“Outrageous Interview Questions?”

I recently received a list of “Outrageous Interview Questions”, offered by GetInterviews.com, a resume writing company.  After reading them carefully, I determined that I didn’t agree 100% on what they deemed “outrageous” questions to ask in an interview. Interview expectations/desires/strategies vary based on the individual recruiter so note that this is one recruiter’s opinion.  I think it is fair to say that there are many obvious things to “Do and/or Don’t Do” in an interview.  It gets a bit more complex when the nature of a candidate’s questions related to an opportunity become more sensitive. I don’t believe that a candidate should refrain from asking the right questions to ascertain the information needed to determine further interest/fit in an opportunity/company. It is fair, from my perspective, to consider an effective interview an exchange of information.  A great hire is best achieved as a collaborative effort of an organization thoroughly assessing a candidates’ fit for the position (and the company) and the candidate assessing their interest, fit and desire to become a long standing part of that organization. I have taken a stab at identifying ways to ensure that you have an effective interview, gain insight into the position, as well as the company, and the potential for growth --all without the fear of asking something that someone might perceive as “outrageous.”


Outrageous “Don’t ask about salary.”

  • “This question shifts the focus to what you want for yourself as opposed to the value you will provide to the company.”

Not so Outrageous 

  • Ask about the level of position (Jr., Mid or Senior). Ask if they are comfortable discussing the potential range of salary realizing that the notion of range is typically intended to cover a breadth of expertise.  If you are looking for an $80K paying job and this is a $45K paying job, while every meeting is a great networking opportunity, the position is obviously not what you are seeking.  You might even be able to solicit this information during a phone-screening if that is the company’s initial stage process preventing over-engagement earlier in the process.    


Outrageous “Don’t ask about the timeframe for hiring decisions.”

  • “Every candidate wants to know the answer to this question but asking it can make you seem desperate or anxious for results.”

Not so Outrageous

  • Ask where the company is in the interviewing process.  Just started seeing candidates, wrapping up? Based on their response, ask if it would be fine for you to follow up with the interviewer in a week or two for an update if you don’t otherwise hear from them. Most interviewers will want to know if you are talking with other companies or working against your own timeline, etc.  Nothing desperate or anxious about wanting good information – has great potential to be an “exchange” of information beneficial to both parties.  


Outrageous “Don’t ask what the company does.”

  • “Conducting research on corporate initiatives is easily accomplished online. Do your homework to impress hiring managers.”

Not so Outrageous

  • Do your research so you have good information about the company before submitting your resume for a position. Do your research to make yourself smarter about the position, company values and your potential for cultural fit. Gather information and formulate questions about the company and the opportunity to maximize the effectiveness of your time with the interviewer – not only to impress Hiring Managers.  


OutrageousDon’t ask about typical promotion policies.”

  • “Rushing ahead to promotions may make the interviewer question your judgment and understanding of appropriate business interactions.”

Not so Outrageous

  • Most companies are looking for folks who exhibit interest and desire to associate long term and do good work. It is reasonable to want to know how the company acknowledges employees who demonstrate these qualities.  Ask about internal promotion opportunities, ask about the make-up of the team that you might joining which would indicate some potential to move from mid to senior level in time if it happens to be staffed accordingly.


OutrageousDon’t ask about on-the-job training for basic skills.”

  • “Emphasize the skills you bring, not the deficits about which you are concerned.” 

Not so Outrageous

  • Ask about the skills and skill level required to do the job.  Ask if there is time for a new employee to ramp up or have a few weeks of on-the-job training to become proficient on something. You need to be honest about your short comings – having exposure vs. being proficient in something could set you up for failure.  Never good not to disclose a lack of proficiency or overinflate your expertise.  Do ask about training opportunities and the company’s position on developing their employees (training funds, tuition assistance, etc.)


OutrageousDon’t speak ill of former employers.”

  • “Talking about how much you hated your former workplace or employer is a top interview don’t!”

Not so Outrageous

  • You can put a positive spin on work history experiences which were less than favorable by indicating what you learned from your time with a company without expressing negativity.  “I learned that I prefer to work in a team environment vs. sitting in a program office as a sole employee.” “I realized that I prefer the benefits of a mid to large sized company vs. a smaller organization that may offer less growth opportunity.”


Outrageous “Don’t forget basic manners.”

  • “Offer a handshake to 'seal the deal'when you leave. Thank the interviewer for their time and express your pleasure in meeting him or her.”

Not so Outrageous

  • All the way around – simple and appropriate advice.  I would add that candidates should be mindful to thank all of the interviewers in the room.  There is an infraction that I like to refer to as “upwardly directed charm” where a candidate unknowingly thanks only the most “important” person in the room.  Don’t lose sight of the others – while they might not be as high on the company org chart they are often equally, if not more, influential when it comes to hiring decisions. 


Interviewing, while incredibly stressful for many, can be a really positive experience even if you don’t land that particular position.  The exercise of speaking honestly about your experience, strengths and weakness and how they relate to the needs of a new organization not only better prepares you for your next interview, it serves to help you hone in on what really matters to you in your next opportunity.  Additionally, it should be considered a great networking opportunity. Gather as much information as you can, as early in the process as possible.  If afforded the opportunity to interview – brush up on the company, the position to which you applied, your resume and think through how your technical skills directly apply and how all of your other experience can benefit the company.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions – remember it is an exchange. Hopefully the suggestions herein help mitigate some sensitivity while still yielding the answers you need to ensure the company you are so eager to join is the right company for you.