The one truly cross-generational mistake made during a job interview is asking the wrong questions. For example: “How is the company doing this quarter?” If you are interviewing for a job and you aren’t conversant with recent financials and trade media buzz you shouldn’t be there! It’s fatal because it means you didn’t do your homework. If you think only Twentysomethings would make this mistake you haven’t talked with Boomers lately — especially those who didn’t read the financial section in the local paper that morning. Here are the five we think are true end-of-the-opportunity bad ones.
1. What happened to my predecessor? Few questions are more irritating because this one comes across as an accusation. Was he/she run over by a truck? Why are you asking? Do you suspect the hirer mistreated him/her. The better question is, “When was my predecessor promoted?” The answer will be useful.
2. I read the company had been having recall problems. Referencing any negative coverage is a mistake. If it’s a deal breaker why are you at the interview? If you’re hoping for insider gossip it will never happen! What kind of manager would rat out the company to a candidate?
3. What do you like least about your job? Some idiot who called himself a career coach thought this was an appropriate question. Why? You’d learn more by asking what the hirer loved about his job. It might also engender a question about what you love to do that would allow you to further sell yourself.
4. How soon do you expect to fill this job? It seems innocent enough but here’s the catch. It seems reasonable but it’s unlikely to be answered truthfully. You won’t learn anything! Do you expect the interviewer to say, “Hey, this job is promised to an insider but I have to go through the motions?”
5. How much importance do you put on social media? It may seem innocent but if you’re over 40 you might as well declare yourself a techno twit. Far from fearing being asked for a Facebook password, I have clients who worry about being asked if they have any social media accounts. Don’t bring the subject up and update your LinkedIn profile.
Instead of obsessing on questions you may be asked, spend time on questions you want to ask and how to do that tactfully. You do have some control over interview questions, especially the ones you ask.
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