Talent Connection Blog

“I’m surprised at the number of students who can’t easily articulate why they drove six hours to visit our campus. Was it our reputation? Did you like our mail? Grandma told you about us? You’re on your way to our chief competitor?” This is a grievance voiced by David Kogler of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. He, as well as several other college admissions counselors, are floored and fed up with the absurd lack of interview skills among college students. Take note of these interview tips so you don’t end up like the clueless college kids when you go for a job interview.

David Kogler’s story is just one of the many horror stories of the college admissions department, according to NY Times. Chris Markle of Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania admits that one individual responded to the interview question of how he spent his free time with “I like to set things on fire in my basement.”  University of Pennsylvania’s Risa Lewak confesses to sitting through several verses of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables after a student mentioned a passion for singing.

Although we may be past the point of college admissions, answering interview questions for jobs is still prevalent, and no one wants to have a bad interview. Knowing what interview questions to avoid asking may help prevent that dreaded bad interview.

An interview is a two-way street. Both participants should be asking and answering questions. Asking the interviewer questions shows your level of interest, but there are some interview questions that should be avoided. For starters, never, under any circumstances, should you ask, “What does your company do?” This is the red flag indicator that you have no knowledge of the business, and who is going to hire someone that knows nothing—and hasn’t made an effort to learn—about their company?

Another question to avoid is asking about the position’s salary. It is an indication that you only care about the money in the job, and not the performance. Usually, the interviewer will mention it on their own; if not, wait until you’ve definitely been given the job to ask.

The final interview question to avoid is asking the interviewer what it’s like to work there. No logical person is going to answer negatively; they are going to make it sound as positive as possible, which could give you a wrong impression of the actual working conditions. Instead of phrasing it that way, try asking them one thing they would change about the company culture. This way, they are more likely to give you accurate insight.

In the teenagers’ defense, most of them have probably never experienced a formal interview before—it’s a little harder than applying to a local fast food restaurant. Make sure lack of experience or preparation can’t be your excuse. Be prepared for your interview; if you’ve never experienced one before, ask someone who has to give you some insight and interview tips.

Doing well in an interview may not be a walk in the park, but it’s not rocket science either, like those college kids make it seem. The takeaway is simple: be prepared, ask questions that show you are interested rather than ignorant, and try not to be too personal—belting out Les Misérables or setting fire to things in your basement are quirks that should be left at home.