5 Questions You Should Never Ask in an Interview

Job interviews. Internship interviews. Club interviews. Whatever you find yourself interviewing for there are some rules of the game that can seem obvious but in fact are not well known by college students.

You have likely heard that it's a good idea to come prepared to an interview with a few questions. That is true. But there are questions you shouldn't ask.

1. Don't ask a question you could have found the answer to with a Google search. For example, you wouldn't ask what a company does if it says right on the website what it does. Asking that question shows you didn't prepare for the interview and makes the interviewer concerned you don't care.  That being said, if you have clarifying questions or want to learn more you can always preface your question with "I read your website, but I'm still unclear about..." That way you communicate that you prepared but want to learn more.

2. Don't ask about salary, time off, or other benefits in an interview. These are question better left to after you have an offer. Asking these questions in an interview can signal to the company that you are more interested in what you will be paid than what you can contribute.

3. Don't ask how quickly you can be promoted. Most companies hiring for a role expect that you will be in that role for a period of time. Asking about promotion out of the gates makes it seem like you are not very interested in the role and/or are not willing to pay your dues.

4. Don't ask about work/life balance. While this may be very important to you, be careful that if you ask about it directly you will give the impression that you are not ready to work hard. Instead, ask a "day-in-the-life" question. For example, ask "what does a product manager's typical day look like here?" The answer to that question should give you more information about what the work/life balance looks like for that company and doesn't give the wrong impression.

5. Don't ask too many personal questions of the interviewer. While you do want to engage the interviewer and get him or her talking, you don't want to completely turn the tables and make him or her feel interrogated. Usually it's better to go into an interview with a well-crafted story about your experience and where you want to go next.  Then weave in questions naturally.

Remember that you are always telling someone who you are in an interview - from how you dress to the questions you ask or don't ask. Keep this article in mind and you'll do fine.

Fairy Tales

This article about female roles in Hollywood really intrigued me. It's an issue I see that doesn't get much coverage. I'm not talking about the dearth of female directors, etc. but how our work/our jobs/our careers can reflect our unfinished business from childhood - much like intimate relationships can. I didn't have a male role model/father figure growing up and I'm learning more and more how that experience shaped me. Sneak peek: I have a lot of qualities that are man-like. To wit: a take charge attitude, competitiveness, and a fair amount of emotional suppression.  Thankfully not my hands! They are pretty lady-like.

The Quantified Employee

What's next in the data world? The Quantified Employee. The article talks about quantification around influence ala Klout. But that's not how I see it. I think we will start to see more skill based quantification like ongoing education and professional development credit or certification. Peer ranking is inherently problematic in an organization. I believe it's useful as an input, but really has to be a part of other metrics.

I predict we'll see more software that tracks an employee's progress within an organization based on skill building, goal setting and achievement, and eventually other HR metrics, like vacation days taken and of course, peer reviews.

The first step will be data gathering and the enterprise will face the tough data privacy issues that we're only beginning to talk about in the public arena - like should results from a background check be a part of your "data" HR file. The goal, of course, will be to optimize hiring and retention, but the data required to answer important organizational questions may reach beyond the work place.

What do you think?

Who Cares?

Start a company. Do consulting. Work for a company. I've been going back and forth between these options - stuck in the thinking that these are the only options. As I try to step back and reorder my thinking, one memory keeps playing itself like a broken record. I was talking on a panel about entrepreneurship at Stanford University. It was me and another guy (younger than me) who started a company. I explained that I thought passion was a large component of entrepreneurial success because it is what can carry you through what are sure to be the many rough spots in the experience.

My panel partner objected. He believed that the only thing an entrepreneur should worry about and/or needed was a profitable business model. He could have left his comments at that but instead he turned to me and said, "You know what your problem is Alicia?"

I pulled my upper body back steadying myself for the blow (childhood habits die hard) and unfortunately never even questioned whether I had a problem. I was sure I did.

"You care how you make money," he sneered, emphasis on the "care."

I didn't know how to respond and thus, didn't. But his words have cropped up for me ever so often. Especially when doubt and uncertainty clouds my vision, my possibilities as a person.

Is it wrong to care? Does caring automatically hinder my judgement or thus makes me ill-equipped to be an entrepreneur?

I don't know that there is a right answer. Everyone has their own way of approaching a problem. His is maybe more analytical than mine, but it doesn't make his right. Even when business can seem so black and white.

My way is how I approach my life. I care. I care deeply about the things I do, the people in my life and how I live my life. It's not everybody's cup of tea and many might cringe at my earnestness, but it's who I am. So who cares? I do.

Are You a Scanner?

If you look at my resume it might seem like I've lacked direction or that I can't keep a job! I've held positions in investment banking, corporate law, venture capital, private equity and online advertising. I've done a lot. So why haven't I settled on a single career? Well, first, long gone are the days of doing one career for the rest of one's life. In fact, where it used to be that you'd have five employers before you retired. Today, according to Dr. Carl Schramm with The Kauffman Foundation, a college graduate will have eight employers before they turn 30.

When I look back there has been a single career thread: my desire to learn.

Thanks to a tip from a friend, I discovered Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher and learned there is nothing wrong with that.

Having trouble settling on one career? Envious of those folks who knew what they wanted to be at birth? Check out the book. You may just learn the way you've been going about it is the right way.

The Future is Data Analysis

In an interview on the Freakonomics website, Hal Varian recommends that young people consider careers in data analysis. So who the heck is Hal Varian? He's Google's Chief Economist and I couldn't agree more. His answer:

"If you are looking for a career where your services will be in high demand, you should find something where you provide a scarce, complementary service to something that is getting ubiquitous and cheap. So what’s getting ubiquitous and cheap? Data. And what is complementary to data? Analysis. So my recommendation is to take lots of courses about how to manipulate and analyze data: databases, machine learning, econometrics, statistics, visualization, and so on."

Books in 5 Quotes: Martha Beck

Finding Your North Star by Martha BeckMartha Beck’s seminal tome on how to find the life you were meant to live. In it, she covers the four stages of discovery and renewal that mark every person’s journey in life. She calls them Square one: death and rebirth; Square two: dreaming and scheming; Square three: the hero’s saga; and Square four: the promised land.

Her book in Five Quotes:

1. “Teaching your social self to pay attention when your essential self says 'no' is the most basic way to reconnect the two sides of your personality.”

2. “The feeling of choked hostility, or numb depression or nauseated helplessness is a sure sign you’re steering away from your North Star, toward a life you were not meant to live. When you feel it, you must change course.”

3. “At some point, almost all my clients tell me they don’t know what they want, and it’s never true. Part of you – your essential self – knows your own desires at every moment of every day (even when the message is a contented 'I want exactly what I have, thank you'). Anytime you think you don’t know what you want, it’s because your social self has decided you shouldn’t want it.”

4. “The rule is to follow your desire. If fear and desire give the same instructions, run away. If fear and desire give opposite instructions, feel your fear and stand your ground.”

5. “No one but you has the ability to find your own North Star and no one but you has the power to keep you from finding it. No one.”

Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live.