questions at all
“I have no questions.” OK, so this isn’t really a question. But almost any recruiter or hiring manager will tell you that perhaps even worse than asking stupid questions is to have no questions at all.
Asking questions—better yet, asking smart, informed questions—during a job interview is a great way to determine whether the job and the company are a good fit for you. It also shows the employer that you are enthusiastic about the opportunity. Know that every potential employer expects you to have questions.
Interviewers can also tell if you are just asking questions to try and look smart. Ask questions you really want answered because they help you evaluate the company—and whether you really want to work for it. Carefully prepared, thoughtful questions also demonstrate you are taking an active role in the process and reinforce your interest in the company and the job.
Asking great questions tells an interviewer that you want to make an informed decision. Knowing how to make informed decisions is vital to any job. If you are applying for a senior-level position, this becomes even more important relative to the details of the questions you ask. If you don’t ask informed, detailed questions, it will demonstrate a lack of leadership qualities that a senior-level position demands.
You will be judged as much on the questions you ask as you will the answers you give. Do your research and prepare your questions. Take care of the basics—such as reviewing the company’s website, checking out its blog and published articles, and reviewing company executive LinkedIn profiles-before the interview as well. There is no excuse not to do your research. If you are really interested, you naturally would.
Although our industry is still growing, there is increased competition for the great jobs, as the available workforce has grown amidst a still sluggish economy. Mistakes in hiring come at a cost on both sides of the equation. Great candidates ask great questions, get great jobs, and have more options.