5 Questions You Should Not Ask During a Job Interview

A job applicant staying quiet
A job applicant staying quiet | iStock.com

You finally did it. After putting your best foot forward, you received a phone call from an unknown number inviting you for a job interview. This is the company’s chance to meet you in person and see if you’re a good fit for the position. Job interviews are often seen as an interrogation from suits already standing high on the corporate ladder, but they’re also a process for you to learn more about your potential employer, as long as you don’t ask certain questions.
When preparing for a job interview, don’t forget to focus on what type of questions you should ask the interviewer. Some questions can help you decide whether you really want to work there, while others may send the interviewer running for the next applicant. Let’s take a look at five interview questions you should never ask.

1. “Do I have to take a drug test?”

Nothing sends up a red flag to the interviewer like asking about a drug test. If you’re interested in the company’s drug policy, the natural assumption is that you’re a user and will not be a dependable employee. According to Summit, a specialty workers’ compensation provider, substance abuse costs American companies more than $276 billion each year, due to lost productivity, workplace accidents, and increased healthcare expenses. Drug-using employees are 2.5 times more likely to have absences of eight days or more, 2.2 times more likely to request early dismissal or time off, 3 times more likely to be late for work, and 5 times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Solution: Don’t ask about a drug test in the interview. You want to leave the interviewer with your best impression. True, marijuana is becoming more widely accepted across the United States, but it’s still illegal under federal law. Employers can even refuse to hire you for medical marijuana use, and can fire you for legal marijuana use. You may also find out which companies drug test by visiting TestClear.

2. “How did I do?”

Superman on Season 2 of Supergirl
Superman on Season 2 of Supergirl | The CW

Interviewing is like dating. You need to have confidence in yourself – not too much or too little. You shouldn’t ask your date if they’re having a good time, and you shouldn’t ask the interviewer how you did at the end of the interview. It kills the mood and might cause the interviewer to think you’ve been putting on a show.
Solution: If you feel the need to inquire about how you did in the interview, Payscale suggests you ask the interviewer: “Do you have any reservations about my abilities to perform any of the required tasks, so I may address them now?” If they say no, you probably did fine and can move on with ending the interview. If they said yes, they will explain and allow you to defend your abilities and end the interview on a strong note.

3. “When will you be calling my references?”

Businessman using smartphone and holding paper cup
Businessman using smartphone and holding paper cup | iStock.com/Ridofranz

This may appear to be a harmless question to ask toward the end of the interview, but you may come off as being too eager to land the job, or perhaps there’s something suspicious about your references and you’re wondering when you’ve pulled off your deception.
Solution: While you should have your references ready and up-to-date, don’t worry about how your potential employer checks them. They will ask for references when they are ready for them. Generally, employers check references when they have narrowed the field down to only a handful of applicants. If you’re looking for a good question to wrap up the interview, ask “What’s the next step of this process?”

4. “What is the salary?”

United States currency shown on a fishing hook
On the hook for money | iStock.com/-BW-

The adage “whoever brings up money first loses” applies to a job interview. Receiving a pay raise is one of the most exciting parts of a new job. Research shows changing jobs is a great way to land a big salary increase. For example, staying employed at the same company for over two years on average could earn you less over your lifetime by about 50% or more, according to Forbes. Average raises for current employees are typically in the 3% neighborhood, but obtaining a new job often leads to a raise between 10% to 20%. However, that doesn’t mean you should bring up dollar figures first during the interview.
Solution: When it comes to salary and job benefits, let your potential employer discuss the matters first. You should be ready for negotiation by doing your research on industry salaries, reviewing your qualities that make you a strong case for your desired salary, and discussing salary ranges when your potential employer insists on dollar figures. Remember to aim reasonably high, and the first offer an employer makes is usually not the best number they can do. Even if you can’t negotiate a higher salary number, you may be able to increase your job benefits.

5. Anything listed in the job description

People use their laptop computers at a cafe in Beijing
People use their laptop computers at a cafe | FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

General career advice says you should ask at least a couple questions during the interview so you show interest. However, that doesn’t mean you should ask anything just for the sake of making conversation. If you ask the interviewer something that is already covered in the job description posted, you could be seen as someone who doesn’t care enough about the job to read the details.
Solution: Read the job description. Part of preparing for a job interview involves reading the job description and researching the company. If you want to ask insightful questions that will reveal more about the company, try the following suggestions from Glassdoor as they pertain to your situation.

  • “What do you enjoy most about working here?”
  • “Where do you hope the company will be in five years?”
  • “Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?”
  • “How would you describe the work environment here?”

Follow Eric on Twitter @Mr_Eric_WSCS

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: