The interview is going great. You're relaxed and confident.  The hiring manager has been smiling and laughing at your jokes. You feel in the zone. This is the place for you. Eventually, the hiring manager says, "Do you have any questions for me?" Of course you do. Studies show people who ask questions in the interview make a better impression and are more likely to get hired. Unless, the first question they ask is a deal-breaker...

What you ask first defines your true motives.

Asking questions to the hiring manager gives them a sense of what matters to you. Think about it - you're asking the questions to seek clarity. The hiring manager will assess what you inquire about to see where your head's at with respect to the job. They're hoping you'll ask questions about the job, the culture, and ways to be successful. They want to feel confident you realize the importance of the role and are excited about the opportunity. They also want to make sure you understand how you'll need to add value and make an impact on their company. So, when your first question is: 

"What are the pay and benefits like?"

You're sending the equivalent to a sucker-punch to the hiring manager's gut. What becomes immediately clear is money is your primary motivator. Instead of being focused on how to exceed the employer's expectations so you can build a lasting partnership, you just want to know what's in it for you. 

Wait until you get "buy" signals from the hiring manager.

The time to discuss pay and benefits is when the employer has made it clear you're someone they want to move forward with in the process. In fact, 99 percent of the time, if a hiring manager is interested they'll flat out tell you the compensation range or ask you for your salary requirements to make sure you're both on the same page. Don't jeopardize moving forward in the process by asking about pay too soon!

P.S. - Ask questions that focus on their needs, not yours.

Having a list of questions pulled together to ask at the end of the interview should be part of every job seeker's pre-interview preparation. Those questions should be focused on the hiring manager, the role itself, and ways in which you can make yourself a better match for the employer. Remember, you're a business-of-one trying to sell your services to the hiring manager. It's about them, not you. Your time to get clarity on what's in it for you will come when you're sitting in the driver's seat with an offer letter!