(MoneyWatch) A job interview is like a dance; you and the hiring manager move around the floor, evaluating each other while following a familiar pattern of questions and answers like an improvised dance routine. To do your part as the candidate, you need to ask some questions of your own -- both to assess if the company is a good fit, and to show the interviewer that you're engaged and informed. But beware: Asking the wrong questions can abruptly end your chances of being offered the job.
Here are some of the top subjects you should not broach during an interview -- they send the wrong signals to the hiring manager.
Don't ask anything you could have easily Googled. When the hiring manager says, "So what questions do you have for me," it's fine to ask about the company, but be sure it's an informed question -- do some online research first, so you don't ask how long the company has been public, what the various divisions do, or where the headquarters is. You should already know all that.
Don't ask if you can telecommute. Unless you're unwilling to accept the position on any other terms, that is. The reality of telework aside, asking about working from home during the interview implies a lack of commitment to being a team player. The same is true of asking about relocating: Assume you must relocate; if you could work remotely, they'd have mentioned it in the job description. If it's important to you, go ahead and ask, but understand that these questions are one-way roads.
Don't bring up pay or benefits. Yes, you need a paycheck, but being the first to bring up compensation is inappropriate, and signals that you only care about the paycheck. If they're interested in making an offer, it'll come up organically towards the end of the interview process, or they'll follow up with you afterwards.
Don't ask about changing roles quickly. Don't ask anything that implies you're using this position as a stepping stone to something else in the company -- even if it's true. Instead, it's perfectly fine to ask what kind of career opportunities there are, how the company encourages growth, and what other kinds of positions within the company are available to you for long-term career management. Indeed, if you phrase the question smartly, it implies you are interested in making the company your home, which is a good thing.
Don't ask if you got the job, or when they'll make a decision. Even if you get the impression they consider you a top candidate, asking these kinds of questions feels "needy" and desperate. A better approach: Ask about the hiring process in general terms.
You get the idea: Avoid questions that are too much about "you" and things which cast doubt on your attitude, ambition, motivation, or motives.
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Dave Johnson is editor of eHow Tech and author of three dozen books, including the best-selling How to Do Everything with Your Digital Camera. Dave has previously worked at Microsoft and has written about technology for a long list of magazines that include PC World and Wired.