Interviewing is a bit like dating: people are on their best behavior, sizing each other up while minimizing risk. At the least, the goal is another interview (second date); at best, a job offer (a longer-term relationship).
• Candidates want to appear competent and confident. Employers present their company (organization, division, department) in the best possible light.
• Candidates are concerned about what questions might be asked and answering in the “right” way, or at least not losing the chance to move on in the process. Employers need capable, motivated employees.
• Candidates want to work in humane, well-run organizations. Employers want to be sure they’re not hiring problem employees — costly in money, morale, and productivity.
How to get beyond the ho-hum interview routine (questions and responses that minimize, sugarcoat, or are bland or vague) in order to get to more substantive concerns?
Ask the three following questions. The first is appropriate to ask of anyone — from HR representative to Hiring Decision Maker. The second and third, after you’ve made it past the initial screening interview.
Early in the interview: What about me and my background interested you in meeting?
Whether it’s an initial phone screening with a “talent acquisition specialist” or a third interview with the Hiring Decision Maker, their replies suggest what matters to them (e.g, your language skill, industry contacts, supervisory experience, a long-ago internship at a competitor, etc.) This information can help you focus your conversation, and your interviewers will be talking about something positive about you.
Later, when you established a connection and you know more about the job: Even the best places to work aren’t perfect. What would you change about this organization (company, division, department)?
The question opens the door to discuss topics that might not otherwise come up. Interviewers may be too polite to mention team discord or an increase in turnover, for example, but a question about suggested changes offers an opportunity to learn about potential problems.
Near the end: What concerns, if any, do you have about me as a candidate, because I’d like to address them before we wrap this up?
This is a gutsy question. First: because it’s an uncommon one, it requires the interviewer to formulate an unrehearsed response. Second, it suggests your willingness to hear feedback, providing an opportunity to learn about and address concerns. Whether you’ll hear an honest reply is uncertain, but you’ve provided the opportunity.
Interviews, like first or second dates, need to progress from safe routines to real give-and-take conversations. Ask the three questions above, and you’ll make your interviews more productive!
“Don’t Waste Your Time on Networking Events” is the title of an article by Derek Coburn in a recent Harvard Business Review. It’s geared more towards business development than the job search, but several suggestions apply.
Consider a CAP (Career Action Planning) Session if you:
> Feel stuck or stalled in your career
> Are worried about a layoff
> Wonder if it’s not just a new job but a new career you need
> Have been looking for work but not getting results.
In this 90-120-minute meeting, we can get to the root of your career problem and come up with a plan to solve it. For more information call me at 314-752-1373 or use the comment form on my website.