Silly questions that wreck job interviews

Wednesday November 3 2010


By Allan Ssekamatte

Most experts encourage job seekers to ask some questions at the end of an interview. It is a sign you are a critical thinker who will be an engaging employee.

Asking questions is normally a sign of keen interest and a strong work ethic. But much as an inquisitive mind is a welcome sign to a recruiting organisation, some questions are a complete put off.

These are some of the questions that will automatically lead to your disqualification. What are the working hours? You may be the prototype of a workaholic, but such a question has interviewers minds racing about your work ethic.

Most jobs in today’s competitive corporate world require flexibility about working hours and an employee who is only interested in an 8:30am to 5 pm job may not have any luck.
Ms Gloria Byamugisha, the human resource director at Zain (U) says, “The nature of work has changed the world over.

Look at me, you are calling me on a Sunday. When you attend an interview, you should be ready to work. For many companies, close of business is 9 pm, so people who specify working hours will not qualify.”

She says it is better ask for working hours after you have landed the job. How many days is maternity leave? Corporations, and even government departments are keen to maximise productivity from their employees and asking about such a leave at the very first intercession is jumping the gun.


Women who ask such a question create an automatic disadvantage. Similarly, any job seeker who asks about sick leave, creates the impression that he is not fit enough to perform the tasks at hand.

What is the policy on annual leave? Like working hours and annual leave, such a question will make the interviewer wonder whether the job seeker is keen on work or having rest. In advanced countries, or even in South Africa, there are companies that offer sixty days as annual leave.

Here in Uganda most organizations only offer 24-30 working days per year. The defunct Greenland Bank used to pay workers who do not take their leave what was referred to as a 13th month. But these are issues you are better off learning after you have that appointment letter in the bag.

How much does this position pay? We are all keen for our labour to be renumerated, but asking this question may portray you as a gold digger who has scant work ethic and is only interested in expanding your money purse.

Ms Byamugisha says a little bit of tact is necessary. She says it is a question about terms and conditions so it is acceptable, but it must be asked carefully.

“An interviewee should ask about whether he/she has any tools of trade. These include a car, a laptop, phone and other office equipment. It would be acceptable to ask whether there are any other benefits apart from tools of trade,” she told Jobs and Career.

Can I apply for other roles? Career guidance experts would ordinarily encourage job seekers to show some ambition at the interview, but it should not be blatant. This might portray you as someone who is not particularly interested in the job you applied for, but is keen on advancing your career in complete disregard for circumstances surrounding the workplace.
Do not forget that the recruiting organisation has a position to fill right now, and is not particularly interested in your ambition.

What does this company do? This is the worst possible question you can ask an interview panel. It portrays you as somebody who does not know what you are doing, because you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ms Byamugisha says prior research about a company can save an interviewee from embarrassment. Such a mistake normally occurs when a job seeker has sent dozens of applications, and ends up confused about the job for which he has been invited.

Mr Henry Kibirige, a human resource consultant at Community Development Initiatives told Jobs and Career in an earlier interview that this question leads to automatic disqualification.