Five Things to Never Say In a First Interview

Posted: Feb 25  |  By: Parker + Lynch

As an executive recruiter, I prepare candidates before they go to their first interview with a client. I conduct these interview preparation meetings in person about five times a week, and I am consistently surprised at what candidates want to ask. Through this process, I have figured out what works and what doesn’t work for clients, and what type of questions will make clients groan.

Interviewees should have about five questions written down for each person that will interview them. It is great to have some choices of questions depending on the direction that the interview is moving. If your questions are written down, you will likely be less nervous and prevent accidental irrelevant questions. Even if you have interviewed with 10 people, make sure you have questions ready to go for all of them. Also, make sure you leave some space in between your questions, so that you can take notes on the answers.

An interview is like a first date where a first impression can never be erased. You have to act interested without acting desperate; make them feel like they are the only one without seeming too eager. Your language must be fluid and direct. You don’t have a lot of time on a first interview or first date to turn on the charm without being overbearing. It’s a difficult situation for anyone to find the perfect balance.

That said, these questions are classified as, “putting the cart before the horse” and largely inappropriate on interviews:

How does parking work here?

I understand that parking can be expensive and can be an issue in certain areas, but it is such a minor issue, that it deflects your interest in the actual position. A question like this indicates that you don’t have any thoughtful questions to ask.

How much money does this position pay?

This is one of the most disappointing questions you can ask a hiring manager. This line of question makes you look purely money motivated. And while it’s fine to be money motivated, that should be your secondary reason for taking the job. Money should especially never be a factor during your first interview.

Do you offer work/life balance here? 

This is a bad question to ask, because it can mean so many different things to different people. It can mean 30-hour workweeks to one person and 50 to the next. It raises a red flag to the hiring manager, even if you express that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. It leaves too much room for interpretation. In fact, if your interviewer brings it up, I recommend not even asking a follow up question.

How are the benefits here? 

This information will be provided to you at time of offer or potentially sooner, if the company is interested in you. There’s no point in taking up interviewing time with an explanation of benefits. Most clients will offer up that they have great benefits and leave it at that, until later. This is a question that falls in line with money; it is usually premature at the time it is asked.

What is the dress code here? 

This is something that you can observe and determine with your own eyes. You can also ask human resources in the future. On interviews, always dress professionally, unless you are specifically told to dress business casual. It’s always better to be “dressed to impress” than it is to be underdressed.

If you do, in your eagerness or nervousness, let these poor questions slip out, you can recover by indicating your happiness to help, or mention that you know it’s a minor issue or something that you can discuss at a later point in time.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Per Forbes, there are also many examples of great interview questions that you should ask. You can also find great YouTube videos from credible sources about interviewing.

Good luck in your next interview; I wish you all the best!

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