Monster.com has a list of five questions that prospective employees should not ask during job interviews. They basically come down to: don’t ask about salary, don’t ask about flextime, and don’t ask about raises or promotions. The fifth doesn’t fall into this category, is a no-brainer, and so I will ignore it for the most part.
The reason that you are not supposed to ask about these things is that they are alleged to make you seem entitled and premature. In a nutshell. And the way that they phrase the questions, I can see that. Asking “When will I get a raise?” is different than asking “What is the company’s policy with regard to increased pay down the road?” They have an appropriate rephrasing of the question that is delicate to the point of being euphemistic.
The thing is, though, if most forms of most of these questions cannot be asked for fear of seeming entitled, it actually represents something wrong with the system. Rather, it validates liberal criticisms of the market regarding the inequity between presumptive employer and employee leverage. It would be laughable to suggest that it is inappropriate for an employer to broach the subject of nights and weekends. So, other than the notion that the prospective employee is simply expected to take what salary, schedule, and future opportunities the employee is willing to dole out, on what basis do we call the employee asking about flextime “out of bounds”? Why is the latter demonstrating a desire not to work while the former is not demonstrating a desire to work the person into the ground?
Now, I wouldn’t exactly advocate walking into a job interview with a list of demands. But if flextime is important to you, you should mention it. If pay is important to you, it only makes sense to bring it up for the same reasons that employers often bring the subject up before the interview even begins. If you’re not on the same page, it’s probably best to get that out of the way in any ideal, or sane, world. “This is information that will help you come to an informed decision about whether or not this is the right job opportunity for you, but we will nonetheless think ill about you asking about it.” Because they’d rather figure this out after the hire?
I am, at the least, tempted to chalk this up to something less than real. Had this been put up on Forbes’s website, I probably would have done so. A number of writers at a number of these places are big on potential hires knowing their place. But Monster isn’t that, exactly. It also, I’m afraid to say, advocates behaving in a way that I do. Which is to say that I did not frequently questions about salary and the like – even when it could have helped me come to a better decision, on the basis that I am at the interview to sell them on me. Even when it’s been jobs that I have been overqualified for. Then, once I sold them, if I did, I make the decision as to whether or not it’s a job that I want. Because, for all my protestations, it does feel that’s often the nature of the relationship.
Perhaps, then, my objection is primarily to it being expressly outlined as what it is.
To be fair, I have on more than one (which means two, that I can recall) occasion cut off communication on a job opportunity due to the – for lack of a better word – behavior of the would-be employers. In one case, it actually was because of questions asked. Specifically, it turned out that I had worked at a publication in the building that I was set to interview at. When I mentioned this, the guy just started asking me all sorts of questions. Well, it was only sort of questions. It was mostly that he seemed to want to argue with me about the existence of this publication in that building. He called back a few days later. I was on a date, so I didn’t answer. But then I realized that this was not a guy I wanted to talk to, much less work for. So I never called back*.
Which, of course, was my right. And it’s the right of employers to think you’re lazy and entitled if you have the gumption to ask questions about when you would be working and for how much.
* – I later talked to a guy who worked there. It turned out that I had made the right choice.