There’s No Stupid Questions (said no one ever)

When it comes to interviews, the questions you ask as a candidate can make or break your chances. Instead of providing you with stellar questions to impress your potential employer, I’m here to give you three questions that could send your interview spiraling downhill in just seconds. And believe me, these questions aren’t hypothetical; they’re straight from the playbook of real candidates we’ve encountered.

  1. “Do you conduct drug tests?” We do now! You might as well be waving a red flag. It screams I’m going to fail a drug test, and I’m convinced it’s a tactic to ensure they won’t be hired. Their loved ones probably just wanted them to interview. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen. Other question on this path – Do you do background checks? Do you do credit checks? Do you hire felons?
  2. “When can I start using sick time?” This question should set off alarm bells for any HR pro. It signals a potential attitude or attendance issue. Let’s be clear: if someone is already planning sick days before they’re even hired – you aren’t going to be happy with that hire. Other questions on this same path:  When would I get a raise? How soon can I use my health insurance?  What happens if I’m late to work?
  3. “Is dating coworkers allowed here?” *raises eyebrows. While it may seem innocent, it implies either ulterior motives or a lack of professionalism. Or I’m-still-a-frat-guy mindset. I once had a candidate ask this question and my immediate follow up question to this, without answering his question, was – “Are you dating one of the employees here?”  To which he said “No” – but that he ran into this at another employer and didn’t want to ‘have any problems’ again.  So, you’re assuming we have folks here who are just not going to be able to hold themselves back and must date you!?  Is what I’m hearing!  Which by the way, totally fine with work place romance, but don’t ask about it before you’re even on the team! Other questions on this same path: Can you drink alcohol on the job here?  Can you smoke pot in the work bathrooms?  Can you steal office supplies?

What’s the most cringe-worthy question you’ve ever heard in an interview?

2 thoughts on “There’s No Stupid Questions (said no one ever)

  1. Great topic, I feel like it could be its own mini series! Though, I have to both agree and disagree with the significance of question #1 re: drug testing and background checks. I feel either can be case-by-case depending on the hiring situation. (high-volume staffing, TA should usually be wary when these pop up).
    For DT, someone like myself with ADHD for example, could be on a controlled substance and they are simply inquiring so they are able to prepare and provide proof of the prescribed medication to the lab so they don’t show up as having “failed” the DT when they actually passed (rare but very real life example of being proactive vs. reactive).

    Many places today also provide second chance hiring opportunities though they may not advertise it blatantly or boldly within the application process; or it may get missed even if it is included because, let’s be honest, candidates aren’t great about reading to the end….Somebody with a minor charge may ask if a BG check will be conducted simply to understand if they’re going to be DQ’d due to their BG or if the employer accepts certain charges that could be applicable to their situation, like marijuana possession. I find marijuana comes up frequently in BG check discussions due to the previously outdated and now constantly changing laws and inconsistencies between federal, state, and municipal laws re: a natural herb that grows in the ground.

    Great insights per usual Tim!

  2. Recently was the Recruiter and Hiring Manager for an intern on my team, and the candidate asked about compensation in the first thirty seconds of the interview, and then when I asked why the candidate was seeking the internship, the candidate said “to make as much money as possible.” Then again at the end, reiterated they they were seeking the top end of the range or higher. I get it, none of us are likely showing up tomorrow to work if our employer stops paying us, but it was a bit much.

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