A common and seemingly savvy question you ask at the end of a job interview could make you look like an uninformed jerk

Stay curious.

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Stay curious.
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Strelka Institute/Flickr

  • Asking a question that is too specific about a company’s problems in an interview could make you seem like an uninformed jerk.
  • Instead, ask questions that imply curiosity.
  • A great question to ask is, “Can you tell me where the company is going?”

There comes a point in every interview where the employer will ask you if you have any questions. This is your time to demonstrate both your knowledge and curiosity to the company.

But the last thing you want to do is come across as someone who thinks they know everything about the company’s mission – and potential problems.

“Be a little careful about asking very specific questions,” Robert Hohman, the CEO of Glassdoor, told Business Insider’s Áine Cain. “Sometimes, someone will come in and they will have done some homework and they will believe they deeply understand some problem we have.”

By being too specific with your questions, you may actually reveal a profound lack of understanding regarding what the company does.

Hohman said questions that are too specific often “reveal that they really don’t understand the area that they’re talking about and they’re really making sweeping assumptions that aren’t true.”

Hohman offered an example:

“Maybe you’ll read on Glassdoor that at a company, some sales people are unhappy and are having a hard time getting numbers. You come in and say, ‘I’m going to guess sales productivity is down. What’s the plan to reverse that?’ If it’s true, that actually might be super impressive, but it’s dangerous. Because there’s probably a 50-50 chance it’s not true. It’s a double-edged sword.”

Often, the information a candidate may find on Google and Glassdoor does not come with the context you need to speak accurately on the specifics of the company. With this in mind, ask questions that imply curiosity instead.

A good alternative: “Can you tell me where the company is going?”

“If you’re talking to the leader of a company, that’s a great question to ask them, because they’re the best position to tell you that,” Hohman said. “They should be able to articulate that really clearly. And it should be inspiring.”

If you’re insistent on asking about a specific issue you read about the company online, make sure to clarify your question without sounding rude. Hohman said that phrasing your question in a non-judgmental way is essential.

“I’d say, ‘I read this on Glassdoor, could you tell me about that?’ And really be curious about it. Because frequently the company will have a very different perspective on what happened or the situation and it will really help you understand the full picture when you get their perspective too,” Hohman said.

“If an employer is going to be offended about you asking that curiously, odds are you probably don’t want to work there anyway,” he said.