Questions to avoid asking in an interview

December 18, 2020

Job interviews aren’t just for employers to find out whether you’re a good fit for the role; they are also an opportunity for you to learn more about what the job entails.

You should always be prepared to ask questions at the end of a job interview, however it’s important to spend time considering what the best questions are to ask, and which to avoid!

There are some questions that could make a bad impression on the hiring manager. To help you make the best possible first impression, we’ve put together a list of questions you should never ask in an interview:

1. Questions that suggest you may be difficult to manage

These questions might seem completely innocent to a direct person looking for answers, but interviewers may not receive the same message.

Employers are trained to look for red flags, and might have second thoughts if your questions imply disrespect to management teams. Here are a few questions that may set off alarm bells during an interview:

"Are there a lot of rules and regulations about safety or dress code?"

"How many warnings do you get before you are fired?"

Here are some alternatives that will keep the conversation moving in a positive direction:

"Is there a workplace handbook available for me to look over?" or "What are the workplace values and standards?" This will give you an overview of the rules and regulations held by the company you’re interviewing with, and is more likely to please the interviewer as it shows you have an interest in how the organisation operates.

"What are the workplace policies for corrective action?" Again, this will give you the details you need without coming across as difficult to manage.

2. Questions that suggest you may be difficult to work with

Using well-formed questions can help you communicate the professionalism and character you strive to convey in interviews. Avoid using the questions below:

"How long will this interview take?"

"What is the social life like? Does the team get together for drinks often?"

"How long are lunch breaks?"

Instead, ask questions like these:

(Before arrival) "How much time should I schedule for this interview?". Phrasing the question in this way suggests that you want to ensure enough time for the interview, rather than giving off the impression of impatience.

"What is the culture of the organisation?" or "In your opinion, what are the relationship dynamics of this team?". This will help you to get a better understanding of what the team culture is like, and give you a good idea about whether you would fit in?

"How are breaks structured? This takes the focus away from the length of time, but shows that you are interested in how the work day is structured.

3. Questions that suggest you haven’t properly researched the company

While it can be good to ask questions that show your interest in the company, it is important to have the basics down before the interview. Looking as though you haven’t done your homework on the company can negatively impact the hiring decision.


One of the first things you should do ahead of a job interview is carry out research about the organisation you’re meeting with. Here are some questions you should already have the answers to:

"How old is the company?"

"What are the job requirements for this position?"

"Who's the main competitor?"

Rather than asking these questions, which you’re likely to find the answers to on the company website or in the job description itself, try asking questions like these:

"What changes do you hope to make in the next 5 years?"

"What characteristics do you most value in your team?"

"Are there new markets you are trying to break into?

Find more examples of job interview questions to ask

4. Questions That suggest you don’t intend to stay in the role for long

It's great to be looking ahead at your future with the company, but some questions aren't as positively charged as others. Before the interview, you should be somewhat confident in the job you are applying for, which means avoiding questions that redirect attention to other jobs or moving up the ladder:

"How long do employees normally wait until they are promoted?"

"How soon could I apply for a job in other areas of the business?"

"When can I expect a pay rise?"

To get the information you're looking for in a more positive way, try these questions:

"What are the company's procedures for promotions and raises?"

"Do you have policies or procedures to ensure consistent growth/skill-building within the workplace?"

Both of these questions give off an impression that you are looking to grow with the company, and are taking a keen interest in how that growth might take place. It also offers a more tactful way to ask about the salary and benefits, without making it sound like the most important factor in getting the job.

5. Questions that suggest you are untrustworthy

Finally, try not to ask questions that beg the response "why would you want to know that?" for example:

"Do you conduct background checks?"

"Is passing a drug test a necessary requirement?”

"Do you require a doctor's note whenever a sick day is taken?"

"How long do I need to work here before taking a paid personal or sick day?"

While some of the replacements mentioned earlier would work well, here are some appropriate questions that won't leave the interviewer with any doubts:

"What security measures does your company have in place?"

"Are there specific requirements for requesting time off?"

These questions will give you more insight into the requirements of the job, without making you look untrustworthy.

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This post was written by: Sara Howren, VP - Global Recruitment Delivery