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Worst questions to ask at an interview

By Candace Corner
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( -- It can be easy to get caught up in delivering the right answers while on an interview, but asking the right questions is equally important. Your questions are crucial: They help you determine how you'll fit within the company culture, and they demonstrate your communication skills, interest in the job and knowledge of the company.

Figuring out what you should or should not say can be a little difficult, so here's a list of some of the worst questions to ask, and how to rephrase them:

What not to ask: "What's your policy on Columbus Day?"

What to say instead: "What is a typical day like for someone in this position?"

Once you get the job offer, you'll have plenty of time to discuss the company's policies for time off. In the meantime, center in on the work ahead. Asking what a typical day is like will give you an idea of who you are interacting with regularly and what kind of work you'll be doing.

What not to ask: "What kind of daycare program or family care programs do you offer?"

What to say instead: "I've researched the company and noticed that (the company name) has excellent incentive programs/was listed on among the top companies for (working parents). They seem to really value employees."

It may no longer be a question, but if spoken at the right time, this statement could open the interviewer up to offering their comments on the company's values and incentives. It also shows that you've done your research on the company without suggesting additional information that could be used against you in a hiring evaluation.

What not to ask: "Will I have to work overtime?"

What to say instead: "What are the day-to-day expectations and responsibilities of this job?"

Rephrasing this question works as an extension of the typical work day question. By inquiring about your daily responsibilities, you'll find out more about what is expected of you and who you'll be interacting with and/or reporting to.

What not to ask: "Why do you think I'd be a good fit for the company?"

What to say instead: "What attracted you to the company and what do you like most about working here?"

If the interviewer truly believes you're the right candidate at the end of the interview, they will reinforce that opinion with positive feedback. In the meantime, asking the interviewer what sparked their interest in the company gives you an insight into both the company's assets and the interviewer's personality. It also takes the heat off your responses for a few minutes and allows you to make a connection with the interviewer.

What not to ask: "So, Bob, what do you have to do to get your position?"

What to say instead: "Is there currently room for advancement within the organization?"

No matter how casual the conversation, you'll want to stick to name formalities unless they offer you otherwise. If you're not sure, just leave their name out of your responses. Also, inquiring about the policies and presenting situations for career advancements, shows that you're thinking ahead without being pompous about it.

What not to ask: "The job sounds pretty cool. Why did the last person leave?"

What to say instead: "Is this a new position or am I replacing a previous employee?"

Asking whether or not the position in question is new or previously established will help you gain an idea of what is expected of you or whether the job will require a process of trial and error. Also, stay away from slang; it makes you sound immature and inarticulate.

What not to ask: "I really hated my last boss because he was always micromanaging. How does management work here?"

What to say instead: "How would you describe the management style here?"

No matter how bad everything was at the last place you worked, you don't want to complain about it to the interviewer. Aside from coming off like a whiner, you're paving the way to make yourself look like a problem employee. If you really want to know how the management gets the job done, ask, but keep the past in the past.

What not to ask: "Can I use your phone? I need to call my ride."

What to say instead: "Thank you for your time."

In an age where almost everyone seems to have a cell phone, the probability of this question is less likely than it used to be, but there's still an element of it that you want to remember in your interview. Remember that this is a prospective employer. You'll want to look intelligent, positive and put-together, so be polite and keep it professional.

© Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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