Job interview questions you didn’t realize were job interview questions

When you are meeting with a potential employer to discuss your candidacy, your job interview begins before you sit down in the meeting room. It starts the moment you walk through the door.

Some of the things your interviewer asks you may sound like casual conversation, just to kill some time before the formal discussion begins. However, there’s a good chance that these are calculated questions strategically asked of every candidate. And even if they are not, you can be sure that your response is being evaluated as part of the overall assessment of your performance.

Four questions you might not realize were part of your job interview

Did you have a nice weekend? / How was your morning? / How’s your day going?

You will likely be asked some sort of conversational ice-breaker question upon first meeting the interviewer. Of course, it’s friendly to start off with some polite chit chat before launching right into the serious business. But your ability to carry on that conversation, to come across as personable and pleasant to talk to will be a big part of what you are being judged on.

Employers are selecting a new member for their team, someone they will see on a daily basis. Naturally they will be inclined to favour someone who is positive and sociable.

Did you have any trouble finding the place?

This also sounds like filler, to pass the time before the real interview, but it’s not. If you were late for the interview, that could be a deal breaker for many employers. Even if you were on time, but talk about how you struggled to find the workplace, that could be a red flag about your candidacy? Why? Because you didn’t do your homework. Most serious candidates who are passionate about landing the job would have researched the location and their route for getting there in advance of the interview. Prepare in advance.

Also, any grumbling or complaining about anything in a job interview is a major blunder. If you found the commute burdensome or the workplace in a location you don’t like going to, the employer will likely look for someone more upbeat about the job.

Can I offer you a coffee?

Employers will often ask candidates if they would like water or a coffee at the outset. Some admit that this is a deliberate test to see how the candidate responds, other times, it’s just being a good host. Either way, you are going to be judged on how you handle it.

The easiest thing to do is simply to say no. Your interview is scheduled for a relatively short period of time, usually an hour or so. You don’t want to waste precious minutes that could be spent discussing your credentials and candidacy going to the kitchen, finding ice water or milk and sugar.

Also, if you are interviewing at the manager’s desk and not a conference table, you will likely be sitting in an office chair. Where do you put the drink between sips? Do you put it on the interviewer’s desk, or hold it the whole time? What about potential coffee spills or condensation on an icy glass?

When you’re done or at the end of the interview, do you leave a used mug on the table or offer to take it back to the kitchen? One can seem rude, the other awkward.

It’s best to avoid the whole thing. Decline a beverage and politely thank them for the offer.

Do you have any questions for me?

This isn’t just a polite way to wrap up the conversation. It’s a real job interview question. Saying that you have no questions is the wrong answer. It can give the impression that you are not that serious about the role.

Also, don’t ask questions about what’s in it for you: how much does it pay, when can I take vacation time, are the hours flexible? Also, don’t ask anything that could have been easily answered by checking the company’s website. i.e. What do you guys do here, anyway?

Ask questions about the team and the job that show you are already thinking about how you can contribute and succeed at it. What would you consider the biggest challenge the new person will face? What would a successful first six months on the job look like? Can you tell me more about the day to day responsibilities of the job?

It’s also okay to ask about the next steps in the hiring process. If your interview ends without any discussion of next steps, that’s a pretty clear sign that you won’t be getting the job.

See other subtle clues that your interview didn’t go very well.

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