Human Resources News & Insights

Candidates' 5 worst interview questions

It’s a good sign when a job candidate has thoughtful, pressing questions for the hiring manager during an interview. But look out for anyone who asks these.

The questions a candidate asks can tell you a lot about how they’ll behave on the job. Good questions show a candidate is eager to come to work and excited to learn about the company. But bad ones can indicate they’ll shirk responsibility, fail to make deadlines or have problems with co-workers.

Here are the worst questions a candidate can ask, according to Yahoo! HotJobs:

  1. “How soon can I move to another position?” — It’s good to find people interested in moving up in the organization, but you also want them to focus on the job they’re hired for.
  2. “When will I be eligible for a raise?” — This is especially inappropriate now, when many companies don’t know when any employees will be getting their next raise.
  3. “Can I wait four weeks to start?” — Most companies ask resigning employees for two weeks’ notice. When candidates need extra time without a good reason, that could shed some doubts on their motivation to start working for you.
  4. “Do you have smoking breaks?” — If time during the day to smoke is a necessity for someone to accept a job offer, you probably want to give it to someone else.
  5. “Will you perform a background check?” — Someone who asks this probably has something to hide.

What are the worst questions you’ve heard job candidates ask? Let us know in the comments section below.

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  1. I don’t mind the first one if it’s asked another way, like “Are there opportunities for advancement?”. But asking how quickly they can move up just crawls all over me. I’m also not a fan of “Is this a pretty laid back environment?”

  2. The one that always raises questions is, “Do you drug test here?”

  3. “Is your drug and alcohol piplicy zero tolerance?”.
    “If I need to go away to prison, will my job be protected, or do I have to reapply?”

  4. HR in Ohio says:

    I disagree with #3 in the article. I am a “department of one” and I wouldn’t feel right leaving my customers hanging because there would be no one to cover for me if I only gave a two week notice. I hope a prospective employer would value that level of customer focus.

    Angel – I’m glad I’ve never been asked those!

    I don’t have any weird questions from the interview, but I had a candidate request reimbursement for her pet’s day care expenses after the offer was extended.

  5. This story is about a question asked by HR during an interview. Someone applying for an entry level accounting position when asked about the difference between accounts payable and accounts receivable, said, “I always get those two mixed up.”

  6. My best one was – “I need 30 days before I can do the pre-employment drug test”.

  7. 1. If I don’t take the drug test, will I still be considered for the job?

    As I walk the perspective employee to the door he/she suddenly remembers something extremely important.

    2. I can start working here, within two weeks, but I had already been approved for a vacation on my current job. Will I be able to go on the cruise one week after I start with your company, since I already paid for it?

  8. ReneeSPHR says:

    Irish, I actually experienced your #2 myself TWICE during my career. Both times I started interviewing with the companies about 8 weeks before my non-refundable vacation, and both times I was offered the job just a few weeks before the vacation. I explained the situation each time, and both were extremely understanding, and both allowed me not only the time off, but paid me as well (this was especially generous of the company where I worked only 4 days before taking my vacation). I definitely felt valued at both companies before I even started (and I continue to work for one of the companies today!)

    Now granted, I think your candidate made the statement BEFORE he/she was made the offer which is probably a little early, but I also think when a company realizes that they have an experienced and talented individual (and if their hiring process is lengthy), it would be in their best interest to be willing to negotiate a vacation accomodation in order to score the candidate rather than allow it to be an impediment.

  9. Absolutely wrong on #5! How about the person wants to protect their right to privacy? Again, you need to focus on more on the candidate’s point of view, as most books and studies are geared towards the ’employer’.

    #4 is also wrong. In Ohio, nearly all the employees smoke, as do the supervisors, so that was not a problem 90% of the time.

  10. I didn’t realize the percentage of smokers in Ohio was that high.

  11. I had a candidate applying for a recruiter position. Well into the interview she asked, “So how long do I have to wait to move up?” I asked her what position/area she would like to move to and she said, “I want *your* job.” True story. Sheesh.

  12. Re: Beth’s comment that the applicant wanted her job. In some companies, that type of response shows ambition and motivation, but the appliant could be disloyal, backstabbing and difficult to manage. HOw about a question, ie., how would you deal with an employee who is clawring to get your job?

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