Never ask these 5 questions during job interviews — ask these 4 alternatives instead

The famous adage “you only get one chance to make a good first impression” rings especially true to job interviews. The first impression a potential candidate makes is critical, especially during that moment when the interviewer asks if they have any questions. After acing all the behavioral interview questions, this gives the candidate the chance to shine by asking thoughtful questions or flub it by asking seriously poor questions.

What counts as a cringeworthy question? Is there a way you can you turn a bad question around to work for you, not against you, during a job interview? Instead of defaulting to a poor question, ask one of these alternatives that better frame your skill sets.

1. “How quickly can I be promoted?”

What makes this a bad question? You haven’t even started working at the company, much less received a job offer. According to HR professional Jodi RR Smith, asking this question reveals that you’re not all that interested in the role you’re applying for. You’re already jumping at the chance to move on up.

Ask instead: “Can you tell me about the typical career paths for this role?”

Asking this question shows that you’re interested in staying with the company and growth opportunities in the role. The interviewer will likely have a few, specific examples of employees that worked their way up from entry-level to senior roles that they can share with you.

2. “What are the minimum performance requirements I need to meet?”

What makes this a bad question? Everything. Everything makes this a bad question. The minimum requirements for the role are already provided in the job listing. Nicole Wood, CEO and Co-Founder of Ama La Vida, also advises against asking this question because it establishes that you are someone who only does the bare minimum.

Ask instead: What do the top 10% of performers in this role do differently to prepare for this role?

Much better! Additionally, Wood says to ask what sets top performers apart in their first 30 days. You may bring along a proposed 30-60-90 day plan of your own to the interview, outlining your strategy for what you’d like to accomplish in the first 90 days on the job. The interviewer may also provide further insight into what they have seen top performers do in their day plans.

3. How soon can I start using PTO?

What makes this a bad question? Once again, you’re still interviewing for the position. You haven’t received a job offer. But, you’re already inquiring about how quickly you can take time off. This implies that you’re a bit more invested in PTO than the position itself.

Ask instead: Can you tell me a little bit more about the vacation policy?

Rather than give off the impression that you’re planning to book it to Cabo the second you get the gig, explain to the employer why this question matters to you. For example, you might have recently gotten married and are planning to go on your honeymoon. Asking about the vacation policy is less about the PTO and more about whether you’ll have the flexibility to take the time off for a special purpose.

4. Can I work from home?

What makes this a bad question? Maybe you frame the question as whether you can work from home, or come and go on your own schedule as long as you get your work done. When it isn’t properly worded, this question makes it sound as though you expect to receive the perk before you put in the work.

Ask instead: What’s a typical day in the office like?

You may also ask about workplace flexibility, too. Amanda Ponzar, Chief Communications and Strategy Officer at Community Health Charities, says to avoid asking how much you can work from home unless the position specifically talks about telecommuting or remote benefits.

“These types of questions are better to ask the HR manager versus making the hiring manager doubt your commitment to learning the new role and getting to know the team,” Ponzar says. “Prove yourself first before focusing on what you can get.”

5. What kinds of benefits and perks will I receive?

What makes this a bad question? Generally, this is a conversation you need to have with an HR representative. The hiring manager conducting initial interview rounds may not be the proper point of contact for that discussion.

Instead: Wait to talk about benefits.

If you are early into the interview process, hold off on asking about benefits until you get closer to receiving a job offer. Once you have an offer that details your benefits in writing, you may properly negotiate and discuss benefits.

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A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.